Those who’ve read my other posts will know I often write about the need for breakthrough into the miraculous in the Church, and the importance of healing and deliverance. Wonderful though such things are, and much though they reflect the heart of God for his children, Christianity would be shallow if it were just a parade of victories over obstacles and circumstances. Today I want to write about the emotional blessings of knowing God, and particularly the emotional resources available to us when we walk closely with him. Jesus was clear that difficulties would come, after all. John 16: 33,
“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Though Christians are not guaranteed an easy, trouble-free life, we are guaranteed the company and leading of God in all our difficulties, and his help to overcome whatever assails us, if we walk with him. Victory is birthed in the heart, so that’s where we will linger today. What emotional benefits has God made available to his followers? Philippians 4:6-7:
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
This passage speaks of a transaction, where we place that which concerns us in God’s hands and leave it there without returning to worry. Worry is the application of thought as a solution, when thought is no solution at all. In other words, worry is going over and over the same stuff in our heads, as if by obsessing over our problems will make them go away. Abandoning worry is a discipline. This verse then, doesn’t speak of a nebulous, intangible peace that drifts around us after we’ve prayed; it describes supernatural peace, flowing from our renewed spirits into our bodies and souls, and changing how we actually feel.
This blessing of supernatural peace cannot be experienced if we continue to worry, because worry acts as a blocker to the divine flow. To enter this blessing, we must hand our needs to God completely, and then discipline our minds to turn away from worry, even when every instinct screams to grab hold of it again and continue to obsess. Only then, when we’ve truly given a matter to God, refusing to worry but dwelling instead on God’s faithfulness to bring us through, can we know divine peace. Let’s take Jesus at his word and refuse worry, next time it comes knocking at our door.
In the midst of tremendous difficulties, we can be supernaturally strengthened, and even know joy, trusting in the strength and power of God to bring us through. Colossians 1:11:
‘May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,’
We can walk through our days with the assurance that we are never left without supernatural help. Hebrews 13: 5-6,
‘Because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”’
Even as we age and our bodies fail, we can be renewed with all the spiritual (and therefore emotional) vigour of youth. When do we experience this renewal? When we believe with all our hearts that the blessings of Heaven far outweigh any troubles we may know in this life. If we truly believe that, to the point where belief runs so deep in us it changes our emotions, troubles that would flatten another person can seem ‘light and momentary’ to the believer. This is the essence of walking by faith and not by sight. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18,
‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’
When we face struggles of any type, our spirits within us, which were renewed when we gave our lives to Jesus, have all the power, guts and determination to see us through. We can tap into those divine resources and face difficulties with confidence in God. 2 Timothy 1:7,
‘For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.’
We can take further comfort from knowing that God will use every difficulty and challenge to strengthen us and develop our character. Romans 5: 3-5,
‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’
Without God, suffering would just be misery, but God is rather efficient at taking that which was meant to harm us and using it for our good. When we suffer, he will develop in us perseverance, character and hope. God does not want us to suffer any more than you or I want our children to suffer (we are not better, more compassionate parents than he!) – let’s be clear on that. God is not the author of suffering nor the designer or instigator of tests for his children. But when we face a test, including those we’ve brought on ourselves, he will utilise it for our good, developing strength of character that will serve us well when facing other difficulties in the future. So sure can we be that God will do this, and that he will bring us through, that we can glory in our sufferings, knowing God will bring forth a harvest of blessing and strength that far outweighs any pain we might be experiencing. This is a tremendous emotional benefit of walking with God, enabling us to be positive, even in the midst of great trials.
When we feel overwhelmed, as human beings tend to do from time to time, including giants of faith like Elijah and Moses, even Jesus himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, we can bury ourselves deep in the comforting presence of God. In some of the most challenging periods of my life, I hid in God’s presence like a child in a blanket, letting him surround me with love. God’s love is ever-present; something we can take refuge in at all times and at any moment. Psalm 46: 1-3,
‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.’
From time to time, all of us are threatened by dire circumstances. Even when the walls of the valley loom overhead, and death casts its cold shadow on our hearts, God is with us. We can know his comfort, leading and presence all the way through to the other side, where a victory feast awaits. Psalm 23: 4-5,
‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.’
There are times when we’ve not walked as closely with the Lord as we might. Perhaps we’ve burnt ourselves out, doing what we can in our own strength without drawing on divine resources. Isaiah 40:31 speaks of how to turn that around.
‘But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.’
That word ‘wait’ does not refer to the kind of passive patience one needs at a bus stop. The Hebrew word for wait is qavah, and it means to intertwine oneself with (the Lord), as in the winding together of the strands of a rope. The Lord does not renew the strength of those who sit around hoping something will change; there is no faith in that for him to respond to. He renews the strength of those who intertwine themselves with him in an ever-closer bond.
Our renewed spirits within us are a force to be reckoned with, but they are also connected to the great tenderness of the Lord. Romans 8: 15-16,
‘For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God’
When we connect with the Holy Spirit, our spirits cry out ‘Abba,’ which is an intimate term for father. This is not something that happens in the background, of which we are unaware. All these emotional blessings of God are tangible; a felt experience, flowing from trust. We reach out to the Lord as a toddler for its parent, trusting the arms of our daddy to embrace and love us. In that place of divine assurance, we know we are his children. We feel and know that we were chosen, adopted, esteemed, desired. In my private times of prayer, this is something I take comfort in. The Lord speaks sweetly with his dear ones, and they hear his voice.
There are so many more emotional blessings of walking with God that I could list, but the point I want to make is this: God’s provision for our inner life is abundant beyond measure. He provides for us from his limitless riches in glory, and walking with him can touch and transform every part of our emotional lives. He makes us truly rich, but how often do we experience that?
We do not automatically live in these manifold blessings – we inherit the promises and blessings of God when we walk closely with him. If we want to know comfort in the midst of trouble, consolation in our grief, strength in our weakness, certainty when doubt abounds, confidence when the waves threaten to swamp us, peace in the midst of turmoil, and the tangible closeness of God in all circumstances of our lives, then we must do our part. Our part is not impressive, or difficult, and it does not earn God’s blessings. It’s merely our way of saying yes to God, and leaning in, just as we did when we first said yes to God, and gave him our lives. The following verses give a flavour of what I’m talking about.
James 4: 8, ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’
Isaiah 55: 6, ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.’
Hebrews 11: 6b, ‘He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’
Matthew 7: 7-8, ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’
Psalm 42: 1-2, ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.’
Psalm 84: 10, ‘Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.’
Proverbs 8:17, ‘I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.’
Jeremiah 29:13, ‘You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.’
Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Psalm 14:2, ‘The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.’
None of this is burdensome, because God is truly wonderful. The best decision I ever made was to seek the Lord with all my heart, at the age of nineteen. That choice, and the outworking of that choice, led to closeness with God that was beyond my wildest dreams. To this day, I feel his presence at every moment, and hear his voice every single day. He is my beloved, but not because of anything I’ve done – we love because he first loved us. Love flows from God, the source of all love, and in seeking him we’re simply saying, ‘I believe’.
Let’s have a heart like David’s, and make this our prayer. Psalm 27: 4-14,
‘One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple…’