Yesterday at the gym, I started talking with a college student.
“I’m pretty sure you spoke at my school’s chapel, right?” he asked. I said yes, and we fell into some theological dialogue. After a minute or two, I could tell that his pressing question was rising to the surface.
When You Don’t Feel God
“So, I guess the thing I keep coming back to is, everyone else seems to feel God, whether they’re feeling His presence, or they just have some emotion which I’ve never had.”
He impressed me by quoting Pascal’s Wager, which states that logically, the believer is safer than the atheist, and that was one of the driving forces in his faith. He reminded me of the Bereans in Acts, who were constantly searching the Scriptures to test the things the apostles were teaching them about Jesus.
I told him, “I feel ancient saying this, but you honestly remind me of myself when I was your age.” I told him I was with a mission organization where it seemed that EVERYONE was FEELING God constantly, yet I never seemed to have the same experience.
I even knew one guy who told me he would listen to sad music or watch a sad movie before every worship service he went to ‘in order to soften my heart.’ It seemed an awful lot like a ploy to make him cry and supposedly have a more authentic experience with God…despite the fact that what he was crying about wasn’t necessarily God-related…
The problem for me when I was with this organization was that I never felt any emotion about those things. I never teared up when I thought about the gospel, nor could I recount any specific episodes of ‘feeling the presence of God.’ I feared that something was wrong with me, and I wasn’t really a Christian since I wasn’t having these monumental experiences.
I didn’t cry for over four years.
Then one day at church, I did. And a month or two after that, I did again. And I wouldn’t say I’m quite at the Jude-Law-in-The-Holiday-level yet, but I have found that my emotion toward God expands the more I learn about Him. This post is a piggyback on a previous one on the dumbing down of Christianity, in which I discussed a fear Christians tend to have regarding intellectual theology and learning about God and the Bible. I can’t help but think that we have replaced those things with emotion and awe-inspiring performances at our (larger) churches. Theology often isn’t sexy.
I don’t want to make this comment as a rule, but couldn’t we draw parallels between “emotional-pull churches” and one night stands? We want the emotional high without putting in the time to build up to a real and meaningful relationship; we want a shortcut to ecstasy. The man in the bar who wants sex with a stranger wants the feelings of intimacy without the patience and work.
Theology also takes her time to build up to an emotional crescendo.
Or at least, that’s been my experience. I could have tried to squeeze the tears out all those years ago, and I did try, but they would have been false tears. What I have found is that my emotion has followed truth. The more I learn, the more I feel in regard to Jesus and His relevance in my life.