Finding Joy In God

(Bob) #1

Hello All,

I would consider myself a believer but that belief is definitely waning. Without attacking too many things at once I am looking for help contemplating some of the following:

-As the title suggests, finding joy and peace in God. What does this feel like? C.S. Lewis talked about how our desire for things is evidence of their existence (i.e. experience thirst so water exists) but I don’t have some sort of longing or desire for God. I don’t even really know what I could long for about Him. Relationship? But I feel like the father in Mark 9 when I pray. How is it possible to have a relationship or feel anything about someone who I’ve never encountered, heard from, or experienced apart from what I read in the Bible? That makes it seem more like a relationship with the Bible rather than the living God. I’ve prayed often for God to reveal to me this comfort that others find in Him because I have read and believe God never fails, etc. etc. So what am I missing? It just seems to me that once I received that basics of the Gospel-- that the human condition is sin, that God sent His only son Jesus the Christ into this world to save us from the price of sin, and that if we believe in Him we will have eternal life-- that there is little else left. A consistent message of Christianity seems to be our dependence and reliance on God, and yet I feel no connection to Him even as I pray to experience Him whatever that may be. Feeling very lost in my faith.

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(SeanO) #2

@Seeker Don’t give up! I think many people struggle with a similar experience.

My first thoughts would be:

  • remember that God loves us and is real no matter what we do / do not feel - Jesus was a historical Person who lived, died and rose from the dead - don’t anchor your faith in your feelings!
  • pray for Jesus to fill you with His Holy Spirit each day
  • ‘put the nose of your heart into the knowledge you are learning…’ as John Piper says - invest yourself emotionally through worship and prayer
  • don’t focus on your feelings - focus on seeking God and honoring Him

Here is a thread with more resources on this same topic:

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #3

@Seeker, I mainly see two questions in your post. What I have to say may be nothing new but thought I could share my own experience in the hope that it helps a little.

  • What does joy and peace feel like?
  • How do you have a relationship with God whom I have never experienced apart from the Bible?

Many a times in the past, when something did not turn out the way I expected, I would wonder why I couldn’t experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. Why was I lacking the joy when Jesus promised that we will never hunger or thirst if we believe in Him? The counsel I got from other Christians was that God has commanded his children to be joyful. Incorrect understanding of this command led me to feel like a loser Christian every time I lost my joy.

I thought it is something that came naturally to stronger Christians. The joy and peace that the Bible talks about is not something that happens to us but something that we actively choose and that’s the reason we are commanded to rejoice. We choose joy by taking our anxieties to God and trusting that He is in control. As one psalm says, why so downcast oh my soul, put your hope in God! When we have lost joy, we have lost hope. Trust is the key to joy. Joy is the assurance or contentment that comes from trusting the promises of hope we have in Christ both for now and eternity, from faith in God’s unchanging character, from faith in His words and by abiding in His Spirit. When we trust Christ, we train our speech and actions to reflect that trust. Our initial reaction to a major storm in life could be anxiety but we can ask God to help our unbelief. While Paul in the Bible says He rejoiced in His afflictions, He does not deny the pain of afflictions. Many a times a situation may not change but a perspective change produces the contentment that we are looking for. In my own walk, I have found we start our walk with faith in Christ, but we grow spiritually by living that faith out through gradual surrender of more and more of our life to God in faith. When something we depended on for our joy is taken away, and yet we persist in trusting God, our understanding that ‘Christ is enough’ grows! While Christ is enough, I think God does also provide graciously some tangible source of joy too. I recently met a couple who were missionaries in India, who lived in a remote area, gave up careers, had financial loss, got persecuted but chose to remain prayerful in faith for over two years. That attitude led many to follow Christ passionately, which in turn multiplied their joy. Here’s a link here from John Piper about source of joy. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/where-does-joy-come-from

As far as experiencing God goes, I think it can vary quite a bit from person to person. I can only describe how I have experienced God. As a new believer, I remember trusting God because of the comfort some Bible verses brought to me. Soon after conversion, there was also a natural eagerness to know more of Christ either through conversations or the Bible. I have sensed God working in a few situations where in the natural there wasn’t any hope and God suddenly opened a new door when I was almost ready to give up praying. God may even give spiritual experiences as we seek His Spirit. We will encounter Him in one way or another as we keep going to Him. We can persist in asking Him for His Holy Spirit until we have some understanding of His Spirit in us, as God has promised to give His spirit to those who ask Him, and He will not fail. My little kids have aIso asked why they haven’t heard Jesus talk to them. I just tell them, He has already spoken much in the Bible and they can trust my experiences until one day they know it for themselves.

