“I just wasn’t feeling God’s presence.” I’m sure we’ve all heard this before. Most of us have probably said it ourselves, or at least thought it. Those times when you feel so alone, so cut off from God, when you fall on your knees and cry out to Him… and feel nothing but a dull silence in response. The times when the crushing weight of your own failures pins you down, or the agony of trials and tribulations burns too close to home; when you feel that God just isn’t there.
Then there are the times that you feel like God is carrying you close to His heart, when you feel smothered in His presence. We all have our “spiritual highs,” perhaps during a worship service on a mission trip or a small group discussion at youth group. These are the times that you feel so close to God, when you feel caught up in the richness of His love for you.
Why does it sometimes feel like God took a coffee break?
Why, then, is it so easy for us to feel completely cut off from Him? I know the feeling. I’m alone at home, tired of schoolwork, feeling empty and useless, and I just want to be close to God. I play worship songs on my guitar, I pray, I do all the things that usually make me feel close to God. But it seems like nothing is working. It’s like picking up the phone and getting a busy signal. Why isn’t He there? Didn’t He say he’d never abandon us?
I used to disagree with the words of the song Never Alone by BarlowGirl. “I waited for you today, but you didn’t show. I needed you today, so where did you go?” The chorus proceeds to say, “I cried out with no reply, and I can’t feel you by my side, so I’ll hold tight to what I know; you’re here, and I’m never alone.” I didn’t understand why it would say that God was silent, that they didn’t feel His presence. I assumed the songwriter must have been doing something wrong; not praying the right prayer or singing the right song. I figured that anytime God seemed to be silent, I was somehow in the wrong; He was speaking, but I just wasn’t listening well enough.
There’s more to faith than how we feel.
Now I’ve come to understand that this song really addresses an issue that I think is very prevalent among Christians, especially teenagers like myself. I have found that Christians, especially teenagers, have come to think that faith is all about how we feel. We talk about feeling God’s presence and feeling God’s love. But the reality is, God isn’t all about emotions.
Our relationship with Christ is supposed to be our identity, and our identity encompasses far more than just our emotional feelings. Our identity is everything we are. Galatians 2:20 says that “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who lived me and gave Himself for me.”
The fact of the matter is, God is more than just feelings. Our emotions are like the waves of the sea, and will constantly toss and turn and fluctuate. They’re incredibly unreliable. But God is so much more than that. Being close to God isn’t always about how we feel.
Sometimes, we just don’t feel God. Sometimes we feel hurt or broken, and nothing we do seems to awaken that “spiritual high” that we seek so much. We have our times of feeling close to God, sure, but as soon as the feeling passes, we go back to normal life. We enjoy these warm fuzzy times, but we’ve come to think that these are the only times we’re really close to God.
I know I have experienced this. I’ll be on a mission trip, and I’ll feel closer to God than ever before. I’ll promise myself that I’ll keep this up, that it won’t end when I return to normal life. But it always does. Why? Because I think my relationship with God is at its strongest when I really feel emotionally caught up in Him.
What does all this mean for my life?
The fact is, feelings like this can’t be induced. They’re great, but they come and go, because emotions really come from our flesh, and our flesh can’t be trusted. We need to learn to cling to who we are in Christ even when we can’t really feel Him. Maybe this means praying even when we feel like there’s nothing but silence on the other end. Maybe it means doing a Bible study even when we don’t feel like we’re hearing His voice through it.
The fact is, God wants to be with us regardless of how we feel. He assures us in His word that He will never leave us. Our God is so much more than our emotions. So even when we don’t feel like He’s there, we can be confident that He is. Rather than being stuck in an emotional rut, we need to recognize that God is so much more than how we feel, and He is there for us even when we can’t feel Him.