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My Kid Doesn't Hear or Experience God
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Is your child struggling because no matter how much they believe, they are having a hard time hearing or experiencing God? In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz explores how to guide children in their expectations for experiences with God and looks to the Bible and how God speaks to us.
Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Hello friends, and welcome to the Foundation Worldview Podcast, where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the kids that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today.
Today's question says, "I have an 11-year old boy who loves and believes in God, reads scripture, and prays regularly. But he often says or complains that he doesn't hear God or experience Him. Any thoughts or suggestions?" Well, my first thought in response to this question is, "How wonderful to have an 11-year old boy who loves God and invests time reading scripture and praying." First, just let's praise God for that. That is a gift to have children who are spiritually sensitive and who intentionally invest time into seeking God through His word and through prayer. So that is just something to celebrate and to repeatedly thank God for, to have that gift.
Now, before we answer such a question for the children that God has placed in our care, we need to make sure that we have an accurate understanding of the answer. So we need to make sure that we actually think through these questions before we answer them. Now, many times these questions just come up on the fly. And we can answer them in the moment, or it's also okay to say, "That's a really great question. I'm going to need a little bit more time to think through this before I answer it." It's completely okay to say that.
So the question that we need to make sure that we have an understanding of ourselves is, "Should we expect to hear from God or to "experience" Him?" Now, I would imagine that most of us who are watching or listening to this podcast, we have had the experience of the Holy Spirit illuminating something to us in scripture. How many times have we read through a passage in the Bible that we've probably read through tens of times before, and all of a sudden, something just jumps out to us off the page and we're like, "Whoa, how did I miss that every other time I've read through this portion of scripture?" Now we need to make sure we're understanding that scripture in context and we're not just pulling out something on our own that we have made up. But I know that most of us have experienced the Holy Spirit illuminating God's Word to us in a very real way.
I would assume that most of us have also had times where we have felt very close to God, that something or some things have happened in our lives where we're very clearly able to see God's hand at work and we feel very close to God.
And so, I would imagine that most of us have had these experiences. And these experiences can be great; they can be times of really building our faith and our trust in God. But what we want to really think through is we know that our faith is rooted in scripture. So we want to ask ourselves the question, "Based on what we find in scripture, what should our expectations be, especially when we think about hearing from God or experiencing Him? When we look at the biblical narrative, what is an appropriate expectation?"
Well, when we look in the Old Testament, we see that God mainly speaks to His people through the prophets. Now, we do see some certain instances where God specifically comes and visits someone, like when God came and visited Abraham and directly spoke to him, when God came and directly spoke to Samuel to share with him what He was going to do with Eli's family, when God came to Solomon in a dream and asked him what Solomon wanted, and Solomon asked for wisdom.
So we do see those instances scattered throughout the Old Testament, but we mainly see God speaking to His people through His prophets, that the times when God was directly speaking to individuals was few and far between, because the Old Testament spans several thousand years of history. So in the Old Testament, we mainly see God speaking to His people through His prophets.
Then, when we go to the New Testament, we see God directly speaking to humans through His Son. And that's even what the author of Hebrews tells us. Long ago, at many times, and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets. But in these final days, He has spoken to us through His Son. And so, in the New Testament we see God speaking through His Son. And then, once Jesus has ascended into heaven, we see God speaking to His people through the apostles, through the people who were actually disciples of Jesus and are now guiding the church.
So when we think through this, the words of the Old Testament prophets and then the words of Jesus, God's Son, and the words of the apostles, they have all been recorded for us in scripture. How incredible is this, that the main ways in which God has spoken to His people throughout history have been recorded for us in the scriptures.
So from this, we can make the assumption, which I think is an accurate assumption, that the main way in which we should expect to hear from God is through His Word, because the main way God spoke in the Old Testament was through the prophets, the main ways He spoke in the New Testament were through Jesus and the apostles, and those words have been written down as a record for us. And so, those words that God has spoken, we have access to in the scriptures. And then, we know that God's Holy Spirit resides in us and guides us as we read the scriptures.
And now sometimes our experiences with the scriptures as we're soundly reading, interpreting, and applying scripture, sometimes those emotions, our emotions, are going to be very, very strong. We're going to feel very excited about the things that God is revealing to us through His Word, the things that the Holy Spirit is illuminating, the things that we're able to apply. Other times, we're not going to be very excited about those things. Other times, it's going to feel kind of like a drudgery to read God's Word. Other times, we're really going to have to do it even when we don't feel like it.
But we see this throughout our lives. There's so many times where we get excited about things and then we don't get excited about things. And whether we're excited about healthy eating or not excited about healthy eating, it's still wise to have healthy eating. And so, with our relationship with God, with seeking Him through scripture and through prayer, there's going to be times where we feel that closeness and there's going to be times when we don't feel that closeness.
So what should we expect from what we learn in scripture? We should expect that God is going to speak to us through His Word and that we're to speak to Him through prayer. So once we have this understanding ourselves of, "Okay, what is an appropriate expectation?" Next, we need to find out, "Okay, this child who's asking us this question, who's saying that they don't really experience God or feel Him, we need to dive down deep into what are they really saying?"
And so, this is where we have to get good at asking questions. And we can say, "Oh, that's such a great question. Can you help me understand a little bit more what you're asking? When you say hear from God, what do you mean by hearing from God?" And just asking further questions so that we understand what they're asking. Is this child expecting to hear an audible voice when they pray? Are they expecting that God's going to respond audibly? Are they expecting that they're going to have a specific feeling after they pray?
