It’s known throughout the Bible that the Holy Spirit literally seals Himself inside those who choose to believe and have faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:13). He guides our lives to the truth of righteousness and leads us where we need to go, speaking directly from God (John 16:13). However, it is the challenge of every Christian to properly discern what thoughts, emotions, and hunches are from the Holy Spirit and which are not.
I have great difficulty with this in my personal life and struggle with it on a daily basis. Did the Holy Spirit put these coincidences in my life for a reason? Was this feeling during worship the presence of God? Are my emotions being driven by my flesh or by faith? These questions are the ones I am constantly asking myself and it can become very tiring. The frustration of not knowing is uncontainable and brings me closer to insanity. However, after watching episode four of the anime Anohana, I found that I relate so well to protagonist Jintan in his struggles with his friend’s ghost and even discovered a principle of faith that Christians can apply to their own lives.
In case you haven’t seen Anohana yet, Jintan Yadomi is a teenager who has been dealing with the death of his childhood friend, Meiko “Menma” Honma, after a tragic accident when they were kids. Fast forwarding to high school, the ghost of this girl has returned to the world of the living and can only be seen by him. Menma has a wish that she needs to be granted before she can rest in peace, although she doesn’t even know what it is, and it is Jintan’s job to make sure it is accomplished.
With a goal as specific as “I don’t know”, Jintan tries his best to fulfill Menma’s wish through the hints, feelings, and hunches that he receives from her. But over time he becomes more and more confused with what he is even doing. Doubts of whether this ghost that won’t leave him alone is real or merely a hallucination. In episode four, he has had enough and momentarily breaks down.
I find myself doing the exact same thing Jintan has done so many times throughout Anohana. First, I doubt whether what I’m experiencing is the Holy Spirit. I tend to go through a long list of questions, reflecting on past events that I’m sure were movements of God and then compare them to what I’m feeling currently. When I can’t figure out the exact answer, I turn inward to myself and think the same as Jintan, “Okay, well, I guess I’m the really delusional one here.” As I can’t trust what’s God and what’s not, I start to distrust myself. Then, screaming and kicking ensues. I become so frustrated with myself that I cannot even explain the mental agony that it produces.
There is no doubt that I have been saved by Jesus Christ and that I live every single moment for His glory. But when I can’t even discern the God I serve my entire life with, my faith takes a blow. I become extremely discouraged, Satan telling me that I wasn’t ever saved in the first place if I cannot sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. In the most extreme cases, I doubt whether Christianity actually is real or not.
But looking at Jintan, through his struggling and confusion, he still decides to blindly follow Menma to fulfill her wish, even though he isn’t sure whether she exists. He is continuing to bring his old friends from the “Super Peace Busters” back together, attempts to go back to school from a long hiatus, and even attends a group barbecue in memory of Meiko Honma. Jintan is working to fulfill the purpose of Menma’s ghost and, over time, he is gaining more and more clarity that the presence around him is real.
I discovered in this small part of Anohana that Christians and their relationship to the Holy Spirit should be treated the exact same way. We know that God desires for believers to spread the Gospel, set people free from sin, and make His name famous across the world. This is our mission, our purpose, if you will, given to us by the Holy Spirit. And I’ve found that when we keep on fulfilling God’s purpose, despite not even knowing whether He is real or not, He steps into the midst of our doubt and gives us the assurance that we need. A leap of faith is necessary to get to this point, where we have unwavering confidence in something that we cannot see. We must love a God that might be real more than our own lives and He will reveal Himself to us.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV)