the danger with experience

A pastor and friend offered a helpful look at the “dark night of the soul,” times when God seems to be absent in one’s experience (see comments, as well). There are indeed low times in our lives, in our experience, where it is grating and a trial just to keep one’s feet well on the ground.

And then there are those mountaintop experiences. I suppose most all Christians can recount, even remember (at least that it took place) at least one such experience. There is one quite early on in my Christian life which I doubt I will ever forget. And there are churches which seem to make much of experience. Sometimes it seems whipped up with the music and songs. Other times it does seem genuine, a work of the Spirit. After all, God can use what appeals to us, to our minds, and so affect our emotions.

The church we are a part of does not at all try to bring us into any kind of emotional state. Neither are our services or times together bland. But what we actually do is substantive. It is about really meeting God through facing the hard, heart issues of life. Seeking to quiet ourselves before God that we might hear his voice to us.

The danger with experience, or better put, the danger with emphasizing experience is that experience can actually become a replacement for God himself. It can become an idol. Experience is a part of being human, and thus is an important part of faith. We say: scripture, followed by tradition, reason and experience. It is not for nothing that God’s word tells us: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Experience is with us, as well, regardless. Look at the psalms. Over and over again the experience of the psalmists is anything but wonderful and placid. More like stormy, treacherous, and lights out, even deep darkness. And so what I’m not talking about here is escaping experience. But placing a premium on some good experience. Or losing faith over difficult experience.

Experience can become a distraction from the main point: seeking the Lord, with commitment to walk closely to him, to grow in grace, and in love of God and neighbor. It is best to quiet ourselves and try to ignore whatever it is that may be clamoring for attention. We need times and seasons for that. The good experiences will come, and of course they will go. Part of the ebb and flow of life.

And we in Jesus are together in this, to help each other in love, listening and prayers. Together in Jesus in God’s love for the world.