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I Don’t Feel God: What to Do When the Emotion Seems to Be Missing

Even this morning, the pastor preached about the importance of good theology. He said, “Years ago, I only knew that much about God. Therefore, I could worship only that much of him. But over years of study, my knowledge of him has grown to this much. So now I can worship this much more of him!”

Just as when dating, the more you learn about someone, the more you can fully love and experience that person as they are. You wouldn’t want to remain ignorant and superficial in a marriage. Why would you in your relationship with Christ?

Let Your Heart Follow Your Head

So when the student at the gym said, “I don’t feel God,” here’s how I responded: Let your heart follow your head. You’re in a good place, and the emotion will come when the time is right. Don’t force it, and don’t think you’re broken if you don’t feel the way everyone else does. In fact, I would argue it’s dangerous to let your emotions lead you spiritually.

Of course, a good balance is necessary. But as I write in the Dumbing Down article, I see most Americans swinging far toward emotion and experience more than knowledge and truth. The notion of having a magnificent emotional rollercoaster of a worship service is very new to the Christian faith. That concept emerged in just the past couple hundred years. Does that mean for the first 1,700 years of her existence the church was doing it wrong? Or maybe we who are is off track.

Have you been saying, “I can’t feel God”? You’re not alone. Many heroes of the faith felt very distant from God most of their lives. This includes the author of most of the Psalms. King David wrote, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And Jesus repeated those words as he suffered on the cross.

The best advice I can give is to keep learning about God. Keep reading the Word and filling your mind with him. The act of these disciplines will eventually reorient your desires toward God. And even though they’re not glamorous or even fun, your emotions will follow.

Embracing the Grooves of Grace

“The ruts of routine become the grooves of grace.”

The things you fill your head with will eventually trickle down into your heart. Your emotions will be affected by what you put into your mind. There’s no way they can’t be! So don’t try to rush it. Wisdom doesn’t attempt to conjure up a false emotional experience; instead, it simply remains faithful and lets the emotion come when the time is right.

I’ve reached a place where I use words like “kerygma” and “ontology” and get a little misty-eyed. Now I sit in theology classes and feel stones rise up in my throat. That’s because I’m engaging with the material at a much deeper place than I could have years ago.

Most of you are the opposite. I recognize I’m an outlier here. Different views of our beautiful God will choke you up and tug on your heart. One thing is true across the board, though. You won’t reach these deep places with God if you’re not filling your mind with his Word and orienting your life toward him.

Give the Emotions Time

Don’t be discouraged if your refrain lately has been “I don’t feel God.” May we be people who pursue God, not an emotional high. May we seek and see God working in all areas of our lives, especially in the mundane and unglamorous nooks. And may we be comforted by knowing that God isn’t simply an emotion to be conjured up at will.

Don’t lose sleep over thoughts like “I can’t feel God.” God is a person, a Father who wants to walk the journey of our lives with us. And that means you’ll have a lot of long stretches of road without emotion or hype. Just many trudging footsteps.

This article about “I don’t feel God” originally appeared here.

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Ethan Renoe has published 7 books, been on 6 continents, done 5 one-armed pull-ups, and gone to 4 universities. He has not fallen in love, but he did fall out of a tree in front of a cute girl one time. Not only is he scuba certified, but he also knows how to dance. He is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and is currently attending Denver Seminary. Read him weekly at ethanrenoe.com.