As we emphasize different things in leadership, business or ministry I’ve realized that there is always a downside to the emphasized good thing.
I see this in churches that emphasize intimacy with God and churches that emphasize the sovereignty of God. You get two extreme sides of two real truths about who God is but in the emphasis there can often be an interesting reaction. God is so big in his nature and character that when we communicate specific truths (good truths!) sometimes it’s interesting to watch how those are taken and lived out, especially by young people.
What I hear most at The Mvmnt from our students seeking counsel is not Christian guilt like it was in my youth group, it’s not extreme sin struggles, feeling unworthy of his love, nor is it lack of faith in God’s existence. The biggest struggle we hear from our students is their feeling that God isn’t present in their life like they would like him to be. They want him to take away their wrong desires and he doesn’t, they want him to make them feel goosebumps or emotional during worship and he doesn’t, they want to hear him speak audibly or they want to see a vision and when he doesn’t they feel upset or cheated. I hear at least a few times a week “I’m doing everything I can but it just doesn’t feel like God is there”. They don’t doubt God is real; instead, they get frustrated because they know he’s real and they can’t figure out why they aren’t feeling more of him. I love this.
I love this because it points to what we emphasize and I believe in what we emphasize. We preach, teach, worship, counsel and sometimes even scream the reality that God wants to be involved in their life. Anyone who has been to The Mvmnt will hear over and over again from the platform, at the alter, in the salvation room, during prayer, or in times of counsel “God sees you and God wants you”.
Simply put we emphasize a relationship with God. And because we communicate so strongly Gods desire for their heart and life in turn they treat their relationship with God accordingly. And if we all remember back to high school relationships they can be quite volatile. I used to worry for them and petition God to do what they want him to do so they don’t lose heart. We would communicate over and over again about the danger of depending on feelings in our walk with God and yet it was still just a real struggle among our kids.
I don’t get upset anymore and I no longer feel the need to beg God to do something big and emo for them. Instead, I’m pleased that they have a sometimes volatile relationship with God because that’s what a REAL relationship is for them. They love, they hate, they experience, they forget, they ignore and then they obsess. Although it points to immaturity in their walk what I love is that it’s real. They are just walking through life with a God that doesn’t always make sense and they are learning to trust that. And although He might not be doing things that they want him to they keep coming back because he’s doing exactly what he should be doing. Drawing them steadfastly (not emotionally) and teaching them along the way. It’s truly beautiful to watch.
He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
– An excerpt from CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters: Letters from a senior demon to a junior “tempter”.