Written by Craig Denison
What do you do when you’re not feeling it? What do you do in worship when others around you have their hands stretched to the heavens, are jumping up and down like the sanctuary turned onto a bounce house or are crying as if they just saw old-yeller for the first time? What does it say about your relationship with God when you don’t seem to be feeling as much as someone else? What does it say about your passion and zeal for God?
I’ve had a few conversations with people lately on the subject of feelings and God. There seems to me to be this belief of a great diving line between the passionate and the methodical– the feeling and the normal. It seems like we as imperfect Christians like to huddle together with those whose experience is similar to ours as if similarity somehow validates what we do or don’t do– what we have or haven’t experienced.
As much as some of you would like to hear that feelings don’t matter– that they’re fickle and not worth worrying about, it does the character and creative power of God a horrible disservice to discount emotion. God is an emotional God. And as the crown of his creation– we have been made in his likeness. The very emotions we try and discount are oftentimes our sole widow into the true propensity and posture of our hearts– the very thing God is most after.
On the flipside, to crown feeling as king of our lives is akin to hitching our buggy onto a ferrari driven by a crazed orangoutang escaping from the local zoo. Feelings aren’t the tree– they’re the fruit. Feelings aren’t the cause– they’re the effect. Just as you wouldn’t consider it the fault of the orange if it didn’t bear properly due to malnourishment, you shouldn’t focus on your feelings as the issue when your not all smiles and giggles.
Whatever side you seem to have taken in the great debate over feelings and God– know that it’s both and. We as humans feel for a reason. And the reason is absolutely important. To cast aside feelings of joy, fear, passion or passivity is to miss an opportunity to allow God to reveal what’s really going on in our hearts. To never “feel it” is to miss out on the reality and tangible nature of God’s presence. To only care about whether or not you “feel it” is to miss out on giving God glory because he is eternally worthy and deserving of it regardless of our emotions.
So what do you do when you’re not feeling it? Take it as an opportunity to assess what’s truly going on in your heart. Did you just eat some bad bacon that morning or is your life centered around something other than God? Do you just need to settle in from the stress of getting the kids ready for church or have the cares and concerns of this life crowded out the transcendent peace available to you in the Holy Spirit? And wherever you find your heart to be in the moment your not feeling it– know that the pathway to encountering God can always begin by thanking him for what you know to be true about him. Thanksgiving has the power to center our hearts around that which is unchanging so that our feelings are the fruit of God’s unconditional love and grace for us.
Decide to step outside of the feeling or non-feeling camp. Seek after more than validation from those just as broken and in-process as you. Focus on what really matters and allow your experience to line up with the truth of Scripture and the reality of God’s nearness. May the joy of the Lord be your strength as you pursue him with all your heart.