Open When You Can't Feel God Like You Did at Retreat
THE SPIRITUAL HIGH
We have all been there. Time and time again we have knelt before God, begged for forgiveness, and promised “I will never do it again God!” Yet we find ourselves entering into the things we said we wouldn’t. I would argue that the reason for that is largely due to our emotions. When you go on a youth retreat you are spending time away from the norm. Your family isn’t there, your friends aren’t there, and your problems seem to disappear. Promises are made to God in the midst of worship times filled with tears and declarations of how great God is. Don’t get me wrong, those times are great and serve a purpose. However, the purpose is not immediate removal of all problems you face. The purpose is to show you that God can and will sustain you through those times.
WHEN REALITY KICKS BACK IN
At retreats we face a sort of “mountain high” experience. The soft lights amidst the booming worship and the secluded mountain top almost put the mind at rest to ignore all the what ifs we ask ourselves when our emotions of day-to-day life creep back in. It becomes easy to lay down a relationship, habit, or sin because “in the moment” it may feel right. Laying down those things are all good, but walking away and not returning is harder and requires more than a Saturday night choice made while emotions are waging war on sin. Walking away for good requires the foundational process of consistency of placing ourselves at God’s feet and our emotions in his hands.
Learning to make choices not based on emotion but on the Word of God is not an easy task. But then again, living a life for God was never promised to be an easy life choice. Jesus died to his wants and desires in order to glorify his Father and become the world’s Savior. Dying to what you want may seem too big to handle and in many cases it is—we are human. Yet, if we look back through our lives each of us can see how God has walked us through trials over and over again. I’m not asking you to be emotionless, I am asking you to walk with God and through that allow Him to dictate your decisions and not just go by what you feel.
IT TAKES REAL WORK
We have all experienced times that I like to refer to as “emotional blackouts”. Times where our self-control seems to shut off in the midst of an argument, time of weakness, or deep hurt. We respond to others, or ourselves even, with destructive words or behaviors. In James 1:19-21 it says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” These verses pack a punch and are meant to guide and encourage but also convict to spur change. But how can real change happen in our lives when it comes to how we behave? I would argue that it starts with what you think.
CONTROL YOUR MIND, SUBMIT YOUR HEART
What you believe about something precedes your action relating to that belief. If we don’t think we need to change and that only the people around us do, we show strong signs of pride and will act according to what we feel. If we think we know what is best and act before asking God, we show signs of pride. I believe pride is prevalent in some shape or form in all of us and provokes our emotions and actions. Rooting out our pride, is the first step in making real change happen in our struggles. The only way to do that, is to combat it with the exact opposite force: humility.
1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” This verse not only addresses the need for humility but also our mindset of why we may be acting so prideful. All of our worries, fears and anxieties can trigger us to act on our own thinking because we are seeking to protect ourselves, further our own goals, or just get through life as best as we can. Yet, God in all his grace, didn’t design us to do life with all of its struggles alone. If we submit ourselves to humility, we can conquer our various struggles, overcome our pride and allow God to make our paths straight.
GOD IS FAITHFUL
Bad responses to struggles are often just emotional responses made out of fear and insecurity. Allow God to work with you through each foundational step to overcome your struggles. Press into Him in the times that are overwhelming, unclear and unknown. He is a God of compassion and complete strength and will work through every struggle and bring it to completion if you let Him. You are not alone, and this struggle will not overtake you. Take heart, He has overcome the world.