Back to Bethel
By Art Fulks -
In following Christ, most (if not all) of us experience dry times when we feel like a failure. Due to testing or sin, we feel far from God, at least from the perspective of an intimate relationship. There are times when I would rather people not know that I am a pastor. If they saw the caverns of my heart, they would not find much evidence that I am pursuing God.
When dry times come, it may seem like the thing to do is to try harder or to be more disciplined. And it may be necessary. However, I am reminded in the Scriptures that trying harder is rarely the answer to a spiritual drought. The Book of Genesis gives us two examples that have really helped me on the journey.
The answer: Go back to Bethel.
Where is Bethel? It may be the place where God made a promise to you, like Abram in Genesis 12. It may be the place where you made a vow to God, like Jacob in Genesis 28. But you are confident that you met with God there. It is the place where you experienced His grace, forgiveness, encouragement, correction, or conviction. No matter what the original circumstance, you know without a doubt that you connected with God.
For some of us, the physical Bethels may be geographically unreachable when we need them. But it probably was less about the geography of the circumstance and more about the context of our heart. For some, Bethel may have been a painful place on the first trip and a bit uncomfortable to revisit. However, we are not looking to relive a memory. We earnestly desire to encounter our faithful and loving Heavenly Father in an intimate way.
In my life, one Bethel was a hillside in Southern Ohio where I went to camp as a teenager. Another was a chapel in North Carolina where God gripped my heart with a desire to do something impactful for His Kingdom. One was the first tee on a golf course in Georgia where a mentor taught me the concept of investing in others. And one was a church parking lot on the other side of town where God called me to the ministry where I am today. Even a pastor has need to go back to Bethel sometimes.
“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel, and live there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau” (Genesis 35:1 NASB).
“And he built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him, when he fled from his brother” (Genesis 35:7 NASB).