God is relational and promises to “be with us always” (Mat 28:20), but as believers we can feel alone, especially when something difficult happens. God’s desire is to walk with us, to hold us, and to comfort us but we cannot always perceive God’s presence. Our bond with God is strengthened by consistent time and positive interactions. Making time to allow God to speak to us will strengthen our bond. One way to do this is through interactive gratitude prayers. As we practice gratitude, we learn to “see” God in our everyday lives and strengthen our connection with Him. As we allow God to speak to our hearts, our awareness of His presence and his heart for us becomes more apparent.
One of the issues that can occur when we struggle to see God is disconnection. We can doubt God and His heart for us. We can feel that God is uncaring or incompetent and this will destroy our relationship with Him.
A second issue is that of “spiritual bypass.” This term, first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is a defense mechanism that gets us to deny our hurt or anger or shame or whatever “negative” thing we may be feeling. In the name of “being strong or faithful” we can deny that we are mad, hurt, or afraid. Spiritual bypass keeps us from fully connecting to God by not allowing Him to walk with us in our pain, our mess, our humanness – which is where He not only longs to be, but is GLAD to be. God deals tenderly with our weakness.
We finished the lesson by taking some time to draw a picture of our lives. It was powerful to take stock of all the things that drive us and to reflect on the good, as well as the hurts and fears. By bringing it all to God we can know that He is with us always. We are the apple of His eye and His is rejoicing over us!