That hopeful feeling you experience when someone tells you that God is better than you’ve been taught is the Holy Spirit moving. I know a lot of churches tell you to ignore it. To settle for a God who isn’t really good enough. But listen when your heart leaps with hope, joy or peace. That’s the Spirit in you.
“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ~ John 3:8
It’s been a tumultuous few days here in Rebecca’s little world. Of course, what would the holiday season be without major upheavals and breakdowns to add onto the baggage they’re already carrying? On the upside, it’s so cold up here that the electric and gas companies can’t cut off our utilities until it stops snowing. Like in May. Ah – winter on the great Northern Tundra.
Anyway, none of that’s either here nor there. Suffice it to say, life is going on much as it has been lo these several years. Bad things happen. Nothing gets fixed. The past rises up to bite you in the ass. Fail. Get over it. Wash, rinse, repeat.
But strangely, this isn’t going to be one of my “woe-is-me” posts. This is a post about God’s gifts.
Last Monday, I woke up experiencing something I haven’t felt in a good, long while: peace. Kid you not – I haven’t had peace in ages. So it was rather odd to wake up with a sense of peace that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” I went to bed just getting by and woke up with a sense of peace.
And it hit me that when God wants me to have peace, I will have peace. And when he wants me to wrestle with its absence, I will not have peace. Nothing I do can change that.
My peace or joy or anointing or whatever I am looking for comes from the hand of God according to what I need to grow and develop right in that moment. It’s not about whether he is happy or unhappy with me or if I’ve said the right incantation or adjusted my attitude just so or thought the right things.
I’d done all of that already and it hadn’t worked. Perhaps your instinct is to assume that the problem is that I wasn’t trying hard enough or hadn’t done it right. If that’s the case, your god is a monster. Because if my best isn’t good enough, then that path is too hard for any human to be expected to walk. If it takes more than I’ve already put into it, then the standard is cruel and inhuman.
I don’t care what any other teacher or pastor says. I’ve walked the path and learned that you don’t get peace or joy or anointing or any other good thing from the hand of God for doing or believing right or having the right attitude. You get those things because God gives them to you. Because he wants you to have them at just that moment. And when they are withdrawn, it’s not because you’ve screwed up or haven’t earned them. They get withdrawn because God sees a benefit to you doing without them just at that point in time. These gifts are tools in God’s hands.
It was just so clear to me when I woke up last week with peace that it was a gift from God, not the result of anything I have done. And it was further clear to me that every other time I had experienced peace, it was like that. It had never been something I had created, but always a gift from the hand of God. Something he had wanted me to have.
And from the perspective of someone who knows, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”, I have some smidge of gratitude for the times God has withheld his gift. It seems that perhaps there comes a time when God can’t give you what you really need until you give up trying or maybe even desiring them. A gift isn’t a gift if it’s something owed or handed over on demand or required for survival, after all.
The truth is that I’ve been getting along without my old friends peace or hope or joy or really much of anything else I wanted from the hand of God. After a while, I figured that for whatever reason, they just weren’t for me to have. That he was sending me on a path without them for reasons I can’t yet know and that I might continue to walk this uncomfortable, unrewarding path for the rest of my days.
I’d tried everything I could think of – spiritually and practically – to get off the path, change the path or look at the path differently. It was failure on top of failure until the failure began to give me some hope because only successful, important people fail this much!
But I woke up last week with peace. And I had nothing to do with it. My life circumstances certainly don’t have anything to do with it! It was God and God alone who decided that it is what I need for the moment.
If I hadn’t gone so long without peace that I had given up even wanting it, I wouldn’t know that. Deep down, I would still think that these gifts from God’s hands were a sign of how I was doing in life and on my spiritual walk. God’s gifts would be about how good I am; not how good God is.
I think a lot of us are busy trying to figure God out – what’s his angle? How can I unlock the prize box? How do I figure out what he wants from me? What do I need to do to stay out of trouble? And then we view life through that lens. The rules are simple: if life is good, we’re doing it right. If life sucks, we’re doing it wrong.
But that’s not what’s happening. That’s not how God does it. God is at work causing all things to work together for the good of those who love him. People, not God, are responsible for nearly all the circumstances we find ourselves in. God’s job is to use whatever circumstance we face to shape, grow and redeem us. Spiritual gifts are tools he uses towards that end.
God’s like a master artist who knows just when to apply a stroke, just how heavy it needs to be, where is should go and how long it ought to be. When we have much, it is because God knows we need it. When we struggle with little, it’s because God knows we need to have little. So we can stop worrying and fussing when we find ourselves walking in a suffocating darkness. We can stop blaming ourselves when we’re missing a dear friend like peace or joy who has abandoned us. We can trust that where ever we find ourselves, it is where we need to be.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~ Julian of Norwich
Going all theological on ya again! At one point Jesus says that the one sin which will not be forgiven is the sin against the Holy Spirit. But no one seems to know what the sin against the Holy Spirit is. I would say that first of all, the sin must be one that is not repented of. If we ask for forgiveness, it is given. Period. But does this mean that any-ole sin that we don’t repent of is a sin against the Holy Spirit? Because that would be a real problem. What if we forgot some of our sins? What if we didn’t realize we had even made a mistake that could be considered a sin? That doesn’t seem right either.
So, since the sin is against the Holy Spirit, let’s consider what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit has been sent as a comfort and a teacher. It takes time and patience and practice for most of us to learn to hear the Holy Spirit. And one of the things that the Holy Spirit does is tell us to repent. How does the Holy Spirit tell us to repent? Sometimes the signal comes from outside of ourselves. It’s heard where there is suffering, oppression, and fear. When we see or hear people that say they are suffering, that is a sign that we’re getting something wrong and need to start looking for a better way of doing things. When we ignore those who are suffering, we are ignoring the Holy Spirit calling us to repentance. And just like in our own lives, we do not always know how to do what we know we should be doing, we at least need to recognize that it is sin. A solution may be a long way off, but in the meantime, we still need to repent. Other times the Holy Spirit tells us to repent by making us uncomfortable with what we are doing. Sometimes we know that our discomfort indicates sin. And we need to repent when that happens, even if you don’t know how to change or don’t think you can. God understands that even doing our best we will fall short which is why He declared sin a non-issue for those who repent. Unfortunately, many of us assume that our discomfort is something to overcome. We’ve been told that something is supposed to work a certain way, but there is something deep in us that knows its wrong. But because we think we know how its supposed to work, we ignore the Spirit deep in us that is screaming out “no!”
So, I would posit that the sin against the Holy Spirit is when we do something that we know is wrong or causes pain and suffering or support things that are wrong and cause pain and suffering but will not repent. If we know its wrong, and we do it anyways without repenting even in our own hearts, that is a sin that God can not forgive. For all practical purposes, we are choosing to do evil and are committed to it. It can’t be forgiven because it has been willfully held back from Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. And if we do it while pointing to God, don’t think that He will understand. God wants us to know Him and when we willfully reject His way which is love and ascribe it to Him, we rejecting Him as He is in favor of god as we would have Him be. The good news is that any sin can be repented of whether it can be fixed or not. There is no sin which is automatically a sin against the Holy Spirit. But we must beware because the sins we are least likely to repent of are the ones we commit when we blame God for our actions and attitudes. In order to avoid this sin, we Christians would do well to take the safe route of unconditional love for all people. When we get good enough at that, perhaps we can be trusted to try our hand at showing others the way to go. Because if we make a mistake out of an abundance of love, that is an easy sin to repent of. At least that’s my theory. 😉