We live in a culture that has often times come to value feelings over facts. In other words, it’s not the reality of the situation that’s important, but rather how one “feels” about it. In the name of diversity and inclusion we have torn down or renamed buildings, monuments and statues that might offend some people. No one would doubt that diversity and inclusion are good things, but in today’s “cancel culture” has cancelling anything actually helped anyone or improved the situation?
There is a similar tendency to place a priority on feelings in our spirituality. Much of this comes from our duty to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbors as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39, etc.). Because we equate love with feeling, we believe we love God when we feel kindly toward Him. If we feel positively about Jesus, we must be obeying His commandments.
The problem with feeling and emotions is that they change often. I can feel good about God today when the sun is shining, I had a good day at work or I enjoyed a great meal. But my feelings change quickly when I get into a fight with my spouse, my kids get into trouble or I don’t get that promotion at the office. Sunday mornings can be difficult for people who are rushing to get ready, trying to chase after children, or spill breakfast on their good clothes. What is the mood of people who get to church frazzled, harried or exhausted? How are they feeling towards God?
The Bible reminds us that love and faith are ultimately built on will, not emotion. Any couple that has been married a long time can tell you that the rush of emotional love fades over time. The marriage survives and even grows because the husband and wife put effort into it. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Any good relationship is hard work,” and it’s true.
The same goes for our relationship and love for God. The Bible consistently attaches the notion of loving God with obedience. In John 14:23, Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word.” Jesus said essentially the same thing in John 14:15 and John 14:21. In Luke 6:46, He said, “ Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” And from James 1:22, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
There is nothing wrong with an emotional religious experience, and being in the presence of God can stir powerful emotions. Many people have come to faith through such experiences, whether at a revival meeting, a Sunday service, or simply time alone with God. But we cannot live in that emotion forever. That is why will is so important, for it keeps us going when the emotion fades.
It is will that keeps our faith alive in the face of a bad health report, a broken relationship or personal loss. It is will that points us back to the Father when everything around us seems to drag us down in depression.
There are certainly times when we don’t “feel” very spiritual. We don’t feel like praying, reading the Bible or going to church. In such times, don’t rely on your feelings, but put your faith in God and His Word. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5-6).
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know.
Pastor Brad Schultz, Zion Evangelical Church, email@example.com