You’re at church on a Sunday morning. People around you raise their hands as they sing from their hearts. You see expressions of heartfelt joy on their faces. And you long to experience these feelings with them. But it’s just not there.
You talk with a Christian friend, updating each other on your lives. A smile of joy breaks out on her face as she recounts an answer to prayer, a blessing discovered in the midst of struggle, or simply an appreciation of God’s goodness. So, you nod your head and smile, maybe even respond with an “Amen.” But you’re not really feeling it.
A pastor shares a huge announcement on social media. Everyone comments with “Praise God!” or a relevant Scripture passage. The post fills with thumbs-up, smiley faces, and hearts. You want to reply too, to join in the joyful revelry. But you don’t want to fake it either. Because the truth is your heart isn’t in it. And you wonder if some of the likers and commenters aren’t secretly like you.
A focus on feelings
Modern church culture emphasizes emotion. “How’s everyone feeling this morning?” are often the first words we hear from the stage or altar. The thread continues with the first worship song – upbeat, pulsing, high-energy.
Sermon series and study materials focus on our feelings, or at least use them as connecting themes. We tend to see our daily troubles as obstacles to overcome or avoid so we can return to the state of happiness we assume is the default.
Popular psychology may play a role in this feelings-focused situation. But we must also look to our own human desire for comfort above and before all as, ironically, the frequent source of our discomfort.
Feelings vs. faith
Now, let’s be perfectly clear: Christianity is fundamentally about joy! Do a quick word search on your favorite Bible app or tool. Both the Old and New Testaments speak plentifully of joy. The Bible tells us God provides joy, Jesus engenders it, and the Holy Spirit multiplies it. We have so many reasons to experience joy that it’s easy to feel guilty when we don’t.
In Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks writes Satan uses our joylessness to accuse us that we are not really saved. “Our estate is not good,” he says, “because [we] have lost the comfort and joy” we once felt.
Our enemy tells us that if we really ever belonged to God, our joy would have remained. In this subtle way he discourages us from continuing in faithful service to the Lord. If I don’t feel the love for God I once did, maybe I never really had it.
Well, here’s a reason to be joyful again: God in his Word never requires us to feel anything as a condition of salvation. He heartily encourages joy, to be certain, but he does not base our relationship with him on it. He bases our relationship with him on our faith in what Jesus has done for us. And our feelings cannot undo our faith.
Brooks lists five other things we should remember when we “don’t feel saved any more.” Let his words lead you to the Living Word as the source of your assurance, and not your fleeting. unreliable emotions.[Read more…] about What do I do when my feelings don’t match my faith?