When you don’t desire God
What do you do when you don’t desire God?
Weird question? Not really… I’d guess for most of us we go through seasons where if we’re really honest we don’t desire God, we don’t feel a love for Him like we once did. In this season of returning to church, and reconnecting and refreshing, it can be a sharp reminder that things feel different, that something has been lost. This is natural, don’t bury that feeling, use it to push you toward God.
In lock-down, we’ve been so prone to depending on the things the world says will get us through life. It’s easy to take our eyes off Christ and find we don’t depend on Him like we used to. When this happens, doing the ‘normal’ Christian things feels like duty, like dry religion, like law, and even the little things can feel like huge burdens. Perhaps it’s not just a Covid safety that is making you apprehensive about a return to physical church?
Good news! Christ invites the weary and heavy laden to come to Him and find rest for their souls.
God has never wanted sacrifice, or dry dull duty for its own sake, God is interested in our hearts, He wants us to desire Him. That sounds even harder, doesn’t it?! Not if you understand grace! We can rest, because it is our faith that has saved us, not what we’ve done, and its faith that will sustain us, not our religious effort in the future. Grace is the unmerited favour of God. Grace means that when we don’t desire God, God doesn’t give up on us!
One of my favorite Old Testament passages speaks of this, Micah 7:8-9:
I can’t tell you how many times I have to remind myself of this! There are times as Christians when we fall – we stumble every day, yet sometimes we feel like we’ve fallen headfirst. Our inner voice starts to condemn us, and we know the enemy is rejoicing! In these moments the Christian can say, ‘I will rise! I will stand up!’ No matter how dark things feels, we can say ‘the Lord will be our light’.
While verse 9 may not sound encouraging, it is an incredible promise.
First, let’s deal with the fury… The people of God, the speaker of this passage, admit sinning against God, they admit not following his ways, and since we know God’s ways are good, we know to not follow them is bad, and since God is just, his holiness demands a strong reaction – rage! But God is also full of grace! Christ himself came to champion our cause. 1 John 2:1 tells us that when we sin, Jesus advocatesfor us before the Father, he stands before God on our behalf, he pleads our case, he knows our humanity, and empathizes with our weaknesses. And God credits Christ’s righteousness to us.
God is not angry with us because of Jesus! Yet, we do have to endure the discipline of God, the natural consequences of our sin. God doesn’t condemn us, yet he can’t turn back the clock on our sin and save us from having to work through what we may have caused. There is still something to be endured… but grace means we can endure it, walking hand in hand with the Father. He doesn’t turn his face away from us! Justice was established in Christ receiving on himself the penalty we were due.
Therefore, no matter how low we may feel, how dark things may get, how much we want to hide, God will bring us into his marvellous light! As Psalm 139 says, his Spirit is with us wherever we go and whatever we do, and even the darkness is not dark to Him! So, when we don’t desire God, we can trust God that He has got us, that He loves us, that He hasn’t distanced himself from us, and that he awaits like the prodigal Father to run to embrace us when our hearts return to Him (Luke 15:11-32). We can rest in His grace.
Our vision as a church is to see lives and communities transformed by the gospel, enjoying God and glorifying Him in all things. God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. God wants us to be able to enjoy Him, from our hearts! God wants us to want to desire Him. And he has provided the way – Jesus is the way! It is understanding and resting in God’s grace revealed in Jesus, that is the antidote to cold heart. It is through beholding Christ that we are reminded of everything that He has done for us bythis grace – the incalculable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).
God knows that it is through worship that the desires of the human heart are shaped. Not worship as in singing, but worship that consists of every act where we prioritise God, when we trust in God above all the other competing gods. That’s why he gave the Israelites the Shema, Deuteronomy 6 v 5:
As we worship (with acts of love), our desires are reoriented towards the source of true life and human flourishing, God himself. God wants us to be captivated by his love revealed in the gospel. As we come daily to His Word, and weekly with His people into His presence, His Spirit works in us to reveal the truth of what God has done at a deep level, rewiring our affections towards him, Psalm 37 v4:
As we see Christ, and we remember the gospel, as we find ourselves written into His story of salvation, instead of seeking to write our own stories we find rest. As we realise everything we’ve been forgiven for, our love for God will grow. And as we delight in Him, our desires will also be met in Him.
So, while God doesn’t want us to do things out of duty, every act that places Him first works to bring our hearts back to him, if it is done as a response to the grace that we have received. Every week we’ll be prioritising beholding this grace, preaching the gospel, and encountering God. Come and let your hearts be refreshed in Him.
Come and be a part of our Acts series every Sunday at 10:30 at the John Pounds Centre, PO1 3HN.
Follow online by searching for Christ Central Church Portsmouth on your preferred podcast provider.
A Companion Guide for the series has been produced full of content to help you engage further, pick up one in person, or download here.
For further reading I suggest, When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper.