Do you ever wonder if God is really working in your life? Or wish you were closer to God?
Do you struggle to see how your faith makes any real difference in your life?
Or at the end of a really bad day, do you ever wonder if God actually does love you (as in, really loves you, not just theoretically loves you)?
Christians aren’t exempt from doubt and discouragement. So it’s important to discover God’s invitation to partner with the Holy Spirit.
As you partner, you will
- see how God is always at work in your life
- realize you are never alone
- flourish and thrive in the life that God’s created you to live
1. Recognize that God is at work
When you recognize God’s work, it can be a balm to your heart and soul.
Even if you don’t notice it, God is constantly at work in the world because of his love for all.
For example, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). He is seeking to reconcile all creation to himself.
However, God’s work is often hidden or just not obvious. You may have experienced what Dr. Henry Cloud, a Christian psychologist, describes in his book How People Grow:
“When I first began my path of growth, I wondered one day if God wanted to have anything to do with me anymore, or if I were someone he didn’t want. I prayed, and God did not seem to answer me; my hurts and pains were not quickly going away. I thought God had left me.”
Henry had to learn a deeper noticing of God’s work in his life. Because there are signs that God is taking initiative with you, even if he feels far away. That’s what partnering with the Spirit is all about—looking for these signs.
For Henry, a pastor pointed out a key sign:
“In the midst of these thoughts I remember a pastor telling me, ‘If God were through with you, you would not be worried about it or wanting to have anything to do with him. The desire you feel for him and for growth can only come from him and his Spirit. If you are moving toward God, it’s because he’s moving toward you. Rest in this fact. If you want him, he is looking for you.’ Then he showed me a verse to prove his point: ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him’ (John 6:44).”
Other clues that God is at work in your life:
- becoming aware of God’s presence
- receiving a guiding insight
- experiencing peace despite your circumstances
God’s work is not dependent on your noticing. But if we do take note of God’s movement and work, our hope can be renewed. This gives us courage, even courage to acknowledge the depth of our doubt or discouragement when life is hard.
Where do you need to see the reality that God is present in your life today? It’s worth the work of pausing to notice.
2. Remember that you are never alone
When you remember God’s work, you’ll be able to relax into the reality that he is with you.
Jesus’ death and resurrection has given you unhindered access to the permanent, personal presence of the Holy Spirit. When Christ died, the veil in the temple of Israel was torn into two, indicating that God’s presence was no longer closed off to you. To always have God near is what all the Old Testament believers had been waiting for.
However, it is hard to see the reality of God’s nearness, whether things are great, awful, or ordinary. Without a physical presence, it’s easy to forget that God is always with us.
Often, the things right in front of you will feel more real than God’s nearness. It’s like holding a small object such as a coin to your eye. When you focus on that thing, even though it is small, it prevents you from seeing other things around you.
What person or thing has been preoccupying your thoughts recently? Imagine that they are the coin in front of your eye. When you’re focused on something by itself, surrounding things—like the reality of God’s presence—become harder to see. Nearness with God isn’t about making him come closer. It’s about looking up to see he’s already there.
God’s presence by his Spirit is 100% dependent on Jesus and what he’s done.
Not on what you have or haven’t done.
Not on what you do or do not feel.
Not on whether you experience doubt or faith.
Not on what is or isn’t happening in your circumstances. It takes work to remember this good news because his presence—like his work—is often hidden or just not obvious.
But no matter what, God is with you now and forever. You are never alone.
And since God is our Father, Jesus our brother, and the Holy Spirit our comforter, advocate, and friend, it is very good to have him with you.
Where in your life do you need to see how you are not alone? Where do you need to experience God’s with-ness?
3. Respond with freedom, not fear
Partnering with the Spirit changes your motivation for action, from acting out of fear to acting out of freedom. There’s nothing you can do—or fail to do—to change God’s love and acceptance.
When you let that truth sink in, you are freed to be the person he has uniquely created you to be. You are free to respond to the Spirit’s leading with joy and love, trusting God’s goodness toward you.
However, people tend to live in fear. Even Christians often act as if this good news is not true. They end up being motivated by fear of punishment, rejection, or dissatisfaction.
Yet Jesus came precisely to release people from fear. In Luke 4:18, Jesus says he has come to bring aphesis, which in New Testament Greek means “release.” It refers to the year of Jubilee when all slaves were released and debts were cancelled. So Jesus has come, at least in part, to release us from the fears that enslave us.
What does freedom look like?
Fear looks like joyless obligation, duty or legalism. Freedom looks like choosing to act from joy, love, and gratitude.
Fear looks like passive hesitation and stifled action. Freedom looks like moving forward with confidence that the Spirit will lead.
Fear looks like trying to curry favour from God or others. Freedom looks like acting for the benefit of others, regardless of whether or not you feel noticed.
Fear looks like believing that God owes you something. Freedom looks like deep gratitude in all circumstances.
Fear looks like inconsistently following Jesus. Freedom looks like faithfully committing to the Spirit’s faithful leading.
As you read these descriptions, where do you notice fear in your life? Where do you need freedom? What if the Spirit is inviting you to receive freedom?
There will still be hard days and questions sometimes. But partnering with the Holy Spirit gives hope in every circumstance.
Read more: Are my hopes too idealistic? Let me keep praying anyway
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