How Has the Holy Spirit Helped or Confused You?

doveThe deeper I go into Christianity, the more I feel compelled to write about the Holy Spirit and to root more of my belief and practice in the presence of the Spirit.

On the one hand, I think this is the absolutely correct way to move with Christianity, but on the other I wonder if Christians today are so diverse in our experiences and knowledge of the Holy Spirit that writing anything with a focus on the Holy Spirit could cause a lot of trouble without making sure we’re all on the same page first.

Here’s my question for you: Has the Holy Spirit helped or confused you as a Christian?

I’ve had a little of both. For a while I really struggled to understand the Holy Spirit and even feared that I wasn’t a real Christian because I didn’t experience the Holy Spirit like my charismatic friends and family.

Today I’m far more comfortable with the place of the Holy Spirit in my walk as a Christian, but that has been some hard-won comfort.

I hope to write some more about the place of the Holy Spirit in a week or two, but for now, I’m curious where you’re at.

19 thoughts on “How Has the Holy Spirit Helped or Confused You?

  1. Nancy Franson

    In general, although I’ve often been a part of congregations who affirm belief in the Trinity, (some formally, by means of creeds/confessions) in practice it seems we regard the Holy Spirit as the crazy uncle in the basement. We don’t know what to do about him, so we just don’t bring him up much.

    I had a friend in college who spoke in tongues, and I wanted him to sit down with me and go through Scripture and explain his beliefs to me so I could understand. He almost had me convinced I was missing out on something until he told me to start repeating syllables until the Spirit took over. Or kicked in. Or something.

    I am growing in my understanding/appreciation for the work of the Spirit, in large measure because I’d descended into the kind of faith that was a “form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” Holy Spirit = transforming power. He blows where he wills, but I’m learning to ask for God to work through his Spirit to teach me, breathe life into Scripture and produce all that love, joy, peace, patience stuff I can’t seem to drum up on my own.

    Is any of that what you were looking for?

    1. ed Post author

      You mean like writing my blog post for me? Ha! That’s a lot of my own journey. Thanks for sharing Nancy. I think I took spiritual gifts to the point that I was really doubting my salvation. It’s a tricky thing to sort out!

  2. Marcia Janson

    The Holy Spirit does seem a bit more mysterious than the other members of the Trinity. If you strain too hard to see, hear or feel the Spirit working, somehow you miss him (and please understand that I use that pronoun in the collective sense and not to indicate that I think the Spirit would tick “male” on a census form).

    And yet, I see compelling evidence of the Holy Spirit’s activity in my life all the time. When I ask for the Spirit’s help in understanding what I read in the Bible, I get unexpected insight into something, either right then or later on. I’ve called out to God for comfort in the middle of the night and then awoken the next morning wondering, “When did I fall asleep and how is it that I feel so peaceful?” Those are just two examples – there are many other ways the Spirit interacts with us!

    The Bible makes it clear that, through faith in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Exactly HOW this works is – to me, at least – largely incomprehensible. I think we just have act on faith and listen to/speak with him like a friend, a counselor, a comforter, a guide. We can do this alone or in the company of other believers, although I think we get a fuller, richer understanding of what God is saying when we listen with others.

    The Holy Spirit is God in each of us personally and in the Church collectively. Sometimes we get a bit carried away and put too much emphasis on one or the other, e.g “Just me and the Spirit – who needs church?” or “The Church is the repository of the Spirit” – as if people have no individual value or relationship to God.

    Just a few somewhat scattered thoughts…I’ll be interested to read what you write about this, Ed.

    1. ed Post author

      Whew! yes, I appreciate this. I especially like the fact that you brought up the ways the Spirit is used to justify isolation. It’s far more likely that the Spirit moves best when we are with others. If not “best” it’s at least important to meet the Spirit in community.

  3. Martin

    I believe the Bible gives us the answer because God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).

    I do feel like I understand the motivation behind the question. The spiritual realm is quite mysterious. I can only relate my own experience. No sooner do I begin praying to God than ungodly thoughts may arise. I seek the Holy Spirit, but that is often precisely the moment when the flesh (sin nature), the world, or demons intrude to distract me or even to introduce evil thoughts.

    These are all sources of confusion. However, my suggestion would be that we try to understand the source of the problem and put the blame where it belongs, which is not on the Holy Spirit.

    Marcia also makes good points about the wisdom, comfort, and encouragement that the Holy Spirit provides to all of God’s children.

