By Ava Marcarelli
I’m sure many of you have heard it said that a relationship with God isn’t just about feelings, yet I sense that most of us don’t really believe that.
In order for most people to feel secure in their relationship with Jesus—especially those of us who participate in things like charismatic worship—they have to “feel” it. That means that it should be easy to pray and easy to think about God often; we should feel thankful and joyful; we should feel more of a desire to pray and should be more willing to do what God asks of us. If we don’t feel this way, we start to believe that we’re very far from God and that God has distanced Himself from us; we start to believe that we’re not supposed to be happy; we begin to think that God isn’t good; prayer becomes unappealing and we lose our motivation for prayer and for other things in life; we often feel isolated and lonely.
If you haven’t experienced both of these at some point during your spiritual journey —sometimes feeling consoled and other times desolate—you will. All the greatest saints have and so will you, most likely on and off throughout the rest of your life. Thank God for the saints because many of them have experienced much worse desolation than any of us, even though they were totally obedient to God, which can give us hope in our darkness. Desolation is God’s way of making sure we love Him and pursue Him—not feelings. He uses these times of darkness to help us grow, like gold being refined and made pure in a fire. He takes away the warm feelings so we have nothing left but Him and so we must face the unpleasant things about ourselves, which our feelings often blind us to. It’s even more painful to have to face these things, since our hurt is often rooted in our perceived relationship with God and yet pursuing that relationship is the only way to overcome it.
These are all things the Lord has put on my heart this past week. One word in particular came to mind: perseverance. Just as Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, did not run from what was coming, even as the fear and anxiety caused his sweat to turn to blood; just as he did not run from the guards although he knew they would lead him to his death; just as he did not run from his cross despite the weight and the pain he knew would come, we must not run from the painful things the Lord wishes to allow. Just as Jesus’ suffering led to the salvation of the world and the conquering of death, our suffering can lead others and ourselves closer to salvation as well. Like a caterpillar hidden in its cocoon, not sure when it’s time will come, the Lord can use our struggles to turn us into beautiful butterflies. All we have to do is persevere! Not for our own sakes or because of the feelings, but because it’s God’s will. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for Him.