I’m Afraid of the Holy Spirit

In the religious tradition I grew up in, the Holy Spirit was by far the least talked about member of the Trinity.  When he was referenced, it was in ways like, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts and actions today,” or “Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit.” And let’s be real–my life has been steeped in the Bible and Jesus and prayer and all that, but I still don’t truly understand what any of those phrases about the Holy Spirit are actually supposed to mean and how they’re supposed to change the way I live. As a concept, I understand that the Holy Spirit should be as much a part of my life as God the Father and Jesus are because of the complicated three-in-oneness of the Trinity, but on a life level, I do not understand it.


Photo Credit: Dominik Lange

For most of my life, I was fine with mostly ignoring the Holy Spirit. As I’ve learned more about the different streams of Christianity though, I’ve discovered just how much many Christians decidedly do not ignore the Holy Spirit, and this is where things get complicated. I don’t think my way, of ignoring the Holy Spirit, is a good or healthy way of not understanding him. The way some Christians interact with the Holy Spirit is so dramatically different than I grew up with though that I don’t quite know what to do with it.

When people talk about speaking in tongues, it’s like I don’t have a category for where to process it, the same way I don’t know what to do with faith healers making people stand up out of their wheelchairs and ridding people’s bodies of cancer. I believe some people who speak in tongues and heal people truly love Jesus and are performing those acts in genuine, God-fearing ways, but I also believe that some people abuse and warp those seemingly good gifts. Even less extreme examples, such as people saying they made a certain decision because they heard the Holy Spirit talking to them, are outside of my own personal experience and make me pause. What does “heard the Holy Spirit” actually sound or feel like? And how do they tell the difference between the Spirit and their own thoughts?

It’s not that I don’t believe the Holy Spirit can and does work in these ways–I do. But if the Holy Spirit hasn’t worked in those ways in my life, does it mean I’m doing something wrong? Admittedly I think I am missing something about the Holy Spirit, in the way I live out my faith and also possibly in the way I believe in and think about the Holy Spirit, but I also wonder if the way I’ll experience him will just be different than those.

Perhaps the logical thing to do would be to set out on a religious quest to learn all I can about the Holy Spirit, with the hope that learning would lead to experience. There’s value there, and I am making steps in that direction–but it’s with trepidation. I’ve grown rather comfortable not really understanding the Holy Spirit, and I’m a little afraid at what I might discover, because I don’t think I’ll end up in the same comfortable place I’ve been in. Change is scary, and I suspect the Holy Spirit may have work to do in my life that I don’t want to admit to. When I pray, I’d rather avoid leaving time for silence to listen to the Spirit, because who knows what I might hear? It’s so much easier to ignore uncomfortable parts of our faith than to face them head on.

My time for ignoring the Holy Spirit needs to be up, though. It never should have existed to the extent that it has, and I need to learn a better way to understand all three persons of God. I just don’t know what it’s going to look like.

Til next time…


p.s. What has helped in your understanding of the Holy Spirit?


8 thoughts on “I’m Afraid of the Holy Spirit

  1. I feel like you stole the words right out of my mouth, only I didn’t even know I needed to say them! I can completely understand being comfortable ignoring the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues is weird, and faith healers are probably crocks. And people use “the Holy Spirit told me to” as an excuse when they do something unpopular. At least, that’s how I always think about those things because I DON’T have any actual experience with the Holy Spirit. Maybe this is a big part of why I’ve been feeling so distant from God lately…

    1. Using the Holy Spirit as an excuse is definitely something I have a really hard time with–and it’s not I can completely question people’s motives, because it’s POSSIBLE the Holy Spirit told them that. Definitely tricky!

  2. I think of it as a seed planted within me that reveals truth and direction if I am willing to be open and aware. I posted about his briefly under a post called The Seed. Invite the Spirit in! He’s a great companion!

  3. Appreciate your sharing! My spiritual experience has been full of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit and being led by Him. I would say most of this leading has felt like an “inner knowing”. Sometimes it is a voice but often it is an assurance. But still sometimes I have been wrong, but for the mist part it has been Him. One time it was a lack of peace. I was dating someone and I kept hearing “no”. I was ignoring God’s “no” because I wanted this man! Lol so then He took away my peace and I couldnt even sleep at night! I felt like I was being harassed by Jesus lol. I have also experienced God flooding me with peace several times. I would say He chooses to reveal these aspects of Himself to all who desire Him. If you seek you will find. Also we may experience different giftings because of our calling and identity in Christ. I personally feel less close to Christ and more close to the Father and Holy Spirit and I know that needs to change! Thanks for bringing up a heavy topic that no one has all the answers to! 🙂 I will say I think when we experience His gifts it is Him opening up the eyes of out hearts to see in the Spirit. He gives us ubderstanding and revelation that can only come from above.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Nicole–this is a great reminder that maybe the Holy Spirit has been at work in my life, but just in ways that I didn’t recognize as him. Great thoughts to ponder.

  4. This is a great topic! You remind me of me a long time ago. Coming from a background of not believing the the Holy Spirit speaks, it blew my mind when I heard Him clearly for the first time and everything changed. All my believes crumbled down to the ground. After that, I’ve grown in my relationship with Him learning how to identify His voice, I learned not to be afraid of Him. Now He is the perfect partner in life for all my decisions, strategies, council, healing, you name it. It’s like He is the missing piece I needed to pass from a boring Christianity to the real deal. Now I can say this walk is so much fun.


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