It's really important for us to know this, because when they say they don't hear from God, we want to know, "What do they mean?" And then, once we understand that, we can verbalize it back to them. "Oh, so it sounds like you're expecting that God is going to immediately answer your prayer and that would be you hearing from Him." Or, "Oh, it seems like what you're saying is you're expecting that you're going to have this feeling of peace and calm every time you pray to God for something." And then, say, "Okay, I can understand why you would expect that. Now, let's think about God's Word. Based on everything we know about God's Word, what would make you expect that God is going to answer your prayers every time you pray them? What would make you expect that you're going to be feeling this feeling of peace every time you pray?" So that they actually have to think through that, and they may say, "I don't know." Or they may have some legitimate responses, and then we can talk through that with them.
My guess is more often than not, a child will say, "Well, I don't know. It's just what I expect." Because a lot of times, Christianity in the United States just teaches this. We should feel this thing. When we're hearing from God, we're going to feel a certain way. And we might feel a certain way when we're reading scripture or we might not, because if we look at the examples of scripture, we see times when people prayed and when God answered very clearly and very directly. And then, we see times when people prayed and God did not answer in the way that they expected.
Even think about Jesus in the garden. Jesus is God, so this is a unique situation, and He knew that He was going to go forward with the cross. But He asked the Father, "If there's another way, if you can take this cup from me, please do, if there was another way to do this." And what was the response? And Jesus already knew what the response would be, but the response was, "No. The cross is the plan."
And so, in scripture, we should expect that there are going to be times where we pray and we ask God for something and God responds with a, "No." We should expect this based on what we find in scripture. And also, when we think about this feeling, are we expecting a certain feeling, a feeling of peace? Well, there are promises of peace. When we think about the fourth chapter of Philippians, it tells us, "not to be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition, to present our request before God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." So we are promised that God, as we lay our requests before God, with the spirit of gratitude and humility, that God will give us His peace.
But is this peace, this subjective feeling that's going to change? No, because as we look at the concept of peace throughout scripture, in Ephesians in chapter two, it tells us that Jesus, He himself is our peace. Jesus is our peace. But what does it mean by peace? As we continue reading in Ephesians chapter two, it makes clear that Jesus is our peace between one another and between God, because Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between us and other believers, and He's also satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf so we have peace with God.
So when the Bible talks about peace, it's not meaning some subjective emotion. It's meaning relationally that we have a right relationship with God and with others. So when we talk to God, when we confess our sin and repent of it, we can be assured that God hears us, that as we confess and repent of that sin, that because of Jesus's work on the cross, we have a right relationship with Him. It's not a guarantee of some nebulous feeling, but it is a guarantee of because of what Jesus has done, right standing with God, union with Christ.
So we want to make sure that we first ask our child these questions. "What do you mean by this? What do you mean by experiencing God? What do you mean hearing from Him?" So that we understand what our child means, and then we can ask them, "What in scripture makes you think that this is a realistic expectation?"
Similarly, when we're talking about experiencing God, I can't think of any examples right now in scripture where someone just said that they felt God's presence, that it was some subjective feeling. We always see objective evidence of God being present, whether it's through the fulfillment of prophecy, okay, whether it's through signs and wonders, whether it's through just seeing God's Word fulfilled, that there's always objective evidence.
And so, that's what we want to point our kids to, that we might pray and God might answer in a, "No," which based on scripture we should expect to happen sometimes. We might seek God and expect to have some certain feeling about Him and that feeling doesn't come, which there's nothing in scripture that would lead us to believe that we're going to have a certain feeling about God, but that our trust in God is based in objective evidence.
And this is where we want to help our kids see that the objective evidence for Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus. Either Jesus rose from the grave or He did not. And so, we can actually help them see the evidence that points to Jesus' resurrection, and that is where our hope lies. And even in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes clear that if we have hope in Christ and this life only, we of all people, are most to be pitied, because if Jesus hasn't been raised, Paul says our faith is futile. And so, we want to help our kids see that that's where the evidence points. The evidence points to the resurrection of Jesus.
And then, we want to help them to see that the world around us consistently lines up with what we find in scripture, that the evidence in life points to a designer. The evidence we find in humanity points both to intrinsic worth and inherent sinfulness. Just like we find in scripture, the image of God and the fallenness, both in mankind, that the Bible makes clear that morals, that right and wrong are objective. That's what we find in the world around us. We want to help our kids see that what we find in scripture consistently lines up with reality.
In just a few episodes ago on this podcast, I shared a story of a student of mine who was doubting her faith. And when I just asked her a few simple questions about worldview, what the biblical worldview teaches, what other worldviews teach, she was able to come to the conclusion on her own that her feelings about God and her feelings and her relationship with God were going to go up and down. At times, she was going to feel close to God, at times she was going to feel like her prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. But the objective evidence consistently pointed to the truth of the biblical worldview, and this is exactly what we want for the children that God has placed in our care.
Well, that's a wrap for this episode. If you found this content beneficial, we'd ask that you consider subscribing, hitting the like button, so that others can find this content. We also ask that you would consider sharing it with those in your sphere of influence so that we can begin to equip more adults to get the kids in our care carefully evaluating every idea that they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. As always, as we leave this time together, my prayer is that God would richly bless you as you continue to faithfully disciple the children that He's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.
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