We think in terms of relating to God in terms of knowing him. It is such a foreign concept to my friends. And yet at the same time they express a longing for that and reach out to find comfort in personal ways. The language of knowing him seems to be a barrier.
A colleague shared the interactions with a friend. One of my friends, once told me how she prays and writes in a journal to God everything that is on her heart and mind, because God is the only one that she can trust. She said she could not even trust her own mother or sister. Afterwards she feels a sense of relief.
Later she was sharing with me about a situation that involved disappointment, sadness, longing and some fear and confusion in decision-making. She had prayed about the situation (during her informal prayer after her formal evening and early morning prayers), and the next morning felt uneasy and frightened. She was not at peace about going ahead with a particular choice and interpreted that lack of peace as an indication that it was not the ‘fate’ that God wanted for her. She told me how she had been crying all night, and crying to God, asking him why he is withholding good things from her, why her situation is still as it is.
To me, this sounded like how we might express lament to God. Except without the deep assurance of God’s goodness that comes through knowing & experiencing God’s love for us, demonstrated on the cross. Does my friend have a relationship with God? Surely not, given that she rejects Jesus as someone more than just a prophet. But how do I engage with her experience of God’s ‘nearness’, and point her towards true relationship with him?
Thinking about the times in my life when I really felt that God came to me – to comfort, strengthen etc it seems that it is in those same sort of experiences (e.g. grief/loss) that our friends are really lacking that nearness of God that provides comfort. They state that everything is written by God and have a level of comfort believing that he is sovereign, however there is no place to question or cry out or lament. This only comes in a personal intimate relationship Michael Card says ‘What lament would have us understand is that the answer is being graciously given: His Presence with us.’
God doesn’t take away the difficult times, but it is his presence that helps us through difficult times. This is a massive difference in the two views.
It is difficult to know how to communicate that we believe God comes near to us, which seems to be so different to what our friends believe. It’s hard to know how to communicate a personal God. In fact, it can be offensive to speak in relational terms when referring to God. At the same time, many of our friends refer to having a relationship with God or at least agree that having a ‘strong relationship’ with God is important.
Some conversations show our friends want to be doing the right thing. They do not want to be wrong but cannot always find certainty since it is so hard to study the Quran. For those for whom Arabic is not their first language, they struggle it. While the long for peace of mind, it seem that many pursue that through prayer, whereas our own beliefs reflect that we want to have a personal connection to God, be known, loved and find worth in living with God.
The fruits of the Spirit give evidence of the ‘fruit of God’s presence in the Holy Spirit’. Our friends often point out the good characters of Christian people. This is because the people they are seeing are Jesus followers with changed hearts. Without God coming to us by the Holy Spirit, there can’t be this change of heart, this experience of God’s presence.
(c) When Women Speak… June 2023
This blog comes from shared conversations by women