Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) struggled with experiencing God personally. That is, until the night of November 23, 1654.
‘From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past twelve … FIRE … God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and savants. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.’
Although it was a unique moment, it convinced him that reason and science alone cannot lead us to God. No, we must also experience God very personally for ourselves.
Although God hasn’t promised us a Pascal-like encounter, we too must experience God in ways that go beyond mere head knowledge. And yet – let’s be honest – sometimes that feels light-years away.
Last time, I shared the first of 3 ways we can draw closer to God from Psalm 34. This time, we’ll look at a second way we can experience God’s presence, then wrap up with a third way in the final post of this mini-series.
Slowing Down To Focus On The Lord
One thing that’s crystal clear in Psalm 34 – and most psalms, really – is how often the writer reflects on what God has done for him and Israel.
Here are just a few examples from Psalm 34:
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
David experienced God’s personal answers to his prayers, and from what we can tell from Scripture, ‘God’s character’ and ‘great things God has done for me’ occupied two really large segments of the pie chart representing his thought life.
Of course, David had a lot of time to think. Being on the run from Saul for so long, despite the crazy hardships it involved, did get him away from the hustle and bustle of palace life. He couldn’t jump on social media or binge watch Netflix. He was free to think about the way God was protecting, sustaining and loving him.
I’m not sure many of us have that same luxury. We live in a time when things are coming at us from every direction.
One of my mentors during seminary, for example, said that he was so busy he only found time to connect to God during his morning shower.
Of course, it’s not just what’s coming at us. It’s what we bring to what’s coming at us, too. As Matthew Crawford points out in ‘The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming An Individual In An Age Of Distraction’, our struggles with technological distractions are partly driven by a desire for autonomy and a deeper spiritual restlessness that reinforce each other. (For a thought-provoking read on our distractions, check out the New Yorker’s review of Crawford’s book.)
To be transparent, I struggle with distraction all the time. I’m scared that you’d need a microscope to see the ‘God’s character’ and ‘great things God has done for me’ slices on my pie chart.
But despite our struggles and failures, we have hope because we know Jesus. Not because we’re like David, however worthy that may be.
Taste & See That The Lord Is Good: 3 Practical Ideas
Here are 3 ideas to help us reflect more deeply on God’s character and works from Psalm 34.
1 – Try to find more undistracted time. While we can’t create more time, most of us have more discretionary time than we realize. What could you cut out to make more time for the kind of deep reflection on the Lord? It may be that some circumstance already in front of you is part of the answer, as it was for David.
2 – Reflect on times where God rescued you. Where has God delivered you from your fears (verse 4) or discouragement (18), troubles (6), or, someone who was against you (19-22)?
Just recently, I was driving with my two sons in the middle of nowhere on vacation when my GPS took us off the beaten path. It wasn’t ‘(Whatever) Road’, it was someone’s narrow, ridiculously steep driveway. Before I knew it, we were stuck, with two of our tires spinning in gravel and mud. We prayed, I put some sticks from the brush under the tires, and got back on the driveway after a pretty wild ride. These are the kinds of situations that can drive us to deep reflection and gratitude.
Where has God rescued you in the last week or two?
3 – Update what you read in the bible for your own life. Sometimes familiarity with a bible (especially an Old Testament) passage, or (conversely) its weirdness, makes it feel remote and pretty irrelevant for us.
In writing 1 Peter, Peter does something similar with Psalm 34, which he appears to draw on throughout his epistle. He quotes our theme verse (8) in 2:2-3, then 12-16 in 3:10-12. He’s drawing on resources from Israel’s past and updating them for his readers a thousand years later so that they, too, can receive fresh help for their own situation.
Although Peter was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the implication for us isn’t ‘don’t try this at home’. We too have God’s Spirit, and although we will make mistakes at times in our applications, God intends for us to apply the entire bible to our own, everyday lives.
The more we can take time to read the bible, meditate on it, and prayerfully reflect on its implications, the more we’ll be able to do this well. Doing this in community with others Christians will lead to better insights and help us avoid wacky errors, too.
So, if we want to experience God more personally, we need to create spaces where we can reflect deeply on who God is, and what he’s done for us. That includes cutting out some distractions, reflecting on where God has rescued us, and, making connections between what we read and our own situation.
Your Turn: Which of the 3 ideas above might help you slow down and have more time to reflect deeply on who God is, and, what he’s done for you? How could you put it into action?