I read three chapters in the Bible today without feeling an excitement for the truth I was reading.
After finishing Romans 5 and feeling nothing, I pressed on to Romans 6. As I read Romans 6, I felt like I was processing the text a bit more clearly, but I still lacked any dramatic emotional response. I then read Romans 7 with much the same result.
Initially, I was concerned. I feared that an absence of emotional response to the Word of God indicated a failure on my part to encounter God or a coldness to God himself. I remembered times when great joy and excitement accompanied the reading of these very texts, and I set those experiences as the standard for a successful devotional time. When I didn’t meet those expectations, I felt like I’d missed the mark, like I’d fallen short of true worship.
In spite of these feelings, something happened when I knelt down and prayed. I began to pour out my heart to God, confessing that I felt cold and distant, and, as I prayed, I was reminded that I’d faced a similar concern in the past and had learned a valuable lesson. In talking to God, coming before the throne of grace to converse with my Father, I remembered that my emotional temperature is not the primary gauge of my spiritual vitality. In fact, a relationship with Jesus can, and often does, encompass the full range of human emotion rather than reducing to momentary (and often fleeting) happiness or excitement. I was waiting for some dramatic experience to confirm my spiritual well being instead of remembering that all of life is now lived with Christ. Christ’s influence extends beyond thirty minutes of Bible study and prayer in the morning.
This of course does not diminish the fact that joy in the Lord ought to be sought. Paul calls believers to be people who are always rejoicing (Philippians 4:4), and the Psalms consistently express the joy that comes with knowing God. I remember times of great joy and peace before the Lord, and I thank God for those times when my emotions were stirred in worship. But I’m learning that I am still the Lord’s even when I don’t feel the rush of excitement.
This week, trust that God is working even if you can’t feel him. Trust that he is your prize, not emotional bliss, and walk by faith and not by sight (or, rather, by truth and not by touch).