“I feel God in this Chili’s tonight.”
These ~famous~ words were spoken by Pam Beesly after she won a Dundie on The Office.
For any Office fans out there, you know how funny this scene is. For those of you souls unfortunate enough to have not discovered the genius that is the Office, just trust me – this scene is funny.
But it is also perfect for segueing into my inspiration for this post — feeling (or not feeling) God’s presence in day-to-day life.
Christianese is saturated with “feeling God”’s.
But what does it mean to feel God?
And what does it mean when you don’t?
Looking back on my journey with Christ, starting when I accepted Him as my Savior at eight years old to now, my spiritual peaks are definitely found at times in my life where I “felt” God. Summer camp highs. Seasons filled with new bible studies and discipleship. Personal victories. Intense life lessons that led to intense revelations about God’s truth.
All good experiences, all vital to my walk with Christ and understanding of Him.
But while looking back on my journey, I am also struck by the valleys in my testimony, the lowest and darkest points. The crippling insecurity. Loneliness. Depression. Heartbreaking circumstances and my various consequential poor mechanisms of coping with them. The common denominator of all these low points?
Separation from God resulting in my inability to “feel” God.
Feelings are good. Those spiritual highs you get when tears flow during prayer and hands are raised during worship are good. But for the sake of our spiritual maturity, our faith must rest on something much stronger than our own feelings.
If that something truly is Jesus Christ, rather than our own feelings about Him, then our relationship with Him cannot be so easily influenced by our circumstances. What seems like such an obvious distinction, is actually so often confused in our hearts – leading to discouragement that makes us feel God is far away, when in fact we are.
God wants our wholehearted worship, and our feelings of joy in doing so. This post is not to say that. But God also wants our constant acknowledgement of His goodness and love – even when we don’t necessarily “feel” that goodness or love.
Accepting Christ as Savior and Lord in my life cannot simply be a heart change dependent on my ability to feel Him working in my life. While yes, this heart change definitely matters, and is crucial in salvation, relying only (or even mostly) on something as inconsistent as my feelings cheapens God’s gift by cutting short the potential to truly know and worship Him.
The truth is, my feelings are ultimately weakness, and cannot reign over my relationship with Christ. At the root of my feelings, should be the knowledge that Christ is so much greater and more powerful than my feelings could ever account for.
When I trust my feelings to inform my relationship with Christ – whether it be feeling inspired by my quiet time or this week’s sermon – I allow doubt and anxiety to seep in whenever God’s word doesn’t instantly make me feel something good. Thats not to say that we shouldn’t desire good feelings about God, but to say that our feelings should be informed by our knowledge of Christ and the salvation He freely offers us, rather than the other way around.
Of course, the truth of the gospel should always make us feel good, heck, it should make us feel amazing. But like I said, often times, our feelings are our weakness, and just as often, we begin to get used to the transforming power of Christ, and in doing so take it for granted. Why? Because we are human, and throughout history humans continue to forget about God’s goodness.
But this is where God comes in, and the knowledge of His nature becomes so essential.
Isaiah 57:15 says, “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.'”
God is dwelling within us, whether we feel Him or not. We may be infinitely contrite, but He is infinitely Holy. He doesn’t need our awareness of Him to be working in and reviving our hearts.
We must know that God is timeless, ever-present, all-knowing, and always good. We must know the unchanging characteristics of God, so that even when we don’t feel Him in our quiet times, we know that He is there.
We must know, so that we can worship God authentically, independent of how we feel that God is. We must know, so that we can trust. Trust that He is working all things for our good, even when we are in the middle of what seems like a chaotic mess.
I treasure the moments that I have truly felt God, and I think we all should. Those moments should serve as markers for us – moments to remember God’s abundant goodness when we are feeling far from God, and our human weakness requires that reminder of God’s unfailing love and goodness. And I think it’s okay to admit that our human nature requires those reminders.
In admitting so, we must also admit that our feelings can never fully fathom all that God is.
And then, we must turn to scripture and all the truth about God in it – where we find that God is always with us, always good and loving, whether we feel it or not. Where we find that our God isn’t dependent on us to be. He simply is.
So yeah, feeling God in Chilis is pretty cool.
But knowing that you serve and worship a God that is always good and always loves you despite what your feelings might tell you? That is even cooler (sorry Pam).
But You, O LORD, abide forever, And Your name to all generations.