Recently I was pondering the nature of the Spirit of God and the gift of the Holy Ghost, in particular with regards to all of those moments of darkness where I feel like maybe I’ve chased away the spirit through my actions or apathy and am no longer worthy of his companionship. On one hand, I know that even in my darkest of times or wickedest moments my God has stood firmly near me, refusing to abandon me to the tides of evil which lap at the banks of my heart. On the other hand, I’ve been taught that in those same moments the Holy Ghost will leave me alone to my own devices.
How can that be? The nature of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are that they are one in purpose, heart, mind, and will. Why would one of them never leave and the other one be so sensitive? Why would one be firm and unmovable no matter the threat, and the other hide from the mere appearance of sin? Do I believe in a God that would abandon me at my lowest? Or do I believe in a God that will never leave even though I rebel and am tossed to and fro?
As I thought about these things it occurred to me that so very often we transpose what we are doing to ourselves onto God. We blame him for what we’ve done, as if the natural consequences of our actions are divine punishments. But what if I didn’t do that for a minute, and tried to understand the Holy Ghost as if his nature were the same as my Savior’s? So many questions, it was time to experiment upon the word and see what I could find.
First, the very idea that I can offend God places me in a position of power over him, a position which I do not hold. I cannot offend God. He is not so sensitive to my moments of stupidity and spiritual self-harm. He’s seen it all, and he knows me so very well. There is nothing I can say or do to shock him or hurt his feelings. If there was, he wouldn’t be God. No, he is a patient God. Omniscient and unmessable. While I may never be able to attain to the sphere of light, truth, and influence he has attained if I continue in my mortal tantrums, there is nothing I can do to make God want to walk away from me.
In fact, I’m convinced I couldn’t put distance between God and me even if I wanted to. It’s like the faster I try to run away I turn around and he’s right behind me. I don’t have to prove myself. If I turn around, and all I have to do is turn around, he will be right there. On my heels. There is nowhere I can go in this entire universe that he is not. It’s kind of funny to even try to image trying to get away from his love. It’s just not possible. If that is true for the Father, and it is true for Christ, then it must be true for the Holy Ghost.
Then, while I scoured the scriptures for answers, I ran into Doctrine and Covenants 1:33. This one stood out because it, and ones like it, are used so often to prove that the spirit will leave you if you aren’t worthy of it.
And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Let’s take a closer look. What does it mean to repent? To turn from our own understanding back to God. If you don’t turn towards God, his light cannot fall on your face. If you’ve once felt his light directly upon your face you will no longer feel it if you turn away and don’t repent, or turn back. Pretty simple. It doesn’t say anything about him leaving you. It does seem to imply that God will take it away from you, but he’s not some injured toddler demanding he gets his toy back. It really is just a description of a natural occurance. Turn away from the light and you’ll see shadow. Turn towards the light and you’ll see the light. The light hasn’t moved. It has and will always be there.
“For my spirit will not always strive with man.” There it is. The dreaded phrase used to convince, or threaten, all those who would dare not obey the commandments of God. Or at least that is how it is typically used. It is God’s punishment. He’ll leave you if you don’t be good.
Except strive doesn’t mean hang out, talk, give advice, counsel, or befriend. Strive means fight, or struggle. Every single scripture which uses this word uses this definition of it. Every. Single. One. That means this scripture literally means, “I’m not going to fight with you.” The origination of this phrase is Genesis 6:3, where the conditions of the earth right before the flood are described. It’s not used anywhere else in the Old Testament, but is repeated verbatim by New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Latter-Day prophets. I’ve addressed the language of this narrative in more detail in my article Destruction in the Last Days – Until He Finds Us. Sometimes we may feel like the spirit is struggling with us, but again, that’s more our perception than God’s. He’s not going to force us or scare us into anything. He’s not going to fight with us.
When we chose to live by the plan of godly exaltation we simultaneously acknowledged that the very backbone of that plan was agency. Perhaps we didn’t understand all things back then, but it’s certainly time we really get into it. The only way a god can even be possible is if there is agency. One must learn to be God in the face of opposition. And this can only be done if we can choose to take the godly path or give in to the opposing forces.
Because agency is so critical to our successfully achieving Godhood and inheriting all that the Father has, it is the one thing which God will not mess with under any conditions ever. If he did he would cease to be God (Alma 42:25). His mercy cannot rob justice no matter how badly he may want to. He can only provide a way to satisfy the demands of justice and then work miracles in our lives and give us as many tools as he possibly can so that we will choose to accept those provisions and live into our divine inheritance.
So he sent his Son. And Jesus taught us not only how to live like a god, but how to die like one. He satisfied the law so that we might look and live. Then God assigned the Holy Ghost to always watch out for us. And if we make a covenant with him that we will always try to listen and work towards our Godhood he will even promise that the Holy Ghost will always be with us, our constant companion. Then, if that isn’t enough, he also allows and assigns our veil-separated loved ones to minister to us. And he’s organized ordinances and a church to remind us of who we are and what we’ve been promised. He’s moved all of heaven to help us choose. But we must choose.
Why would a God who would do all of that ever leave us?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37–39)
Nothing can separate us from God. But we can turn away. We can drown out his voice. Because he’s not going to fight with us. That is not his nature. He compels no man to heaven. We must choose.
And just as the ways to hear and feel the spirit are endless, the ways to not hear or feel it are endless as well. Not hearing God’s voice in our lives is not just the mark of a sinful life. Maybe we don’t hear it because we’re distracted by something else. Maybe we don’t hear it because our own voice is a little too loud about one topic or another. Maybe we don’t hear it because God knows that in that moment what we will learn from working it out on our own will be pivotal to our progression, because he trusts us. Maybe we don’t hear it because we’ve become so attuned to it on a particular subject that his voice has become our voice, so that others my feel his spirit through our words or actions but we don’t necessarily continue to have those same epiphanies with it. Maybe we don’t hear it because our minds are afflicted with depression or other mental illness and the Lord is finding new ways to connect with us and we must learn to look for new manifestations of his spirit.
So we must be very careful to never make assumptions about others or ourselves when we’re not “feeling the spirit”. He is there. It’s who he is. He’s not going to fight with us if we’re itching for a fight, but he will never leave us. If you’re doing everything you can to feel him close and are struggling you can interrupt your normal routine and see if that helps. Do something different. Try something new. Look for the Lord in ways you’ve never looked before. Be brave and innovative. And if you still can’t feel him close, just learn to sit with the knowledge that he is there and be patient. Be patient with yourself. Be still, and know that he is God.
The Holy Ghost is your constant companion. All the time. Not just because you’re measuring up and found worthy but because God loves us and his entire work and glory is our eternal exaltation.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2 Timothy 2:24–26)
The Holy Ghost isn’t going to fight with us. He’s not going to be the source of struggle. He will be gentle, patient, and apt to teach you all things. He will meekly instruct you even when you oppose yourself and your divinity. He’s not going to fight with you, but he will be your constant companion until you are recovered.