Not Feeling the Presence of God? Here’s Some Advice From Pastor Craig Groeschel - Finds.Life.Church

Not Feeling the Presence of God? Here’s Some Advice From Pastor Craig Groeschel

by You’ve Heard It Said

Sometimes, it feels like we’re checking off the right boxes—we’re going to LifeGroup, we’re serving, we’re reading our Bibles—and yet, we don’t feel the presence of God. But it’s possible to find a better way. We sat down to talk to Pastor Craig on the You’ve Heard It Said podcast to find out what he’s learning about this topic. Below are some highlights of what he shared. You can find the whole interview here and use it to start a conversation with your friends, family, and LifeGroup.

Question: Your time off to rest didn’t really go the way you planned—at all. How did you process the disappointment of doing this good thing that didn’t turn out the way you hoped it would?

​​Pastor Craig: Rest is an incredibly important biblical perspective that we should take, and weekly rest is really important. I can imagine all the people who, probably like me, haven’t always honored the Sabbath. And so that’s an issue. 

Then, we’re always connected. In many ways, we have progressed with technology, but we’ve also become prisoners to it. So we tried to disconnect and really unwind, but the vacation didn’t go exactly as we had hoped. But in many ways, we were still committed to it. Even though we didn’t have some of the fun or recreation that we wanted to have, we were still taking time off. And that was good.

Ultimately, sometimes when life’s not going your way, it’s really easy to be upset, complain, or be negative. I try to always keep the perspective that, “God, You are doing something. I don’t like it, it’s not what I would have chosen, but I want to look for You in it.”

So we continued to look for what God was trying to teach us in the middle of this.

Question: What advice would you give to someone who’s tried to implement some of these things in the past, but it didn’t go well the first time?

Pastor Craig: I would probably expect it not to go well the first time. We’re really rarely great at something the first time. 

It’s really easy to give up when something doesn’t go the way we want it to. Sometimes, people try to say, “It must not be in God’s will.” But maybe you just aren’t good at it yet. Or, it could be spiritual opposition.

If anything’s important, and it doesn’t go well the first time, consider that a lesson and try to make it better the second time. But don’t walk away from the important disciplines.

Question: You said that the way you were doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in you. What were some of the disconnects between how you were living and working and this better way that Jesus offers?

Pastor Craig: For whatever reason, all of us have wounds, hurts, and dysfunctions in our lives. Sometimes those dysfunctions can wreck us, and we end up coping in really bad ways. Other times, they can make us successful in the short term and then wreck us later.

So there are times when I’ll try to work to prove myself or wrongly work to find fulfillment and achievement. It works in that it helps me be driven and get a lot done, but if that’s all I do—and I do it for the wrong reasons—it will catch up with me.

I’ve been driven for a long time. So when I started studying Jesus with different eyes—looking at not just what He said, but really looking at how He lived, I saw that He wasn’t rushed like I’m rushed. He only had three years of public ministry to do what He did, and I’ve been at this for 25 years. And if He got as much done as He did in three years without being rushed, then I can get a lot done and also not be rushed.

So my goal is to live my life in a rhythm that is more sustainable over time.

Question: What are some things that you found difficult or frustrating about this slower pace of Jesus and the way He lived His life?

Pastor Craig: It frustrates me that He was so relaxed all the time, and I’m not. He’s the Son of God, the Savior of the world. And He’s not stressed. He says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow,” and I’m obsessing about tomorrow. He says:

“… do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 NIV 

It wasn’t just Jesus who said this, but James says, you’re not promised tomorrow (James 4:14). 

Sometimes, it’s hard to be in the moment because you’re thinking about what you could have done, should have done, or needs to get done. It’s not only hard to be in the moment all the time, but it’s incredibly important. 

So that’s one thing I’m working on: being incredibly present.

Question: What are some things you’re learning as you implement new rhythms and pursue the better way of Jesus?

Pastor Craig: To me, it’s like the tithe. The tithe doesn’t make sense—we take the first 10 percent of what God trusts us with and give it to Him, and then somehow, He expands what we have. We’re more blessed as we tithe.

I’m going to give God my first and my rest.

I’m viewing rest like a tithe that I’m going to give Him, and I’ve enjoyed it. We typically say, “I’m going to give God my first and my best.” So now I’m going to give God my first and my rest. 

I’m viewing it as a spiritual act instead of how I used to view it, which was lazy. As I give this to God first, I’m believing that He will give me more creativity, wisdom, and spiritual power. It’s fun to see God’s principles work, because they do work.

Something I read said that God worked six days, and He rested the seventh. Well, on the seventh day, God’s day of rest was His last day in the cycle, but it was actually Adam’s first day. And so the first thing Adam did was rest. 

And he worked from a place of rest, and I’m usually working to get to rest. And then the rest sometimes seems insufficient. And so what I want to do is I want to work from a place of rest.

Question: What does it look like for us to work from rest?

Pastor Craig: It’s going to look different for everyone. But I would say that the majority of people are too plugged into something, and it might not be work. It could be being too plugged into the approval of others. Or too plugged into their social media posts and how people respond to them.

A good thing to do is look at our lives and see what’s out of balance—where we’re trying to find meaning in the wrong place. As followers of Jesus, we need to look at where we’re living in a way that’s really different than the way Jesus lived. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, God will help us to change.

Question: You showed us a picture of a yoke in your first message for this series. How do we know when we’re pushing against the easy yoke of Jesus and pursuing our own way instead of Jesus’ better way?

Pastor Craig: I want to look for times that I’m being led versus me trying to push. Because sometimes we push, right? There’s something we want, so we’re going to get it. 

If we’re being led, we may still be working hard, or we may be whatever is behind the yoke, but we’re doing it at the pace of Jesus, and we’re doing it with Jesus.

And so then that brings up another question, right, which is how do I know if I’m being led or following my own desires? 

And so we have to have an ongoing awareness of the presence of God. When we wake up, and during the day, we need to align our heart and our mind to His. He is directing us. He is guiding us. Ultimately, I want to let Him lead me, and have me follow, rather than pushing my own desires and agenda.

This is when we experience the truth of Psalm 37:

Take delight in the Lᴏʀᴅ, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 NIV 

This can be interpreted two ways. One is He gives you what you want, or two, as He gives you what He wants, His desires become your desires. My hope is to be so close to God that I’m not pushing my will, but I’m following His prompting.

Question: What do you hope people talk about after hearing this message, and what’s one next step anyone can take to apply it?

Pastor Craig: You can’t solve a problem that you don’t identify. So start with identifying the number one biggest discrepancy between the way that Jesus lived and the way you’re living right now. 

Because of our sinful nature, all of us are going to have one big way—we’re going to have dozens of ways, likely. You can’t fix dozens, but if you invite the Holy Spirit to lead you to one big one, God can start doing healing work there. 

It’s also not going to be fixed in a week, and you might not even get it right the first time. In fact, you’re probably not going to get it right, because we’re not that good. But if we can identify an area where we want to be more like Him, then we can start with one thing to focus on.

You can talk about it. You can have some accountability. You can start bringing some other resources or people into your life. You can start praying about it. And then you can start letting the Holy Spirit do a healing work to take you to a better way.

There are times when it’s going to be painful and hard, and we’ll be persecuted. But even with the difficult things, it’s better. His peace is better. His joy is better. His presence is better. His Kingdom values are better.

His way is always better.