How to be Human
When our failures and difficulties cause us to be angry and frustrated, we sometimes think God has let us down. We know we can’t live up to our own expectations, much less God’s, and anguish, fear, discouragement, bitterness and depression begin to poison our hearts and minds. As a self-protective measure, some people harden their hearts, turn from God, and walk away. It’s too much to handle on your own! Emotional Poison David took all that emotional poison and purged it out of his system by dealing with God. That’s why the Psalms are so painfully honest. David didn’t run from God, even when he was guilty of sin and had every reason to be afraid. He poured out his heart, his fears, even his wrath against his enemies. He vented his frustration and lamented over depression. “My tears have been my food day and night,” he admitted. He described his soul as “downcast” and “disturbed” and acknowledged that he was sinking deeper and deeper as “all your waves and breakers have swept over me” (Psalm 42).
The story of David teaches us what it is like to be human, and that we can never be more alive than when we are honestly dealing with God. Apart from God, we are not fully human and not really alive.
People try to live apart from their Creator. But inevitably, circumstances arise, things happen, and Life brings us to a screaming awareness of our incompleteness and inability to live “abundantly” without God. The Holy Spirit works in us, through us, and around us, to drive and compel us to desire the Lord, and to pray for what David sought: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).
I'm a Pastor. Who Cares? There was a time when I liked people to compliment my teaching. It was reassuring to hear people say nice things to me, and of course I want to be a good pastor, so it was gratifying. Then something changed. I began to deal with God about some areas of my life. I began to hunger for and realize the presence of God. I began to long, as David did, to behold the beauty of the Lord. Yes, beauty. Not as the world defines it, but the kind of beauty that reveals God’s handiwork, that enables us to live in this world but not belong to the world.
My soul began to thirst for God, to need Him in a way that transcended all my efforts to preach or teach. And I wanted to impart this hunger and thirst to others, that they might desire to be in the presence of the Lord. I learned that what matters is not whether I did such an amazing job at teaching, but whether or not the people who listened were having an experience with God – not me. I have a big church, and by some standards I guess I’m a successful pastor. But who cares?
Idolatry thrives, I believe, when we our relationship with God stops thriving. True worship is living and experiencing the presence of God. But that can’t be manufactured. We can too easily become enamored with devices and methods that are supposed to bring us into God’s presence. We can create an atmosphere that is cool or beautiful, or “spiritual” with the right lighting, music, and style, and attempt to draw people in or create our own experiences. All those trappings are not bad of themselves. I have nothing against a beautiful church service or candles or art, and I certainly love music that draws me into worship. BUT – they are not the real thing unless your heart is ready to deal with God. Nothing can replace the simplicity of worshiping the Lord in your own heart, listening to His Word, and seeking His presence.
Dazzle Me When we talk of God’s “presence,” it can be a vague concept, if we are to be honest. It would be nice, I guess, if His presence was more obvious. If He would just put on more of a display – you know, show Himself, flex some muscle, dazzle us more. But usually He doesn’t, for good reason. After all, isn’t that what Satan wanted Jesus to do? Turn stone into bread…jump off a tall cliff…worship me and I will make you powerful…dazzle me, Satan said, trying to lure Jesus into a show of power.
But God’s method is to be more hidden. He reveals the most profound mysteries of heaven, through humble and lowly means. Jesus had his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but that was partly to allow the Pharisees opportunity to set their intentions in motion. He came to earth as a baby born in humble circumstances, and He died a lonely death on the cross. His moments with his Father were private, alone, or attended by only a few.
David—the man after God's heart—did many mighty deeds and was hailed as a hero. But his truly greatest moments were in his private dealings with God. First as a shepherd boy, he spent days in the fields, alone, contemplating the Lord and training spiritually to be the man God could use. Then, as a man, when his sins and his enemies drove him into God’s presence and he wrote from his heart some of the most beautiful literature and worship ever read or sung.
For me personally, I’ve grown leery of the “big show” and what it can do to us spiritually. I feel God's presence more profoundly when I am alone, praying. I have experienced this uncanny, mysterious presence, this feeling of being watched, seen, completely understood, and heard. Loved. It’s a very comforting, fulfilling, deeply satisfying and healing experience. This is the place I want and need to get to more often.
We can run from show to show, church to church, concert to concert, looking for the next spiritually happening thing, but nothing replaces the raw humanity of a believer pouring his or her heart out to God, being honest, real, and letting God take all that pain and sorrow—all that messiness— and transform them into His blessing, His healing, His life lessons, His plan of redemption for our lives.