The last few weeks, we’ve been writing on the need for community, connection and being in the presence of other Christians (i.e., join a Life Group). But what do you do when you feel disconnected?
I was the daughter of a single mother who had never been exposed to the church or introduced to God. She searched for meaning, for God, but the one true God remained elusive to her. So, I was raised with no real church influence. I always thought God was real, but I never understood that I could have a personal relationship with Him. As I entered my 40’s, my life changed quickly and dramatically which brought me to the foot of the cross.
I learned that to sit at the foot of the cross was the best place in the world. It was my venerable sweet spot. Do you have a favorite place? A place where you’re the happiest? No matter how sweet and wonderful your favorite spot is, it doesn’t compare to the foot of the cross. Because it has healing powers. It gives life upon life for anyone who wants to receive real blessings in Jesus’ name.
There is no other place in the world where we are always received with wide-open arms, no matter what we’ve done and where we’ve been. That’s why we can boldly come to the foot of the cross as we are and, by grace, be changed from the inside out. Nothing but the blood of Christ can wash our sins and make us whole. That’s why we need the cross, that’s why we need Jesus.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24, NIV)
We need the cross daily
The foot of the cross is indeed an amazing place. Sure, the cross does atone our sins but even that’s not all. We need the cross daily because that’s where we meet Jesus and get to know His heart. That’s where we come weak and leave strengthened, we come burdened and leave in peace. To stand at the foot of the cross is to stand in the front of a glorious exhibition of God’s love. And that love is meant for us. At the foot of the cross, we can find all we have ever been looking for. When we surrender to Jesus and ask Him to forgive our sins, we receive grace upon grace. We are healed, we are restored, we are uplifted. We find refuge, shelter, safety, acceptance, strength, hope, peace, love, grace, joy. Anything, really that makes your life better or more complete.
As my story continued, I learned the power of the cross. I learned that community and others who aspired to live like Jesus kept me focused. I joined a Life Group. I went to classes. I even ended up working for the church. Then, life changed, again.
After 10 years, I left working for the church. It was like breaking up with God. I still attended. Still led a Life Group, but no longer had that daily influence. That constant pouring of Jesus speak where everything around me spoke of God’s blessing, mercy and providence. That was my first disconnect. And although I’ve maintained my walk, it has been a daily challenge. I seemed to forget how to sit in peace at the foot of the cross.
Fast forward to today, and I have moved out of state – left my home church, my Life Group, my community. Changed. Isolated. Disconnected.
So, what happens when you disconnect? Here are some thoughts.
First, what disconnects us from God?
In my story, in my 40’s I discovered that a friendship with God was not only possible but also something God desired to have with me. This discovery was a game-changer for me and marked the beginning of my quest to have a personal and spiritual connection with God. But I also have learned that in any relationship, if I don’t consciously pursue and work on the relationship, it can get sidelined. It is that simple; what I put into it, I get out of it. Really no different than our relationship with family, friends, children, significant others … even coworkers. It’s just that our relationship with God is more important.
I would love to continue this blog, with ‘here is what I have learned and mastered,’ but in truth…
Here is what I am trying really hard to learn and keep in the forefront of my life.
Am I connected emotionally with God?
This takes me back to the foot of the cross. Perhaps the single most inspiring thing about God is His ability and desire to connect to us emotionally, even though we are unworthy. He wants relationship with us and as I sit at the foot of the cross, I put myself in alignment with His heart. Does that make sense?
We find in Scripture that King David’s life is easily one of the best illustrations of God’s desire to attach to unworthy people. King David sinned and failed a lot, but his connection with God is felt throughout the Psalms and other books of the Bible.
After Saul had ruled forty years, God removed him from office and put King David in his place, with this explanation: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22 (NIV)
We see from this passage that God searches for people who desire an emotional connection with Him. A heart connection with God is an emotional one, where we learn to value and love the things God values and loves. This passage describes it as David’s heart beating to God’s heart. This kind of heart connection doesn’t sound or feel forced, unpleasant, or uninspiring. It was David’s motivation for obedience. He did everything God wanted him to do because he felt deeply connected to God. And when David messed up, unlike Saul, he owned it and sought reconnection.
As I struggle with my walk and continue to pursue God, I can’t help but wonder, how in the world do I develop a heart that beats to God’s heart? How do I develop, and keep, an emotional connection with God?
For me? Sit at the foot of the cross.
What does that look like? Taking time, every day, to get quiet, to read, listen or think (yes, think) about God’s Word. Whether it be 10 minutes or an hour. It’s every day. This is something I lost sight of and just recently reincorporated into my daily life.
