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God Beyond My Experience

So often in my life, I have told myself that I was working for a righteous cause, justice, or even God, but far more often than I would care to admit, my most compelling motivation has been the surge of energy and affirmation from taking a stand, leading the charge or doing the right thing. In the end, my good deeds were more about me than about anything transcendent.

I must confess that this has even been true in my devotional life. The object of Christian worship is to direct one’s own attention away from one’s self and towards God, yet how many times have I judged whether or not we had good worship based on the way I felt emotionally, or was nourished intellectually? I believed I was worshiping God, but clearly I was far more focused on my own satisfaction!

Though it is painful to admit it, I behave this way in all areas of my life. Even when I think I am selflessly serving God and neighbor, I still evaluate my thoughts and actions based on how they make me feel. As if the value of love and compassion came from making me feel noble and giving my life a sense of meaning.

Lord, teach me how to seek you – not for the gifts that you give or the feelings that you provoke, but only for the simple fact that you are God, the lord and love of my heart. Come, Lord Jesus, and be greater even than my own experience of you. Transform me and use me for your purposes, even if I am none the wiser.

  • Maia Simon

    I think the good feelings are God’s gift to keep us on the right track. Some parts of Christianity glorify suffering, but I, for one, don’t buy it.

    • In my experience, both suffering and joy are a part of what it means to walk with Jesus – often at the same time!

      I think my main point here is seeking highs or lows – rather than obedience and faithfulness to God – can be a distraction.

  • Chuck Schobert

    Interesting. I was praying with similar stuff in Meeting yesterday. I was pondering the “shoulds” in both my Quaker life and my secular life. But mostly my Quaker life. How it’s somehow easiER to hold up something big, and bring God into that as compared to a “should” as in I “should show up for the Meetinghouse workday”. It’s a should. Surely God doesn’t care so much about Meetinghouse workday as about climate change, racial profiling, etc. I AM evaluating these “should” thoughts and not listening for God’s voice. My brain gets in the way. When actually, God might be saying “Hey chuck, you are pretty darn good with a spade”. Which means that showing up at the workday is no longer a “should” but a leading. Thanks for the post.

    Chuck Schobert

    • Thanks, Chuck! 🙂

    • Jonathan Galliher

      Yeah, it is easier to think that God cares more about what we think of as big things, but I get the impression that the reverse is true. It’s the seemingly little things that compose 99% of life that are most important. If we got more of those right, we might even find that the big things have already been solved.

  • Kitt Reidy

    This is lovely prayer.

    When we evaluate our worship in terms of the good feelings it inspires, we might mistake distress for the absence of God. God lives in our confident charges forward and in our stumbles. God does not exist to make us feel good. We are to be well used by God for his good purposes. Thanks for this.

  • Paul Ricketts

    “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” John 14:10 These words of Jesus, as perplexing as they are at one level, are powerfully inspiring and encouraging.
    They have become foundational words in my understanding of discipleship.

  • Pamela Draper

    Amen! We are all afloat in the universe of God’s love and justice. I wonder what Jesus felt as he was dying on the cross?! I don’t know, but I can’t imagine it was a surge of satisfaction and self-confidence. The most we can hope for as a result of faithful action is an experience of fulfillment through connection with those we serve. That and the occasional experience of Holy consolation!

  • Anne Haehl

    Well, yes, the old guideline was to long more for the God of consolations rather than the consolations of God. But that we find something precious and enjoyable does not mean it is not of God.

    • Very true. God is the creator of pleasure, after all! My aim here was simply to point out that chasing after satisfaction/pleasure/warm fuzzies/affirmation/etc. can distract us from the often hard walk of discipleship to Jesus.