I read this quote in A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly today, and it really moved me:
But the light fades, the will weakens, the humdrum returns. Can we stay this fading? No, nor should we try, for we must learn the disciplines of His will, and pass beyond this first lesson of His Grace. But the Eternal Inward Light does not die when ecstasy dies, nor exist only intermittently, with the flickering of our psychic states. Continuously renewed immediacy, not receding memory of the Divine Touch, lies at the base of religious living. (pg 5)
Thomas Kelly was an important Quaker that wrote a lot about the soul and the need to live in God’s presence. We have this light in us, he argues, that is God’s presence. But here he acknowledges that this light fades. Our will to follow Christ weakens. The humdrum returns.
There is a misconception in Christianity that as I Christian I should always feel good, upbeat, and close to God. All of life should be mountain tops and high points. But that is not the experience of the Bible characters. That is not the experience of Christian tradition. And that is not my experience either. Sometimes your faith goes dry, your hope runs on empty, and God seems far away.
But Kelly says that this is ok. We must learn the “disciplines of His will.” That light is always there, whether we feel it or not. It does not leave us or flicker. The call of following Jesus is not he call to always feel good. It is the call to “continuously renewed immediacy.” We don’t just live for a feeling.
And we don’t just live on the memory of a feeling. Too many Christians try to ride the highs of mountaintop experiences like special retreats or moments where God was clearly there. Instead, the call is to work to see and feel God’s presence in the immediate now.
And it is work, that is why they are called disciplines. You have to put practices in place to remain connected and rooted to God’s presence on a daily basis. Sunday morning is not enough.
So if God feels distant to you right now, that is ok. Your feelings don’t mean that he is distant. Make effort to draw close, and you will see and sense him again, for he is that light within you.