It’s hard to feel Christ’s peace and to act with His grace when the environment you’re in is full of negativity and contention. At least it’s hard for me. I recently spent a few days in that kind of relational setting, and it left me feeling like a spiritual failure. Instead of bringing light to the darkness, as I had prayed ahead of time to do, I felt as if the darkness sucked me in. I tried to pray, but my prayers only seemed to ricochet off the ceiling. God seemed a trillion miles away.
Later, when I was able to talk with God about it, I confessed my sense of defeat. Why did You seem so far away? I asked. Why was praying so hard? Why couldn’t I stay near You so I wouldn’t get taken out?
The Holy Spirit’s answer surprised me. What I think I heard Him say was, I was quiet but I never left you. I was quiet because I was grieving, too. You weren’t the only one who felt the oppression and sadness in that place. I went there with you; I felt it all, too.
It wasn’t news to me that the Holy Spirit has emotions. As a Person, He, like the rest of the godhead, feels. I knew that He can be quenched (1 Thess. 5:19) or grieved (Eph. 4:30). But I’d never thought about Him being grieved by the same things, at the same time, as I was grieved. Who knows? Perhaps the grief I was feeling didn’t even originate with me—maybe its source was the Spirit in me!
At any rate, I felt His consolation as I pondered this idea. There is something comforting about having someone to cry with. The Holy Spirit’s grief validated the grief I was feeling. It didn’t change circumstances, but it made me realize that feeling what I was feeling (instead of peace and joy) was appropriate in God’s eyes.
I asked the Holy Spirit how to avoid missing Him when I encounter similar challenging situations in the future. Romans 8:26 came to mind: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (ESV).
I realized that I had seemed to be missing God in that situation because I’d been looking for the wrong thing. I was thinking that somehow if I were truly in step with the Him that all would seem right with the world. But the world I was in most definitely did not seem right. What the Holy Spirit seemed to be telling me was that it was not right with Him, either. Why should I think I should be feeling perfect peace when He was grieving and groaning?
I had jumped the gun. I had been trying to be content in whatever situation I found myself in (Phil 4:11)—and bypass anything that felt yucky. But that’s not how Jesus does it (e.g. Isa. 53:3, Lk. 19:41, Jn. 11:35, Heb. 5:7). And it’s not how the Holy Spirit does it. So why should I try to do it that way?
It seems that the Holy Spirit is inviting me to groan and grieve with Him when circumstances call for it. Those groans become prayers of intercession, Him praying in me, for me, and through me in my weakness. I’d rather pray prayers of joy and thanksgiving. But sometimes nights of weeping must precede mornings of joy (Ps. 30:5).
What about you? I’d love to hear from those of you who have grieved and groaned your prayers to God in the company of the Holy Spirit. What was that kind of praying like for you?