Posted on March 01, 2022
Starting around a year and a half ago, I slowly came to the realization that I was struggling through a period of burnout.
It is a confusing sensation.
The things that brought me joy as a pastor also came with a sense of burden that began to wear me down overtime. At first I wanted to deny it, but now I recognize I need time to recharge my soul.
One thing that has persisted over the past several months has been the feeling that something is missing from my relationship with God. Its constant presence finally forced me to admit I needed an opportunity to reconnect with God in a profound way. One thing I could not understand, however, was what was missing from my relationship with God.
The past several years in the pastorate have been challenging. Shortly after beginning my current role, a certain faction within the church became particularly divisive. They made personal attacks on my character and wanted to ruin my reputation among local believers. They wanted to split the church. In such circumstances, I think it's understandable for a pastor to question his relationship with God and feel the burden of leadership. But had you asked me, I would have told you that my relationship with God during this time was as strong as it ever had been. It had to have been for me to endure this attack. I trusted in God's provision during my time of need, and He was faithful to sustain me and the church.
Another challenge came when I wanted to transition the church from spending large amounts of energy on tradition and preferences to taking our call to ministry and theology seriously. I wanted to show the congregation that a lot of what we focused on as a church was not necessary for us to be a church. If we could refocus our energy on the gospel, we could see a fruitful ministry erupt within us. Of course, this demanded showing others how to check their personal preferences at the door. Much of the baggage we brought into the church every week needed to be reevaluated and often laid aside. As you can imagine, it was a challenge to convince people that they were placing man-made traditions as a priority and the actual commands of Christ as secondary. Everyone holds their preferences more tightly than they think, me included. Although there were times of struggle and turmoil, I continued to trust in God's provision during this time.
I was doing all the right things.
I was leading my congregation through some tremendous challenges and trusting in God's help to see us through. Since this was the case, what could have been missing from my relationship with God? As strange as it may seem, even though I knew I was relying on Him to help me persevere through these trials, I realized that I remained somehow distant from God. It was like being in a room with someone but remaining emotionally distant. I could not escape the feeling that I was not experiencing all of God. As I searched the Scriptures, I realized I had neglected to enjoy God simply because of who He is. I had become really good at recognizing Him as my sustainer, but God is more than a sustainer. He does not need to do anything for me to love Him. He deserves my love simply because of who He is. Several Scriptures helped me as I thought through this epiphany. One was Psalm 16:11, which says, "You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever" (NASB). Simply being in God's presence must fill our hearts with joy. Until we find joy in Him apart from any need, we are not experiencing everything good there is to God.
As I've tried to put these insights into words, I've recognized the idea of friendship with God perhaps best captures the essence of what I have lacked over the past few years. I needed to reconnect with Him as a friend. True friendship is not based on what you have to gain from the other person. A friend who is only interested in you for personal gain isn't really a friend at all. You enjoy friends because of the bond between you, not because of what they can do for you. You see intrinsic value in your friends. It is a joy to maintain a relationship with them just for the sheer pleasure of being in a relationship with them. This is what I was lacking in my relationship with God. I was coming to Him in times of desperate need, which we should do, but in doing so, I had neglected my friendship with Him. We should never lose sight of the fact that God is worth our esteem simply because He is God. We can seek our joy in Him in times of great need and in times with no need. Perhaps it is when we seek God apart from any need that His true glory shines brightest in our lives.
How is your friendship with God? I doubt I am the only one who has focused on His provision to the neglect of friendship. If these thoughts resonate with you, I want to invite you to rekindle your friendship with God. Challenge yourself to seek Him out of an overwhelming satisfaction in Him. I pray your friendship with God will stir within you a longing to know Him even more and encourage others around you to want to know God as a friend as well.
Original article: https://www.ideanetwork.church/post/friendship-with-god
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