Learning to live by faith is a journey we all grow only slowly into, many lessons to learn along the way for every one of us. I have not mastered joy by any means but when I focus on Christ rather than the joy I need, I feel less troubled. God bless your journey Liam!

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(Bob) #4

Thank you very much for your answers @SeanO and @Lakshmismehta

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(Kenny) #5

Hi @Seeker, thanks for being brave to share this roadblock that you have. I do have to admit, that it is a difficult one, and that sometimes it is hard to see God in our situations. Though If you don’t mind, I would like to share a little, hopefully it will be of help to you.

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Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. he chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:13-27)

I think this is a very interesting portion of the scripture because despite resurrecting, Jesus did not reveal His identify to them. Instead “he explained to them what was said in the scriptures concerning Himself”. The one key way to know the person of Jesus is to dive into the Word to know more Him. At the core of it, it is scripture, but the process of diving into the Word is subjective to the individual (e.g. reading the bible, listening to a sermon, worshipping with a song), all of them points to the one person - Jesus.

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Furthermore, it is crucial to note that God likes to work through people for people, just like in the bible. Getting involved in the community of your church (either by serving, attending church, or visiting a cell group) will all help to reveal an aspect of God as well. After all, Jesus did promise that when 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, He is there.

Though granted you may never ever feel a real tangible hug from God directly when you need one, that doesn’t mean that He cannot send someone to be there for you, and to give you that much needed hug as well. God’s ability to speak to us, is greater than our inability to hear Him.

Lastly, I would like to encourage you that since it is a relationship, and you are supposedly the “bride” and Christ the “groom”, then let Him settle it for you. Rather than you feeling that you need to change and match up to how God wishes to have the relationship with you, why not just let it be and let Him handle how He wishes to. Your role is just to stay patiently waiting (e.g. be planted in a church, be rooted with godly counsel) and you may be surprised how it may turn out.

Just know that not everything has to be spiritual (e.g. God gave me a vision to talk to this person), because it may already be a manifestation in reality (e.g. a friend asked me out to visit his / her cell group).

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If it is not too much of a trouble, do share with us in the following weeks how it goes. If it comes through for you, praise the Lord! If it doesn’t, know that we are still here to support you in whatever way we can.

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(Catherine Keffer) #6

Hello, it is amazing to me to read your post. The very quote from C.S. Lewis you are citing as an illustration for why you have trouble believing is one of the things I read that changed my perspective. I was an atheist. Totally convinced that God was not real, that I was just this happenstance being with no soul. I just knew that Jesus was a made up fairy tale. I lived by the motto, “Life is short, then you die” About a year and a half ago, The Lord drew me in to Him by His Spirit. Remember, we can read the Word and pray and know all the scriptures, but if our heart is not connected to God’s heart and if we are not truly born again then we will never see the Kingdom of Heaven. I am sure you have asked God to baptize you in His Spirit, and God is faithful. So, what C.S. Lewis says (and this is not word forword) is that we have the desire for eternity because eternity must exist. Think about any time in life you were happy. You wanted it forever. Can you remember longing to be with the person you love forever? In Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men although we cannot fathom all God has done from beginning to end. When I was first reading the Word and ’ tasting to see if the Lord was good’ I was told that all Scripture comes from God by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that if I believed any of God’s Word I would have to accept all of God’s Word as Truth. I am a believer today and I have a Joy and a Peace I’ve never had. The bible tells us to force ourselves unto Godliness. We think it’s gonna come easy, but not always, if it’s worth having it’s worth fighting for, I had to completely undo all that I though I knew and cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Every relationship begins with communication. That means I talk to Him like my friends or family…He’s right here, all the time, waiting to inspire you towards the Love of God. Pray 2 Thessalonians 3:5 regularly. We all have issues of the heart and God wants to heal them so we can see Him!!! Praise Jesus!!!

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(Billie Corbett) #7

Hello Liam,

Thank you for your incredible honesty and as SeanO said…”don’t give up.”

I can really relate to what you have stated, because joy has not been a big part of my Christian experience…in fact, the beginning of my faith walk was characterized by overwhelming sorrow.

