Trying to follow Christ without knowing him can feel like trying to catch a cloud. Every time you get close enough to catch the cloud, you realize it can’t be grasped fully as it slips right through your hands. One can follow the right rules, say the right words, and do the right things. But it’s meaningless unless it’s rooted in deeper love and connection.

Words can be slippery

I recently saw a question on Twitter asking people to explain why they consider themselves a Christian without using church words. As someone who loves words and constantly has a dialogue going on in her mind, I’ve been struck lately by how sometimes words get in the way. We think that we communicate clearly, only to learn that others had interpreted our words differently. So, this exercise of trying to take out the scripted words one learns in Christian circles and to instead get to the root of my faith appealed to me.

As I thought of why I follow Christ, the idea that the God of the universe would want to draw alongside me – and stay there – kept coming to mind. As someone who grew up always anticipating the next crisis in life, the constant presence of God really appealed to me. Knowing, amid the chaos that comes with life in a broken world, that God would never change, was comforting. But this was just that – an idea – appealing but abstract. 

So, when a friend asked for tangible example of why I believed Jesus never changes, the question became a bug in my ear, buzzing around my mind for days. And in some ways, I found some answers to the question. I can remember times that I really experienced God’s presence. And I can remember times when I can clearly see his working in my life. 

But I’d be remiss to ignore that there are times when God feels far away. In these times, I wonder if it’s me who has moved away from God or God who has moved away from me. Or maybe something has wedged its way between us. And there are times when I question and wonder if I’ve misunderstood something along the way. I think that’s not going to change on this side of heaven. When it’s dark and God feels far, I have found it helpful to remember the times that I did sense God near me or saw clearly how he was working in my life. And I’ve found it helpful to hear others’ stories of how God has worked in their lives. So here are some tangible examples from my life.

God showed His compassion and care for me

  • When I learned funding for my job might end, God brought me a song to remind me that he was all I need. 

“Any greatness I achieve,
 Every praise I may receive,
 I would give it all for You.”

  • When my heart was crumbling during a family crisis, God awoke me from a dream with a reminder that I should be listening to His voice.

“But the voice of truth tells me a different story
 The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
 The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
 Out of all the voices calling out to me
 I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth”

  • When my brother was sick for the umpteenth time, I shared this with my college Bible study. Sometimes, people can make insensitive remarks in these times, but my friend just said to me that God cares. This was so simple yet profound and was just what I needed to hear.

God showed me He was at work in my life

  • When I heard my father was in the hospital shortly before his death, God prompted me to visit him. My father said he would be home the next week, and we would plan to get together with the kids (an every few months occurrence). Even after this, I felt compelled to visit the next day. That evening, my father passed away, so I am thankful for that prompting. 
  • When I forgot my cell phone at home (a common occurrence) and was prompted to turn around to get it (a less common occurrence), I received a phone call from a doctor that they had an opening the next week for a surgery I needed as I was experiencing secondary infertility.  
  • When crossing paths with another who told me of Jesus at a science camp, I went to college seeking to know more about Him. My dorm neighbor invited me multiple times to come to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship where I was able to learn more and join a Bible study. 

As I walk through a time when my vision feels clouded, struggling with the not knowing, I remain hopeful. I trust that in time, I will gain a refined sense of who God is and who he made me to be. In the meantime, I will allow these experiences to serve as a light in the darkness. 

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