Friday, July 26, 2013
Trusting vs. Working
In the midst of dryness, failures and setbacks in the spiritual life what can we do? Sometimes, it's hard to figure out how we could have done so well and yet fallen so far back from the progress we have made. Here is one thing I've been doing in my current trial.
I've been trying to remember what is was like when I was making progress. What was I doing differently that I've stopped doing now?
One particular temptation that I have had since the beginning is that I've excused myself too much. In a sense, you might say that I rely on God too much. This seems counter-intuitive. It seems like it goes against everything we're supposed to think when it comes to our life with God. But, there is a right way to do it and there's a wrong way: aka, my way.
Here's what I mean. I let myself fall into the trap of thinking that it's all up to God and I can't do anything. I let myself go on thinking that even if I did try to do something different, it wouldn't matter. If I prayed more, if I stirred up my faith more it would all be useless, because God is the one who is going to step in and do it for me. I've thought this way since the very beginning. It might have to do with the fact that I was converted in a bit of a miraculous way. I had a life changing spiritual experience. After that, I expected the whole way to be like that. God would give me spiritual experiences, I'd react to them and off I would go. I often forget that I prayed before that experience happened through a lot of suffering. It didn't just come out of nowhere. I catch myself thinking quite a bit that there has got to be a turning point coming soon, but I don't do anything to try to get there. I just wait and do practically nothing.
There was one time of my life, a couple years back, that was very different. My attitude changed. The external events of my life were some of the worst in my life, but it was the only time of my life that I had true peace and joy and it lasted. So, what was different then? I was trying. Really trying. I wasn't perfect and I probably 'failed' more than I do now. But, I felt peace then and now I don't. God hasn't changed. I have.
In a lot of ways I'm doing better than I did then. I have more knowledge and a much more stable relationship with God than I had then. But, it comes back to trying. Every day, I tried as much as I could to focus on God, to serve Him by serving my family and being kinder to those around me, and to practice His presence. These days it's really just touch and go. I have an adverse reaction even to the word 'practice' when it comes to being in God's presence every day. It has always seemed so wrong to me to try. If I think that I must try to be in His presence, that translates in my disordered mind into 'pretending'. If I have to try to be in God's presence, if I have to practice, if I have to work, then where is God in all that? Doesn't that amount to just making Him up? If I have to do that in order to 'feel' like I'm living a life with God, doesn't that make Him less real? If I don't feel anything, then why should I pray that day, what good would it really do? If God wanted me to be different, he'd inspire me to be different! That's how the conversation in my head goes. That's my temptation. It used to be a real temptation against faith for me. Now, it's just a temptation to sloth.
The struggle is hard and most of the time there isn't anyone to talk to about it. If you tell people that you're not praying enough or working enough, all they can think is that you're scrupulous and you just need to trust in God more. Well, that could be true for some people. But I'd wager that most of the time the person needs to hear some practical advice about how to fight the spiritual combat harder. If you don't have any advice to give someone like that, maybe it's time you assessed how hard you've been working for the kingdom.