    Finally, if the Holy Spirit were easier to understand, I suspect we would have less need of faith, but faith is essential for spiritual maturity.

  4. Trip Kimball

    I was a little confused by your question, “Has the Holy Spirit…confused you?” I mean, I get what you’re getting at, but to me it’s more like people have brought confusion. I’m a hold-over from the Jesus Movement of the early 70’s where a lot of confusion reigned in the midst of God doing some amazing things.

    But I remember some confusion pretty early on about the Holy Spirit, which was generated by (I hope) well-intentioned believers. Thankfully, I had pretty basic, but biblically grounded teaching on the subject. Some of my experiences were… well, let’s say they were interesting 😉

    One simple thing I learned from my first pastor was to examine whatever spiritual experience I had with God’s Word and see if it was observable in Jesus. I know, pretty simplistic, but it helped me navigate some of my experiences then & now with ministry in, around, and outside of charismatic/ pentecostal circles.

    All in all, the Holy Spirit was the One who helped me through it all, and gave me insight through the Scriptures and discernment along the way.
    Later, while ministering overseas and with non-English speakers, I needed to learn how to explain biblical truth in a simple way without sacrificing it’s depth. I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as I stumbled my way through many years of learning to teach overseas.

    But, to answer your issue about confusion. Yeah, I’ve seen some weird stuff along the way, and I’m thankful the Lord gave my wife and I the witness of His Spirit internally to keep us on track over the past 40+ years.

  5. daniel carr

    Ten years ago, as a new believer, I started to read the Bible for the first time. To say i was having a hard time with it is an understatement. Just words on paper. So one day I asked the Spirit for help and guidance. That night I was woken up around 3am and heard the words” Focus on the individuals and not so much on the miracles themselves”. Those words opened up A new world for me. This is just one of the many ways the Spirit has revealed Himself to me. I have Known His presence alone and in group settings. I was told by some men and women that the “sign” of the Spirit was the gift of tongues, but i know that the Spirit was in me long before that particular gift was received. It is a mystery, this Holy Spirit, but I thank God that I have Him in my life. He is real!

      1. Julie R

        Then you’ve already heard/seen this?

        I found it really helpful. I especially loved the analogy that we are an empty glove and the Holy Spirit is the hand that fills and animates it. Or we are a power chain saw that can only work if you tap into and turn on the power that comes from the Spirit.

        I have been present in prayer meetings where the Holy Spirit was clearly present.

        And I once attended a pentecostal church service where people were speaking in tongues, dancing in the spirit, and actually falling over when the spirit entered them. It was a little weird for someone with my Presbyterian background. But there was definitely a power present that couldn’t be explained. I wasn’t compelled to dance or speak in tongues, but I assumed it was because I am not gifted in that way. That doesn’t make me any less a Child of God.

  6. Jennifer Clark Tinker

    I too have been challenged by more “charismatic” views on the Holy Spirit wondering, “why doesnt my faith look more like that?” What I have come to see is that the Holy Spirit is amazingly active in the church and in the lives of Christians though not always in the showy way that charismatics expect. When you look at scriptures about the gifts of the Spirit and the fruits of the spirit you see many things the Holy Spirit does that have rather tame expressions (such as kindness, gentleness, and mercy). While the charismatic view is more sensationalized, it is far too limited a view of what the Holy Spirit does.

  7. Melinda Viergever Inman

    I took a big chunk of time studying the Holy Spirit. I wanted to see what the bible actually said, not what people told me the bible said. Then I consulted other sources and people, just to confirm and evaluate my conclusions. My investigation then went historical for the bigger, long-term picture. Next I considered experiential evidence.

    My family has been involved in India in an Indian-founded and Indian-run ministry for years ( Most but not all Indians we know have experienced New-Testament-style miraculous healing or freedom from demonic oppression.

    My conclusions are that the New Testament model is very much alive and well around the world. The Holy Spirit’s leading, comfort, and presence is a powerful and essential sustainer in the Christian life. The gifts are wide and varied. No one list in the NT contains them all. Peter wisely divided them into speaking and serving categories because there are so many varieties. A list couldn’t contain all the Spirit does.

  8. Jim Fisher

    I have way too much to say on this subject than what will fit within the confines of this blog comment. I do not label myself as charismatic and yet the Holy Spirit is very much a part of my daily interaction with the rest of Creation.

    Maybe start here:

    Then wander over to The Corner Table and allow the Spirit to push your sails to destinations beyond that in the direction of Her breath.

