For intro, see #1 in this series.
Yesterday I encouraged us to relate to God honestly and from the heart.
After all, God knows us inside out (Psalm 139) – so what’s left to hide!
But being honest about how we feel isn’t the same as being ruled by our
For example, pretending to feel joyful before God when you’re depressed is unhelpful and unnecessary (the Psalmists certainly don’t do that). But striving to come to a place of genuine joy when you’re depressed is indeed healthy (and the Psalmists often do that).
Take Psalm 42: ‘My tears have been my food day and night, while they
say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”’ (v.3). Here’s a man in the grip of deep depression, relating to God personally and honestly. But, without pretending to be happy, he’s not content to passively spiral downwards into ever-darker depression. Watch him wrestle with his own feelings: ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God’ (v.5).
The question is: how can we open our whole heart to God while avoiding
the trap of being sucked into the vortex of our own emotions?
Partly, by relating to God responsively. That is, in response to him and what’s on his heart. The Psalmist does this. Rather than focusing exclusively on his own whirling emotions, he forces his gaze to think upon things outside himself. ‘My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you...’ (v.6).
But how do we respond to God?
It would be easy (and wonderful) if God spoke to us audibly in our
prayer-times. And there are very exceptional circumstances when God sometimes speaks in just that kind of direct, overtly supernatural way. But we are never promised that kind of relationship with God in this life. It’s coming! And it will be wonderful! But for the moment, ‘we walk by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7).
So the primary place we go to in order to know God’s mind and heart is the book his Holy Spirit inspired: the Bible. Through the words God’s Spirit inspired, God’s Spirit still wants to reassure us and challenge us and teach us and comfort us and encourage us and quicken us and humble us. The Bible isn’t just a record of what his Holy Spirit has said; it’s a record of what his Holy Spirit is saying (Romans 15:4; Hebrews 3:7a).
As we relate honestly to God, let’s make sure we’re relating
honestly to God (that is, in response to who he is and all he’s said and done). When you hear God’s voice in Scripture (through reading/sermons/conversations/books/songs/devotions/etc) respond to God personally with these things in mind.
Because relationship is about listening as well as talking. And our relationship with God will be deeper, richer, healthier and more rewarding if we remember to do both!