If I had to summarize my relationship with God over the past several years using just one word, I would use “steady.” In this steadiness, I do not mean that I have perfectly fostered my relationship with God or that the years have been easy. In fact, some of the most challenging things I have experienced—permanently yoking my sinful heart to another via marriage, a life-altering injury to a dear family member, a long season of dissatisfaction and unfulfilled longing—have deeply marked this period of my life, yet God’s grip on me and my life has been firm, steady and loving, and I am thankful.
My understanding of my relationship with God hasn’t always been characterized by steadiness. The church I attended as a child through high school emphasized an emotional experience of spirituality and relationship to God, highlighted by youth retreats, intense and prolonged periods of corporate worship, and injunctions from the pulpit to care for your relationship with God lest you be “backslidden.” As living beings made in the image of God, we are created to know God and that impacts all of our capacities—emotions, spirits, minds, and wills. Yet when the emotional component is seemingly emphasized more than the other aspects, finding steady ground and truth on which to place your feet is difficult.
In college, I became heavily involved with a campus ministry. I led Bible studies for women, mentored women, was mentored by Christ-like women, and regularly engaged in sharing Christ in my dorms. I attended retreats and conferences during winter, spring and summer breaks. I am thankful for the growth God caused in me during this time and admire my earnest desire to serve God, yet I constantly felt guilty for not doing “enough” and relied heavily on retreats and activity to comprise the fiber of my relationship with God—not on God Himself. There were also times when I made God’s faithfulness to me dependent on my obedience. During times of willful sin and struggle, I doubted whether God’s love and commitment to me was true.
For much of my life, I felt as though I was on a metaphorical roller coaster with God. At times, I deeply experienced the depths of His love, feeling perfectly convinced of His affection towards me. At other times, I felt lost and wandering, questioning the existence of God and whether I was enough for Him.
The cultural milieu surrounding us tells us to listen to our emotions, follow our hearts, and find truth in the subjectivity of the feelings birthed within us. Our identity is supposedly defined by the truths contained within us. Yet, our relationship with God is not defined by our emotions—and praise God for that! Our emotions provide us with clues to the state of our hearts, and when those realties are revealed, we are to turn to Christ for repentance and satisfaction, resting in the truth that even when our fickle hearts are faithless, He is faithful to us (2 Tim. 2:13). Our salvation is beautiful, in that no part of it depends on us (Eph. 2:8).
Since graduating from college, I am deeply thankful that the Lord has brought me to a new understanding and place in my relationship with Him. The past four years specifically have brought doubt, suffering, and questioning, yet in the midst of the difficulties, my heart rests in the truth that God is steadfast and unwavering, the foundation of life.
How did God bring me to this place of security and steady trust? The following pieces, though not exhaustive, are essential to our growing up in Christ:
- Study your Bible. Learn who God is, how He acts, and the promises He makes to His children. Hebrews 13:8 clearly reminds us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever—truth we can rely on in times of doubt and uncertainty.
- Commit yourself to a local church with Biblical teaching and sound doctrine. Ephesians 4:14 warns us of the perils of spiritual immaturity, of being “…tossed to and fro by the wave and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes…” yet commitment to a local church in which the Word is faithfully taught and Christ is exalted is essential to grow your knowledge and love for God and the people around you (Acts 2:42).
- Find spiritual mentors and teachers, and seek to mentor and teach other women (Prov. 27:17, 1 Thess. 2:8, 2 Tim. 2:2).
- Pray. Prayer is the means by which we surrender our desires and confess our needs to the God who loves us. I am in awe that the God who created the universe hears my prayers and answers them according to His will (1 Jn. 5:14-15).
If you feel as though you are on a roller coaster, uncertain of the status of your relationship with God, I want to encourage you: Believer, as a child of God, God’s grip on you and on your life is firm. Trust Him when He says, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Rely on the reality of Jesus’ words in John 10:27-29:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”