Don’t Let Emotions Dictate Your Faith

The key to having a strong faith even when you’re not feeling close to God.

Growing up having attended numerous Christian conferences, retreats and the like, I’ve heard the following phrases repeatedly by many of my Christian brothers and sisters:

“I feel so close to God.”

“My relationship with God is really strong right now.”

“I can definitely feel the Holy Spirit at work in my life.”

These expressions can also commonly be heard from recent born-again Christians who are newly on fire for God or right after someone has experienced some divine encounter, such as a miraculous healing.

It’s so easy for Christians to get fired up for God when we are surrounded by other Christians or when things are going well. Emotions run high. We really feel God’s presence. However, once we leave that place and return to our regular lives filled with distractions and responsibilities or circumstances begin to take a turn for the worse, quality time with God tends to get put on the back burner.

Feelings are inconsistent. They’re unreliable. We can’t base our relationship with God on some wavering feeling or connection.

Thus, the above expressions are often followed by one or more of the following several weeks later:

“I feel so spiritually dry right now.”

“Why can’t I hear God’s voice?”

“I’m unable to feel God’s presence in my life.”

The problem with so many Christians is that when this so-called spiritual high begins to wane, we immediately go back to doing the exact same things we did prior to that “feeling” we had. We prioritize our books over our Bible, we would rather connect to the Internet than connect to God, and we become too “lazy,” too “tired” or too “busy” that we run out of time for quiet time. As a result, that spiritual high you couldn’t stop talking about just a few weeks ago gradually starts to dissipate only to regain strength at the next retreat. This is what happens when we base our relationship with Jesus on our emotions.

Ephesians 2:8 reminds us that our salvation comes through faith, not feelings. Feelings are inconsistent. They’re unreliable. They are generated from the heart and the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). We can’t base our relationship with God on some wavering feeling or connection. God isn’t some cheap Wifi hotspot whose signal we mysteriously lose from time to time.

Instead of always waiting for that next spiritual high or mountain-top experience, maybe we ought to experience God more regularly in our everyday lives. How do we do that? Discipline. It’s no coincidence that discipline and disciple have the same root. When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour we are to become His disciples. A disciple is a follower of Christ and to have discipline means to possess the self-control needed to obey Him. Rather than trying to keep up our spiritual high, we need to keep up with the basic fundamentals of connecting with God: reading our Bibles and praying. Both require discipline.

People who have lost vast amounts of weight will be the first to tell you the hardships of remaining disciplined. When it comes to working out, the difficult part isn’t losing weight. The real challenge is keeping that weight off. Just because you’ve achieved your desired body type doesn’t mean you can stop working out and expect your body to remain that way forever. You have to keep working just as hard to maintain it.

Sure, there will be days where we feel tired or not in tune with God. In our walk, sometimes God will be very audible. And sometimes, He might be quiet. But just because God is silent, it doesn’t mean that He isn’t present. What’s more, we need to remember that it is when we are particularly strong in our faith that Satan will attack the most. Jesus was tempted for 40 days immediately after being baptized. That’s why it’s important to stay disciplined; so that even in times of trial, we remain in Him.

In our walk, sometimes God will be very audible. And sometimes, He might be quiet. But just because God is silent, it doesn’t mean that He isn’t present.

Jay-Z once said the following about being successful: “You can want success all you want, but to get it, you can’t falter. You can’t slip. You can’t sleep. One eye open, for real, and forever.” In other words, we need to keep up the momentum.

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For instance, say you are writing a book. Some days you might feel that the ideas just aren’t coming to you or that you need a break after weeks of writing non-stop. But taking a day off could easily lead to two days off, then a week and the next thing you know it’s been months since you’ve added anything to your story. True writers write even when they don’t feel like it. It could be as little as one additional word. The point is you are continuing to make progress. Similarly, reading the Bible—even just one verse—and praying even when we aren’t “feeling it” is imperative if we want to continue growing in our relationship with God. It's not a way we gain God's favor or love—we already have that through what Jesus has done for us—but it's a way we keep a strong relationship with Him.

Prayer is to the spiritual life what breathing is to the physical life. When we pray, God’s Spirit begins to work in us. The word spirit comes from the Latin word “spiritus," which literally means “breath.” Prayer is the breath of our spiritual life.

Likewise, reading our Bibles shouldn’t be something that we do only when we have time. It should be something we do regularly because we have to if we want to keep our spiritual life in good health. It’s not an option; it’s a necessity.

