Three anonymous questions:
– How do you believe in the hope Christ gives us, the hope that His work isn’t finished, etc. ? I find it so hard to believe in this hope – I end up trying to pound it into my head & heart because I want to believe this so badly but it never works.
– Is it really possible to survive on God’s love alone? I mean, we also need money and other necessities… I don’t understand when people say “His love is all I need.” I guess I don’t find the concept of His love that comforting anymore, which definitely says something about my heart.
– Hi Pastor Park, I just wanted to ask you one question (I doubt I’d stick to one tho): HOW DO YOU KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON? I mean the obvious answer to that is continually clinging on to Christ but what is it that drives you? I keep coming back and running away and I’m tired. I’m tired of this vicious cycle that has started to eat me up. I feel that I can’t let go of certain things. I can for a moment or for days but only for a short period of time. Help.
Hey dear friends: To be very truthful, I don’t think I’m the most qualified person to answer this. I personally struggle a lot with understanding God’s love and making that real in my own walk, and even when I can preach it enough to move others, I frequently pour out more than I’m fully grasping. And I’ve said before that I’m a skeptical Christian, some days just barely hanging on.
But please allow me the grace to offer a few thoughts on this to consider. Please feel free to skip around.
– We often experience God’s love through other people: and this is okay.
It seems like there’s this bizarre stigma in church subculture where we’re always afraid of making it a “social club.” But if we can’t have an uproarious reckless time of laughter and plain silliness with our fellow church members: then I don’t even want to go to church. It’s not “idolatry” to experience God’s presence through His people.
God reflects Himself through the joyful fellowship of His church.
I know preachers like to say “God’s love is all we need” and there’s all these cautions about people-pleasing. Both are necessary truths in our Christian walk. But I don’t want to swing so far to this extreme that we just abandon our corporate fellowship. God specifically made us to be together because He knew our friendships would point to the ultimate friendship.
Jesus himself says that we are now his friends (John 15:15), because he was trying to show that our earthly friendships are a reflection of what it’s like to see the face of God. It’s just like how Apostle Paul compared our relationship with God to a marriage (Ephesians 5), because in marriage we understand God’s love on a vastly more in-your-face way.
Theology is important, but the Bible is not written in formula. So our faith is not just “two parts hope, one part love, equal parts abstract doctrine.” God is a person, with real feelings, with real love to give, with a real presence: at once completely all-powerful on a throne in control of the universe, but nearer to our hearts than even the closest person we know.
So I don’t think every single Bible Study needs to be a deep profound talk on metaphysical realities. We’re often forcing fellowship into more than just “potato chips and coffee” — but why? And in the same way: When I hang out with good Christian friends and can just be my silly self, I find the purest heart of God and how it really ought to be with Him. There will be amazingly insightful reverent times with God, but there will also be times of giddy enjoyment. It’s not supposed to be drudgery.
I experience God in a much more profound way by being in the stream of great friendships. I find hope and love in these things. Certainly not ultimate hope and love, but it’s God making Himself known through a tangible expression.
Please allow me to share a sermon with you about that here.
– None of this will go perfectly: and that’s okay too.
Our Christian walk will eventually be swamped by doubts, questions, confusion, and frustration. The honeymoon has to end. You will occasionally feel far from God. You will be angry with Him. You’ll want to quit this whole thing, sometimes multiple times a day.
I’m in that space much more than I’d like to admit. But it does NOT mean I’m suddenly not a Christian anymore. Too many of us think, “I don’t feel God anymore, which means I suck at this,” and then we jump ship.
Whenever someone reads my stuff or hears me preach or sees me serving, I’ve heard someone say, “Your faith is so solid.” And I get to laugh, very loudly, maniacally, with awkward eye contact.
If they only knew what was going on in here.
Look, my friend: Our standard of “Christian perseverance” is ridiculously absurd. Perseverance is not some emotionally maintained high that feels good all the time. If you’re in that place, then praise God and I don’t want to be a downer. But often persevering in the Christian walk means we’re holding on by just one tiny scrap of faith.
If you’re having trouble believing in God’s love or Scripture or His promises: well dude, welcome to the Christian life. These are lifelong struggles that the great prophets and kings faced until glory. No matter how many Christian books we read or CDs we own, we’re not about to beat David or Elijah or Mary.
Surviving and thriving off God’s love could mean that there are dead branches and saggy leaves, but our roots are growing ever deeper into Him in the winter. The church culture never applauds that kind of faith: but Jesus said even faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.
If we’re all measuring ourselves on arbitrary impossible goals, then none of us would ever be worthy to wear the name of Christ. And that’s sort of why Jesus had to, you know, die for us.
So please don’t compare your faith with someone else in the spotlight. Please don’t think that “loving God” is supposed to be a perfectly molded, always-on-fire, super-laser-rock-show. Praise God when you’re on the mountain, but don’t be hard on yourself in the valley.
– Serve anyway.
Effort is NOT legalism. Legalism is legalism.
When in doubt: serve the homeless anyway. Read your Bible anyway. Love those people anyway. Pray, sing, build, encourage, believe anyway.
This is less mechanical than you would think it is. Sometimes the forward momentum of choosing with your hands what you want for your heart will begin to change your very heart. God does work from the inside-out, but He also works through the available and accessible.
I’ll leave you with C.S. Lewis here.
Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.
— C.S. Lewis
8 thoughts on “Invisible Hope – Surviving and Thriving off God’s Love”
outstanding! Truly, I am awed by your total openness and honesty. It makes me feel better about all the secret struggles I go through, the internal conversations I have with myself and hoping against hope that no-one can hear them (foolishly including God but of course He does).
I wanted to cheer as I read your response to each question by these anonymous readers.
I don’t know if you helped answer their questions, I hope so, but you surely spoke to me and gave me fresh hope and ability to keep going.
God bless you JS, truly. If you were here, I’d give you such a hug. Then could we go off and do something silly and ridiculous for a laugh please 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this over at your blog and I hope the same too. I know I can’t possibly speak to every angle of all our hurts, but any word that will help with a single step forward is a success.
Hey no worries. I want to thank you because your style of writing is encouraging me so much in my walk, the value of honesty and not just saying what twitching ears expect and, as a wanna-be writer, is showing me that I don’t have to be fluent in Christianese to be heard. I really don’t want to be a floral dress, non-legshaving, no-makeup kinda woman to be heard. Just not me (although heaven knows I’ve tried to copy it sometimes which I’m not proud of).
Haven’t listened to any of your podcasts yet but think I’ll check some out too.
God bless JS.
So glad you are you.
Reblogged this on themaskedrabbitsblog and commented:
I have been such a fan of the honest way that JS sets out his thoughts on Christian faith and all the good stuff and the nonsense we wrap it in.
This post in particular though just made me want to cheer and clap my hands because it is the most honest account and response to genuine questions of faith I have read.
Enjoy and please do go visit his blog.
Just read something that reinforces your thoughts Joon. http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/preaching-teaching/173485-ed-cyzewski-jesus-preached-to-doubters-you-can-too.html
I agree with all that was written there. Very good.
As usual, inspiring and just plain real. One thing that has helped me is dumping doctrine (careful now!). I mean how theology defines God. God always goes beyond human boxes. When I dumped the supposed-to-be, must+should+conform, theories about God and just met God life changed. Living with a Friend, deep and humorous, encouraging and correcting, discovering and adventuring, working my butt off and relaxing – like for real – (my own encounter with Creator, not an orthodox expectation) led to hope, love and meaning way beyond doctrinal teaching. So I really promote Jesus the Real (as you seem to teach by your open honesty). Liberating beyond words.
Agreed. I know that words like “organic” and “relational” are becoming over-used in the church culture, but this is exactly how God reveals Himself in Scripture. He doesn’t show up with diagram and flow charts, but within all the weird messiness of our human interaction.