Losing God?

You stomp around the house, huffing and puffing. You retrace your steps. You empty your pant pockets for the umpteenth time, look under the couch and grill the kids/wife/husband/flatmate for the slightest clue.

All to no avail – your car keys are 100% lost and you’re hopelessly trapped in one of life’s most frustrating domestic dramas. The only good thing about losing your keys or wallet or purse is knowing in the back of your mind that they almost always turn up again – often in the most obvious place, where you could have sworn you’d already looked a dozen times.

But what if you lose something more important? What if you lose your confidence in yourself, or in others or even in God?

All of us wear different hats in life, for me, as well as being a dad, husband, sports chaplain and keen fisherman, I’m also a full-time church pastor. So no one was more surprised than me a few years back when I realised that I had LOST GOD!

It happened at a time when my wife Annette and I were preparing to celebrate a decade of service as the senior leaders at Lighthouse. Looking back now, I realise that while the church was in a good place, those tough years of transition had taken a toll personally. We had been so busy doing ministry that we’d never paused to look up and take stock of our lives. So after teaching others to seek God, I suddenly found myself burning out, too exhausted to pray and with absolutely no desire to be in church myself.

In my book, Thank God It’s Monday, I discuss how I originally entered the ministry out of a love for God and people. And yet now, shockingly, I could not find the personal God I once knew!

I couldn’t even tell the difference between the professional God who was giving me my messages to speak on Sunday and the personal God that I knew as a kid. It was actually one of the most difficult situations I’ve ever faced and I genuinely believed that my days as a church leader were over.

As a pastor I often preached James 4:8 – “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (NKJV) But what if you don’t have the energy to find God? What if living out your calling and vocation has taken its toll?

Thankfully God has answers for exhausted and burnt out people. In Genesis 28:10-15 we find Jacob on the run from his brother Esau, bewildered and exhausted after walking 120km. Fatigue is a funny thing. You feel like you can sleep anywhere. Well Jacob found himself sleeping on the hard ground with a rock for a pillow! And it was there that God came to him.

I think that’s wonderful — God knows our situation and is willing to come to our aid anywhere. When we don’t have the energy to follow the advice in James 4:8 — to draw near to God — God comes to us.

See how in Genesis 28:15 God tells Jacob: “I am with you and will protect you everywhere you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (NCV) What timing that was for Jacob! What an encouragement to him in his time of need. When God said, “I am with you,” He was talking about companionship. When God said, “I will protect you,” he was referring to His promise of safety. When He said, “I will bring you back,” He was referring to His guidance. And when God said, “I will be with you constantly until I bring you what I have promised,” He is giving us His personal guarantee.

God found Jacob while he was in trouble. I know our life often feels a lot like we have to do things before God connects to us. Yes, we do have a personal responsibility toward our relationship with God. But Jacob was tired, sore and asleep when God turned up! What a great picture of God’s love and grace for us. God’s Spirit came unconditionally.

When God found me in a similar state of exhaustion, I discovered that all the questions surrounding my anxiety and stress didn’t matter any more. When I finally found God connecting with me, I discovered that I didn’t really need the answers any more. I just needed the Lord. And when He found me, the answers just seemed to take care of themselves. I didn’t pray any longer for passion to lead the church. When God found me, He gently began to encourage my heart again. When that began to happen, it’s amazing how clear my horizon became.

These days I often catch myself thinking how much I love what I do. I catch myself reflecting on how much I’m passionate about God, His church and the community again.

God can turn anything around. God can change a heart and refresh a spirit. My life today is evidence of that.

If you’re exhausted, burnt out and running from God, then there’s good news for you too. God has not forgotten you – He has promised to bring companionship, protection and guidance in your life.

And, just like the moment you find those missing car keys (in the top pocket of the suit jacket you’d already hung up in the cupboard) there’s a wonderful sense of joy as you rediscover the God who you thought was lost forever.