Rather than treating great spiritual encounters like a drug whose effects will wear off in time, we need to keep reminding ourselves that being a Christian isn’t always going to be easy. Following Jesus requires discipline, dedication and most of all, faith. But we can relax knowing that God doesn’t change no matter how much our feelings do.

Top Comments

Chelsea Ferguson

1

Chelsea Ferguson commented…

This is so spot on! I've been feeling like God has been silent in my life lately, so I was lazy about reading my Bible and praying. I was convicted at church over the last few weeks about my lack of discipline. So I've bought a reading plan and made a prayer list. I'm very thankful that God still works in my life even when I'm not as faithful as I should be. Great article!

Bill Overton

1

Bill Overton commented…

Great topic. I really appreciate much of what you are saying, however, I think that there's more to discuss. Emotions and feelings were given to us by God as a gift. He himself is emotional. The question that comes to the forefront is, "What do we do with the emotions that are less than positive?". I agree that it would be a disaster to allow our emotions to dictate our relationship with God. I would like to offer an additional perspective that emotions are very reliable, in that they tell us exactly what we are believing. Our emotions are a very useful warning system (among many other valuable purposes) that can alert us to false beliefs that we have made operational in our lives. These beliefs should not be ignored, but addressed with the truths of the Bible. Ignoring emotions and simply boot-strapping it when things get tough hasn't worked to well for me. I eventually fail in my efforts and suffer from a feelings of condemnation (based on false beliefs). To your point, I have found that it takes discipline combined with thoughtful reflection on who God is and what he's like to weather the difficult emotional phases we all go through. I have written a short blog explaining this in more detail if you are interested. It can be found on the Aphesis Group Ministries website (http://aphesisgroup.com/?p=3065) and it's titled, "Can We Trust Our Emotions Or Are They Wild Horses?". Thanks for writing on this important topic since feelings and emotions are a huge part of our everyday relationships with God and others!

9 Comments

Doug Barr

22

Doug Barr commented…

Nature gave humans emotions long before humans created gods. The feelings we now attribute to being close to God are actually telling us we are close to living as naturally as possible in the unnatural existence we have created. http://www.thelastwhy.ca/poems/2006/9/26/god.html

Bill Overton

1

Bill Overton commented…

Great topic. I really appreciate much of what you are saying, however, I think that there's more to discuss. Emotions and feelings were given to us by God as a gift. He himself is emotional. The question that comes to the forefront is, "What do we do with the emotions that are less than positive?". I agree that it would be a disaster to allow our emotions to dictate our relationship with God. I would like to offer an additional perspective that emotions are very reliable, in that they tell us exactly what we are believing. Our emotions are a very useful warning system (among many other valuable purposes) that can alert us to false beliefs that we have made operational in our lives. These beliefs should not be ignored, but addressed with the truths of the Bible. Ignoring emotions and simply boot-strapping it when things get tough hasn't worked to well for me. I eventually fail in my efforts and suffer from a feelings of condemnation (based on false beliefs). To your point, I have found that it takes discipline combined with thoughtful reflection on who God is and what he's like to weather the difficult emotional phases we all go through. I have written a short blog explaining this in more detail if you are interested. It can be found on the Aphesis Group Ministries website (http://aphesisgroup.com/?p=3065) and it's titled, "Can We Trust Our Emotions Or Are They Wild Horses?". Thanks for writing on this important topic since feelings and emotions are a huge part of our everyday relationships with God and others!

srgwriter

20

srgwriter commented…

Agreed. Sometimes it just takes a little discipline to spend that time with God, to pray to Him when you are busy, to remind yourself that He's there all the time, and that "feeling" returns, not always with the same strength, but it's there. God does not move away from us, we move away from Him.

James Martin Mag-aso

1

James Martin Mag-aso commented…

Hello Ms. Sarah Hahn, Thanks for this piece!...to tell you honestly, right now I'm dealing with my emotions. I'm buried with my past, my emotions dictates me to grieve my past mistakes. Thanks be to God that I have a spiritual father who mentored me in the Word of God. Christ uses my spiritual father to deal with it most especially, my emotions. Now, Praise God! for I am recovering from my walk of faith. Thanks to this piece of yours, it helps me a lot!

P.S: we are now in the series of the Holy Spirit...:-)

Tammy Storey

6

Tammy Storey commented…

Thank you for this article. What I find difficult is finding a Bible study that is in depth enough that you learn more than just a simple verse everyday. As much as daily devotionals are nice and provide a glimmer of love and inspiration, I am looking for the real meat and potatoes haha. Something to really go in depth with the Bible. Any recommendations out there?

Sarah Hahn

9

Sarah Hahn replied to Tammy Storey's comment

Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. It's very practical.

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