There’s times when we are totally connected with God and times when we’re not. Yet sometimes we “feel” connected and we really aren’t, and others when we don’t “feel it,”but are. I’ve learned this over time, but it’s hard to figurebecause while our relationship with God isn’t based on a feeling as much as a commitment, our feelings dictate more than we would confess they do.
Say you just got corrected at work and you feel bad about it. It can sink us in to self-doubt, questioning if we’re doing God’s will because we failed. Yet other times we respond excited to learn and change, ready to take on the challenge before us. Is our response based on where we are in relationship to God? Maybe, but I’d argue not completely. There’s a free will aspect that we need to take responsibility with our attitude, yet allowing Christ to live through us.
At times when we know we are connected to the Vine, small things still just get to us. And there’s times when things should get to us and they really don’t, no matter what our communion with God has been. Is it based on whether we just spent time with God in prayer or Bible study? Maybe, but again, I think so many other factors play into this. Sleep, food, exercise, our health status, our finances, our relationships with others, and balance with work/family/rest can all be huge factors (they certainly are for me). The trigger at hand can be a sensitive one that strikes a memory of a certain issue in your past, or some other trigger that we may or may not even be aware of. Interactions with certain people we haven’t fully forgiven or vice versa can also plague us. There’s dozens of other factors that play in to our “feelings” that are difficult to overcome.
So how is it that some “feel it” in their connection to Jesus seemingly always and others cave in when the going gets tough? Is it because of how some are wired, whether pessimistic, optimistic, anxious, persevering or other? Is it because some spend more time with Jesus (quality/quantity)? Do some just have the ball bounce their way? Are some raised more healthy than others? Yes. And no. Life isn’t fair (oh how I use that with my kids frequently). Life is difficult, even for those who have the ball bounce their way. I don’t understand why our lives are tricky when they are and why they are challenging at the various degrees they are. But I do trust that God is in control of each situation and that when we seek His guidance and obey as best we can, repenting when we don’t, that peace can be had and joy can even be attained. It’s a peace and joy that is paradoxically, simultaneously, here and not yet. We can have hope, peace and joy before the afterlife, but it’s not always as paramount just because we follow Jesus as Lord (or at least try to). But we live with a perspective that it will be complete – peace, joy and hope will be had, felt, experienced and lived for eternity.
Jesus is life (John 14:6). And while that is easier to say you believe, it’s tough to live life with that perspective, that it’s not about us. I want stuff. I want things to happen. And I want to “get ahead” in life. But I ought to simply want God and to do what He wills in every area of my life: as a husband, father, sibling, child, in-law, friend, employee, steward, and more. So is a daily un-selfing the answer? Eugene Peterson certainly believes so. Earth and Altar emphasized that we need un-self help more than self-help! This comes by prayer. He says in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction that they answer to all is prayerandbiblereading.
So when we pray and read our Bible, will be have “that feeling” of being connected to God, filled with peace and joy? Again, Yes and No. Mother Theresa said so in the journals that were released after her death. Her sacrificial life was full of doubt in God, discontent and at times misery. It wasn’t easy in the least for her and yet she pressed on, persevering, becoming one of history’s great Christ following saints. This tells me that “that feeling” isn’t necessary. It’s about obedience and submission far more than joy and peace. Man, that kinda stinks. Not a lifestyle urged by any culture. Can one experience great things or “feelings” in the midst of this life? You bet. But should we bank on them? No. I don’t think we should obey for that purpose. For the feelings. Our purpose is more out of response and obedience. Christ died for us and sacrificed Himself so we can have life, and have it more abundantly (so, see, there is some good in it all). He modeled how we are to life: sacrificing. And yet it’s not just some mathematical equation like:
(I’m a sinner x eternity)+(Jesus life+His death+His resurrection)=hope, eternal life and the right thing to do
It’s about love. It’s all rooted, stemmed, branched and flowered in, out of and through love. I forget that sometimes. I get caught up in the corrupt believe that faith comes from believing the right things or doing the necessary things. A simple pause to meditate on: how this creation came about, how history got to the point where it is (not just the Western world or America, either), and what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection meant to all of history and me personally, and finally what it means for us to have God Himself inhabit us with the Holy Spirit, … well it all really changes perspective and thinking dramatically. It makes me want to praise, worship, study, live and look differently at life. It’s a realignment of my heart, mind and soul.
Man, this is convicting as I write.
And how did I get here? All because of “feelings” we have and long for. And the bizarre pressure we may have to constantly “feel” the faith. Paul’s words “Be joyful always,” in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 plagued me for years. He says in Philippians 4:6 to “Rejoice in the Lord always,” which makes more sense, but to rejoice always seems to contradict mourning and enduring sacrifice (though I guess that’s possible).
So what’s my conclusion and why bring this up? I haven’t had that feeling recently until this morning. Is it a mania? A high of some sort? A mood shift where I find myself simultaneously encouraged? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s not about “the feeling” of faith, but the faith itself. It’s not about feeling like we have to do something, but responding with sacrifice and service. There’s hope for the feeling, but it’s not necessary to the faith. Sometimes I think we mislead when we share the gospel. Peace can be had, and when we cross over from death to life (John 5:24), that is experienced. But it isn’t always sustained and it’s not the goal of it all.
The goal is to give God glory, to lift Him up as Lord, to trust Him in faith and live life in response to Who He is and What he has done for us as God: the Father, Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit.