I just don’t feel God these days.
It’s not that I don’t believe or anything. I mean I have doubts that eat at me, but don’t we all? I’m talking about that feeling of closeness with God that victorious Christians are supposed to feel. In fact, I don’t feel very victorious.
I just don’t feel my Christianity these days.
I’m feeling other things. Songs, stories, TV shows, movies. My heart is far from cold. I love my family and friends deeply. I feel anxiety about my writing. The emotions are swirling, but just not around my faith.
This is some scary shit to say in a room full of Christians. Immediately, people are going to read these words and make a judgment call about me, that either I’ve got some sin that is keeping me far from God or that I am not a “real” believer, and I need to double down on my faith.
Scary or not, these words are the truth. I don’t feel it these days. When I read the bible, it feels like just some words and stories. Church music fails to move me. My prayer life feels like words are just bouncing around the room and not connecting with the divine. My emotions are not part of my faith these days.
Thing is, I don’t know how to gauge the health of my faith without those emotions.
We all want a healthy relationship with the divine. We use our emotions to tell us how spiritually healthy we are. When we feel peace, joy, loving, serenity, calm, happy we are just sure that our life is aligned with Jesus. We call this “being blessed”, and when we are blessed we feel positive emotions often despite the circumstances of our life. Sometimes we even find twenty bucks, which brings us more positive emotions which confirm that God is looking out for us and wants us to be blessed.
Really what we are saying is the God wants us to be happy.
The inverse is that when we feel depressed, sad, anxious, weighed down, lonely, and other negative emotions we use it to indicate that our relationship with divinity must be out of whack, unhealthy, lacking somehow. We cry out to God asking him to deliver us, to save us, when really we are asking him to change the way we are feeling. Bad emotions must mean I am out of God’s will somehow, so we do what we can to find positive feelings.
But are these emotions really the best way to gauge where we stand with God? Does a positive feeling mean God is pleased with me? Is happiness really what god ultimately wants for us?
And what about me? My emotions aren’t engaged with my faith these days. Even when they are, the mental illness I have been diagnosed with (bipolar) often hijacks my emotions, so I can’t rely on them as a spiritual barometer anyways.
Let me put this as plainly as I can: God’s goal for us is not to make us happy and good emotions don’t indicate a healthy relationship with the divine.
Suggesting that God’s will is for us to be happy really puts some pressure on us to make sure we feel good all the time. Truth is, we can’t. There are people with mental illness (like myself) who can’t control when the depression and anxiety will take over. Even a healthy mental frame of mind won’t feel good all the time. Life simply will not let us feel happy/good/positive all the time. This doesn’t mean we are somehow out of line with God’s will for us. It simply means we are human.
Emotions tell us what is going on in our environment. Everyone has a broad range of emotions. It’s healthy to feel them all. Emotions really aren’t bad or good. They just are. They are our body’s response to stimuli around us. They are designed by God to be tools used to navigate our existence in this world. There are going to be times we feel the lighter emotions more and times we are going to feel the heavier emotions more. Sometimes we can choose to be happy despite our circumstances. Sometimes we are going to be sad for no reason at all.
The Christian life isn’t supposed to simply be a happy one.
So, back to this Christianity I don’t feel these days. The lack of emotions I am having surrounding my faith is not somehow indicative of an unhealthy spirituality. It simply means that church music, bible reading, and prayer aren’t eliciting any response in my body. Doesn’t mean I am far from God, that there is some sin in my life, or anything else.
It does mean that my faith isn’t tied to my emotions.
That is a healthy thing.
Jesus doesn’t call us to a feeling or an emotion. He calls us to love, which is action. We are to love our neighbors, not feel warmly towards them. We are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and love by doing. He loved us by doing death on a cross. We love each other by doing the work of laying down our lives for each other.
We gauge the health of our faith by how much we look like Jesus (doing love and believing God), not by how good it makes us feel. Again, emotions aren’t bad at all. God gave them to us for a reason, and they make up part of the human experience. Jesus had all sorts of emotions for he was fully human. He wasn’t just a happy hippie. He was sad, got pissed off, grieved, and felt joy. But in the midst of his emotion, he did love no matter what.
So whether you are feeling good, feeling bad, or not feeling anything much at all, you are experiencing humanity as God designed it. Let your faith be informed by your emotions, but never controlled by them. Instead, let love be the guide to a healthy relationship between you and your neighbors and between you and God.