I’ve been reflecting on a recent conversation with a friend about the difficulty we have in feeling our faith amid the dark moments of life. “I just don’t feel like I love God”, he said. He believes in God. He understands His faith intellectually and accepts the evidence and logical proof. It’s the emotional part that’s missing. He struggles to feel it.
“Don’t trust your feelings” is the warning we often hear. And the warning is true, no doubt. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the emotional aspect. Desiring and pursuing an emotional connection with God does not necessarily equate to trusting in our emotions. It’s simply acknowledging that the emotional factor is part of who we are.
The reality of Jesus should impact our minds and our hearts. The gospel should affect us intellectually and emotionally.
I Can’t Initiate, but I Can Respond
If we don’t feel that we love God, we can’t really muster up that love. It can’t be fabricated. The way to experience love for God is spelled out in this simple verse:
“We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
That’s a beautiful concept. Love for God is felt in your heart to the degree in which you personally encounter His love for you.
The way God feels about me is the very thing that inspires the way I feel about Him. I can’t initiate love for God, I can only respond to His love for me.
You Feel What You Think
If the simplicity of John’s statement is true, then the more respond points I have, the more opportunities I have for God to engage my heart. Consider the formula: “Thoughts produce feelings, feelings produce actions, actions produce habits, habits determine character.” It all starts with what we think about. Our feelings and emotions are determined by the thoughts we entertain. If we dwell on doubts, discouragements, and negativity, that’s where our feelings will follow.
The deeper these sublime concepts are entertained in the mind, the more they will transition into the emotional sphere.
So why not saturate our thoughts with the love of Jesus and all that heaven has invested in us? When we actually realize that Jesus did not merely give Himself ‘to the world,’ but rather to me—that’s when it takes on real significance and moves my heart. Not a mere theory or a logical argument, but a personal reality. The idea that God knows me personally is a thrilling one.
What if we meditated on God’s overwhelming interest in us?
“The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son” (Steps to Christ, p. 100).
What if we regularly thought about Jesus’ heartfelt words to His disciples?
“The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30).
What if we spent even a few moments each day reflecting on the commitment Christ has made to us in Gethsemane and on Calvary’s cross? What if we stopped paying attention to the thorns, and focused more on the roses? The deeper these sublime concepts are entertained in the mind, the more they will transition into the emotional sphere.
May God help us to enthrone Jesus in our thoughts and give Him more access to our heart. May we use “our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ… clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6, The Message).
And may we have the joy of marveling like the disciples: “Did not our heart burn within us” (Luke 24:32)?