Some years ago, when I was a fairly new Christian, I attended a meeting in which people were seeking an experience with God; an encounter, a manifestation, an out-pouring of the Holy Spirit – something tangible.
We were at Spring Harvest at Minehead. I witnessed a lot of people being ‘touched’ by God in what seemed to be a profound way and I really wanted to experience this for myself, to see if it was really true and to receive some sort of supernatural evidence or proof, if you like. I went forward during the prayer ministry time and then waited to receive whatever God wanted to give me. I stood there, hands outstretched and waited… and waited. Nothing happened! All around me people seemed to be encountering God and dropping to the floor or shaking or laughing or praising God. Something wonderful seemed to be happening to them but I just stood there… Nothing! I felt the loneliest I think I have ever felt in my life. Abandoned, rejected, alone, not worthy – not like the others around me, a second-class Christian, forsaken. As a result of that experience my faith was shaken to the very core as I considered that God loved others and was willing to “bless” them, but not me. I remember standing there for all of half of an hour, with tears occasionally rolling down my cheeks, before I reluctantly returned to my seat feeling utterly sad, rejected and despondent.
For the next few days I had a real crisis of faith. I began to think Christianity was false; that it was all hype; that people were just kidding themselves and I’d allowed myself to get sucked in to something that wasn’t real. It was a dark time. I felt lost and didn’t even want to be there anymore… but my family did. The only thing that I held on to, and that gave me hope, is that Suzanne had been touched and she had experienced what others had. And I know my wife; she wouldn’t lie about something like that.
Three days later, the same session – Receiving from the Holy Spirit – was scheduled again in the evening, and I went along again desperately hoping that I might receive from the Holy Spirit. The same thing happened. Lots of other people were being ‘touched’ but I just stood there. Nothing! Again, I went back to my seat wondering where I go from here. But then, sat there in the quietness and solitude of my ‘rejection’, and I think for the first time in my Christian life, I became aware of why it is that the Holy Spirit is also known as the Counsellor or Comforter, who Jesus promised, “will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). As I sat there I heard the same words that Jesus spoke to Thomas, “blessed are those who believe and have not seen.”
The Comforter was saying to me, “You don’t need to experience supernatural signs and wonders to believe and know that I love you.” And I was able to answer honestly, “No, Lord. I don’t. Even if you never reveal yourself to me in that way, I believe.” Everything that needs to happen has already happened. That’s why Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.”
I didn’t experience a slaying in the Spirit, as others seemed to do, but when the Counsellor came with those words of comfort, and I came to the point of realisation that I didn’t need to actually see to believe… well, let me tell you, I experienced such an overwhelming sense of joy, peace, blessed assurance and the weightiness or heaviness of God’s presence. It was palpable. Truly, it’s not seeing is believing it’s the other way around, believing is seeing! – Interesting: in Hebrew the word “glory” comes from the same root as the word “weighty”, God’s glory is his weightiness.
The amazing part of all of this is that it was Easter. We had been hearing all week a message of encouragement and hope. I still remember the strap line: It might be Friday but Sunday is coming. As I marvelled in God’s grace and mercy once again, I reflected on the previous three days of doubt and despair. I figured that I knew how the disciples must have felt when Jesus was killed and all their hopes and dreams were extinguished in a day. Suddenly a thought hit me like a bolt out of the blue… and I remember laughing in marvellous wonder… (At Spring Harvest you tend to lose track of what day of the week it is because the programme is all geared up as Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc.) But it suddenly hit me…. The first evening when I went for prayer and nothing happened it was Friday, Good Friday, and three days later when the Comforter came to me; it was Easter Sunday, resurrection day. And once again I was reminded that it might be Friday but Sunday is coming.
R. Ian Seymour