So, it begs to be answered, if you had someone in your life that ALWAYS had your back, your best interest in mind and the power to sustain you, wouldn’t you want to talk to them, sit with them and be with them daily? Yes?? Well, you do.
I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2 (NIV)
So said David.
This passage is another excellent example of what it looks or feels like to have a heart that beats to God’s heart. How do we develop this kind of heart connection? We must be willing to unclutter our hearts and deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly that can be very easily buried or concealed within us.
Ask yourself if any of these feelings are buried in your heart:
- Unworthy – I feel inadequate and weak in certain areas of my heart.
- Unresolved – I have unfinished business in certain areas of my heart.
- Unforgiven – I have deep and residual guilt in certain areas of my heart.
When I ignore these areas of my heart, I usually end up feeling unmotivated and disconnected from God. It’s like I’m trying to hide these things from Him. We can develop a deep emotional connection with God by beginning to engage and unpack these feelings with God and with the help of spiritual friends. Get that? See what I did there – spiritual friends, the ones on the same path as you. As you read scripture, we find even David talked openly to his men to resolve his guilt.
When I feel unworthy, unresolved, or unforgiven, and choose to ignore those feelings, I make decisions that are not necessarily “unspiritual” but certainly not focused on Jesus. In those moments, I am driven by selfishness, fear, avoidance, maybe laziness. Over time, I become more and more disinterested in my relationship with God.
Do I see and treat God as a friend?
This is a hard one for me. I hear about thinking of God as a friend. There is even a worship song … Jesus is a Friend of Mine. Are those just words or are they real feelings? So, how can we move from words to really seeing God as a friend? I recently read a simple truth: when we choose to rely on someone for confidence in areas we know we need help, we build a special connection with that person. Do you have a friend you go to or call when you need a confidence boost, or a motivation boost? Do you have a cheerleader who more times than not will say, “You got this! Go for it!!” Who is that person who helps you push past fear?
Fear is interesting. We have it constantly in both big and small ways. I feel like so much of our world is rooted in fear, from advertising to the internet. We fear meeting new people because we are worried what they will think of us, afraid of not coming through on a project for work, afraid of the future, scared of health concerns or possibilities, plus war, pandemics, and volatility. Fear can control us.
Back to the cross. Instead of letting my fear control me and consume my emotional energy, I have to bring it to and leave it at the cross. That means recognizing and understanding that ultimately God is my confidence no matter what I face. God tells us throughout the Bible that he has our back; however, it is up to us to believe him. By doing this, we develop a special connection with God. God becomes our friend.
Do I connect honestly with God each day?
Ok, I’m actively working on this one. When I first became a Christian, I was so inspired that I could talk to God all the time, and he would listen to me, actually wanted to listen to me! However, as time has passed, it has been easy for me to lose that sense of inspiration. I can go through the actions of prayer and reading my Bible regularly but miss the focus on staying connected with God.
I think it is easy for any of us who have gone to church or read the Bible for years to think we are connected to God when we are not. We can live by some set of rules we know and agree with, but we do not evaluate the level of attachment and enjoyment we have in our relationship with God.
We lose this connection when we live by “human rules” over a genuine relationship with Him.
When we feel like we have to do everything right spiritually to be accepted, we have lost our connection. When we say “yes” to everyone because we want to be liked, we have lost our connection. When we are afraid to be honest because of what people think, we are in danger of losing our connection.
This is where community comes in. Having spiritually-minded people in our lives is key. We need people who will hold us accountable, challenge us, call us out, cheer us on and walk beside us. Community helps us reconnect and maintain relationship with God. Whether it’s the Life Group we meet with each week, or the friend we regularly have coffee with or that person we call when we are faltering, community works! As they say, you are who you hang with.
So, as I sit here 2200 miles away from my home church and my Life Group feeling disconnected and somewhat unmotivated, I’ve set a few things in motion.
I have that friend I’ve scheduled weekly coffee with. It was initially set up to hold her accountable but all things reciprocal, right?
We’ve gone to church the first time. It’s not like our home church but it’s worship, bible teaching and an entrance to a new Life Group…called Community Group.
I’ve set aside daily time to lay my fear, anxiety and unworthiness at the foot of the cross. Time to pray, to listen, to talk with God. Time with my friend to check in daily, let Him know how I am doing and hear what He thinks about it.
It’s all pretty simple actually, God never departs from us. He never disconnects. It’s all on us. And, when we’re ready He’s there, faithful and patient waiting for His child to call home.
Walking alongside you,