Last week, I was texting a friend about how I was feeling in all of the health stuff that has been piling up the past few months. Because I'm terrible at putting up a facade in any circumstance, and I knew she was kind and would care, I was open about what I've been struggling with, in both facing the issues themselves and the impact they had on my faith. Her response felt quite harsh at the time. Without even pulling out my phone, I can tell you that part of it said, "Quit thinking about you. Start thinking about God." I felt completely invalidated, and started to wonder if I I was a terrible Christian because I was feeling upset and hurt and all of those other things.
I started reading Angie Smith's newest book Chasing God last night. Chapter 4 is all about feelings versus willpower, and let me tell you, it flipped my perspective on its head. Something I have mentioned to a few friends lately is that I've felt like my prayers have been hitting the ceiling, and that I haven't felt God's presence when I really need to now like I have in the past. The texts from that friend were rattling around my head, causing me to question what I was doing with my faith and if I was losing grip of everything that has been my rock in the past almost-two years. And then I saw these two quotes.
"People are often worried...they are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feelings in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, 'If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?' When you have found the answer, go and do it." - C.S. Lewis
"The mistake we make is in assuming our feelings indicate the quality of our faith." - Angie Smith, "Chasing God" page 84
Boom. Whether or not I feel like God is here doesn't change the fact that He is. And whether or not I feel in love with God doesn't change the fact that I surrendered myself to Him in that big, strange-yet-familiar Nashville church 21.5 months ago. Feelings change; facts don't. The knowledge that I am His and that His love for me spreads further than I can ever imagine is something that will be true from now until I am face down at His throne, praising Him for all He's done.
This feeler is learning that God doesn't really care about my feelings. He cares about my heart. And as Angie says in her book, He cares about my obedience. He cares that I trust Him even when I'm confused, and even when I feel like another way besides His way is better. He cares that I obey what He asks of me even when I'm not sure it's Him doing the asking. He cares that I say "I don't see You, but I am believing You see me." (also page 84 of Chasing God)
That last sentence there, that's probably the hardest part of all of this for me. When I'm feeling (there's that word again!) abandoned, I have a much too high tendency to just shut down and pretend that whoever I feel has done the abandoning isn't there anymore. If I think you've abandoned me, then I'm going to turn my back on you, too. One of the things that friend who sent me those seemingly-painful texts last week said was that I had to keep talking to God, anyway. In retrospect, I realize that that is the only way this tough time could further my relationship with Him, but at the time, I just blew it off. What was I going to say? Why would I say things I didn't feel like I meant to a God who knew everything I felt before I ever said a word, anyway?
Now, I'm beginning to see that the reason I need to keep talking to God even when I don't feel like it isn't because He wants to know what's going on with me. He already knows what's going on with me. (That whole omniscient thing kind of comes in handy.) It's because He craves relationship with each of His children. He wants to hear from me so that I stay closer to Him than anything else.
If I follow what God is calling me to do and where He is calling me to go even when I don't feel like it, the feelings will come (eventually), the stress and anxiety will die, and I will find rest in the One who ransomed my soul.
(I can't wait to see what else I learn as I finish this book!!!)