Without going into too much detail…I can say, God is faithful…

Seek Him with all your heart…and He will indeed reveal Himself to you. (He may have to strip away many faulty misconceptions, illusions, delusions first…These are not so easy for you to see …because you and every other human being like you is steeped in our fallen humanity.)
This is why the Word of God is so important. We need to be trained to let go of trusting our own thoughts, feelings and understandings when it comes to the things of God. They are spiritually discerned.
We are dependent on the Holy Spirit…indwelling us, to lead us into all truth. Joy isn’t in us…It is in God. But, naturally speaking, that concept is so abstract to us.
So, I would encourage you to look at, think about, mediate on… the fruit of the Spirit as contrasted with the works of the flesh. To think about the character of God as revealed in Jesus…the Divine nature, the divine attributes…

When we really love and respect a person …we think about their attributes, their qualities…the ways of being they manifest externally…
These give us a foundation to understand and know who they are. These characteristics, qualities, and / or behaviours reveal their nature. These are what we “enjoy”. We take joy or pleasure in whom that individual manifests themselves to be. We want to be around them. We enjoy experiencing their personal qualities…because they are meaningful to us…we value them.

You have to spend personal time and energy to get such an experience with a person. You can’t be remote or aloof. You have to risk closeness and intimacy. You have to risk being known as well.

There is plenty in the scripture to support that …”if we will draw near to God, He will draw near to us.” We can find pleasure in meeting with Him, if He is indeed our dear friend, our intimate personal Saviour (He knows your sins and yet loves you…and has provided a way to remove them from you…as far as the east is from the west.) (Not to many people are willing to love others … letting their love cover multitude of sins.)

“Lord, I believe, help my unbelief”…is a very valid expression of trust in God. It doesn’t feel good…it isn’t a “joyful” expression…but, when God helps our unbelief and gives us more experience of Him and more faith…it does increase our comfort and peace.

“Men ought always to pray and not to faint…” …
Perseverance is a work of the Spirit in a believer’s life…

Romans: 12: 12
Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer

Romans 5: 3-4
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character hope…

James 1: 12
2 Thessalonians 3: 13
Ephesians 6:18
Galatians: 6: 9
2 Peter 1: 5-6
Hebrews 10:36
1 Timothy 6: 12
Hebrews 12: 1-2

If joy is eluding you…focus on perseverance… you will have joy in the end…
God has promised eternal joy to those who overcome by the blood of the Lamb. His word is true…He cannot lie.

If you cannot be joyful right now…that’s okay. Maybe you are can faithful, patience, persevering, kind, hopeful…? All these are good gifts…to rejoice in.

Blessings

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(Bob) #8

@Billie @Catherine @Kyrie Thank you all so much for your responses. It means a lot that you would take the time to answer in such detail. I will be continuing to pray and dive into the word and will report back soon. In the meantime, I will say I am very thankful to have stumbled upon this site and be welcomed by all of you. May God bless you all!

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(Simon Kramer) #9

Hi Seeker.
I hate it when it feels like we have to do more to get more. It almost feels like we have to earn more joy . I’m not sure if you can earn joy. I know you can sometimes feel joy after sharing your faith but relying on this is not the answer.
I have been a Christian for over thirty five years and have been through many emotional times including seasons of feeling abandoned by God. Please let me share a few things I have learned. There are seasons in God, remember he is interested in your character not your comfort he may be wanting to grow you in some way.
When a small seedling pushes through the ground it moves incredible obsticles but to survive it must keep going.
The three words I hear most fom the Holy spirit are “just keep going” He makes me laugh, every time I hear it but im really starting to feel his heart of encouragement.
Joy is a fruit of the spirit so is long suffering. I think everything comes from relationship, so honesty and repentance are very important. Sometimes we have a bit of unforgivness or pride that are causing a blockage to the flow of the holy spirit. I like to set some time to have a heart to heart with God to see if he is poking at something in my life that requires some attention from me.
Water baptism was probably the time where I felt the biggest injection of joy and strength. (That was full emerson and included prayer for baptism of the Holy Spirit. Wow.)
Try to have some fun and do things you love. Try to be around joyfully people.
Lastly remember our feelings don’t dictate our reality and salvation is for eternity, we wont always feel joy but we just keep going.
God loves you. Don’t give up.

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