Almost at the same time that I began this blog, I entered into a time of frustration, burnout, cynicism, and questioning. I won’t go into detail, but it has been very difficult, and I’m amazed at how something like burnout and stress can seep into every other area of life, including attitudes toward God. I have not wanted to pray. I have questioned God’s personality, and even His existence. “Why, if You are so loving, and if our greatest ambition should be to love You, do You not make Yourself more obvious, especially when we are in dark times?”
In Philip Yancey’s book Reaching For The Invisible God, he discusses the difficulties that can come to a person seeking to relate to a God who is not present to us in the same way that another human is present. He offers the following thoughts:
Some psychologists practice a school of behavior therapy that encourages the client to “act as if” a state is true, no matter how unreasonable it seems. We change behavior, says this school, not by delving into the past or by trying to align motives with actions but rather by “acting as if” the change should happen. It’s much easier to act your way into feelings than to feel your way into actions.
…I never “see” God [in the same way that we see another person]. I seldom run into visual clues that remind me of God unless I am looking. The act of looking, the pursuit itself, makes possible the encounter. For this reason, Christianity has always insisted that trust and obedience come first, and knowledge follows.
I have seen this at work in my own life, and my own experience has been that nothing brings about and awareness of God acting in my life more than submission. Although submission isn’t an action in the same way that reading a book or taking a walk is an action, it is something that we can will to happen. Submission is an inner “action” that we take, choosing to submit to God, no matter what.
It has been through prayers of submission that I have seen God at work in the most dramatic ways, and make Himself the most obvious. The first time happened when, through some bad choices, I had worked myself into a corner. I had three options, and they all seemed equally unappealing. For the first time in my life, I went from being a “good Christian” who tried not to cuss too much or get drunk and be nice, to being a person wholly submitted to God. I asked God to get me out of my mess, acknowledging that I’d gotten myself there, acknowledging that I might not like whatever needed to happen as a result, but also acknowledging that God loved me and desired the best for me. I saw an immediate answer to that prayer, one which required no action at all on my part. I was amazed at how God had responded.
There have been other times like that, times when I have asked for guidance, submitting to God’s will, and found situations being arranged for me, pointing me in an obvious direction, demonstrating that God is there, listening, guiding, responding. Those times often come through darkness and pain. Unfortunately, people like me sometimes have to be beaten into submission (the beating often coming at our own hands), we have to come face to face with our limitations before we acknowledge our powerlessness and smallness.
It is when we die to ourselves that we are open to the life of Christ. We need not fear submission to Him.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
– Psalm 37:5 ESV