    A big part of allowing the Spirit to do Her work in us is letting go of our control and our certainty. I don’t know how this works. I can’t tell you how to do it. There is no single linear-sequential left-brained procedure which will lead you to Her … any more than there is one which will lead you into Love, or Art, or Beauty. Hold it all loosely and allow it to happen.

  9. JeanELane

    I can relate to something in everyone’s comments so far. I know that Spirit is at work in me because of what my husband has seen. He is the only one in my life who knew me ‘before’ and ‘after’ so he has seen the change in me. That doesn’t mean I never wondered if I was truly saved, or if I had the Holy Spirit. I think what Jim Fisher said about holding it all loosely, letting go of our control and certainty, is saying much. I know I have yet to grasp ‘it’, but I know I am not where I was. I can’t do it on my own, so it must be the Holy Spirit within me.

  10. elizabeth

    I too was not quite sure what you were after with the question. But the Spirit has been a help, for sure. He may the most mysterious person of the Trinity, but He’s by far the most real to me. He’s the One whose voice guides, who reveals things, and who comforts. He’s the One actually here with us.

    I grew up in a group that was afraid of Him. If He was mentioned in a sermon, all the elders would tense up and pay close attention to make sure that nothing “charismatic” was said. I think Quenched would be the word for my experience of Him there. I could be enjoying His presence and worshiping on the drive there, but as soon as church began a cloud descended. So weird.

    They believed that “God doesn’t speak any more,” but I think it was the Spirit Himself who deafened me to all those sermons and highlighted to me all the Scriptures about His speaking until after I’d begun to recognize His voice. And once I had begun to recognize His voice, of course there was no convincing me that He “doesn’t do that any more”!

    Probably half of my major life decisions have been made, counter to common sense, after being guided by the voice of the Spirit. Wow, His guidance has saved me from some good-looking but terrible mistakes! So thankful for that.

    Swinging away from the scared-of-Him end of the spectrum, I wasn’t sure how far I was going to swing to the charismatic end of it. The Spirit is elusive and wind-like; you can quench Him by ignoring Him, but I think you also can quench Him by trying to force Him to perform in certain ways. I’m not very impressed by methods to bring out His power. It’s HIS power. He brings it out when He is ready to – me checking off boxes doesn’t produce a manifestation.

    Ironically, when I was feeling most pressured by that other end of the spectrum to manifest in certain ways, it was the Spirit who whispered that those things were not His will for me right now. His reassurance was one of the sweetest experiences of Him I’ve had.

    Jesus said it was better to go away so the Spirit could come. That sounds crazy! But the longer I learn to walk in the Spirit, the richer He is to me. Perhaps Jesus was on to something, perhaps the Spirit IS better for us right now. 😉

  11. Liz P

    I think there is general confusion around Holy Spirit amongst Christians; for example most think that HS only appears in NT, when in fact is first mentioned in Genesis Ch 1 v 2, the jews call HS Ruach HaKadesh, and although after Pentecost the manifestation of HS is different, HS is not a new creation at Pentecost. My personal experience of HS is that it is within me, and I need to remember to include it in my daily life – when I do, things are great. When I forget and try and do it all on my own, they are often awful. Step 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous “Sought through prayer and meditation to maintain conscious contact with God, praying only for His will for me and the power to carry that out”. On a daily basis my conscious contact with God IS the Holy Spirit.

  12. Annie

    I would say both. I’ve seen the Holy Spirit in action, and I’ve felt Her presence from time to time, but not consistently. I’ve been in a room with people who testified to experiencing the Holy Spirit but who acted like they were crazy (I don’t mean crazy like speaking in tongues or dancing-I’ve done both of those–but things like jump up and down acting exactly like frogs, or bury their face in the carpet and get rugburn on their face, things like that.) I think Paul had a good point that God is not a God of confusion and chaos, but a God of order. Anyway, She’s given me some insights, but half the time, I feel like I play head-games when searching for the HS or asking the HS to be present.

  13. Gary W

    I was raised in a conservative church, where I never even heard of a present-day active Holy Spirit, or the gifts. So later, when I began attending Spirit-filled churches, I definitely had some struggles adapting, trusting, and learning about the Spirit-filled life and church. I have seen some abuses, and have been hurt by some of them. But now 30 thirty years on, I have no desire to live without the power of the Holy Spirit in my life; I fear I would stagnate as a person, or worse decline without His healing and redemptive work in my being. Plus, I have no confidence in being able to truly serve God without the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

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