Following Jesus When I Don’t Feel Like It—Part 1

Let’s be honest, there are times when it is really easy to follow Jesus, and then there are times when it is really difficult.

For example, when I am in a worship service and the song is powerful and moving to me then it’s easy to follow Jesus.

When I am sitting on the beach watching the sun rise, listening to the waves and looking at the ocean contemplating the peace and beauty of God, it’s easy to follow Jesus.

When I am sitting on my patio with a cup of coffee in my hands reading my Bible with my new Hillsong record on … it’s easy to follow Jesus.

But …

Let someone be driving in the fast lane when they should be in the slow lane …
Let someone talk behind my back and then I have to forgive them for it …
Let someone stand in front of me with 12 items in the 10 items or less lane …

Or what about the harder times in life when “I’m not feeling it”:

When I’m reading Scriptures and when they are supposed to be the life-giving Words of God they just feel like words on a page to me …
When I’m praying to God who is my creator and Father but it just seems like I’m talking to myself …
When I’m worshipping in church and others around me are enjoying God and I just seem to be singing a song and I begin to wonder if this is all real …

There are times when it’s hard to follow God and here’s the simple reason: I am not feeling it. I don’t feel like I love God. I don’t feel like worshiping. I don’t feel like reading my Bible. I don’t feel like going to church. I don’t feel like praying. I am simply not feeling it.

And here’s the difficult part:

Feelings come across so genuine. Feelings usually feel so authentic. Feelings are so strong and they get me so emotional. They are so vivid. They seem so tangible. They seem to validate who I am and what I am doing, which makes them easy to trust.

But they are also misleading.

Their are days and seasons when you feel like you love your spouse and then there are days when you don’t feel it, because life happens. You have to clean the house, you have to go to work, you have to change a diaper, you have to pay bills, you have to get up early or you are running late, you are short-tempered, you haven’t seen each other in a few days … and the grind wears on you.

Ask me if I love my wife like I did on our wedding day when we are in the middle of a fight, the answer would be “not feeling it.” But ask me if she is the love of my life and I would say yes before you can finish the question.

Our marital love is a spiritual decision that started on our wedding day. I chose Heidi when I felt like it and I choose her during the times when I don’t. I still choose her and always will. I don’t let my feelings dictate my marriage, instead I let the covenantal choice I made 19 years ago remind me that she’s the one, and all I need. I can’t fall out of love with her because I never stumbled into it. Instead, I chose her to be my love as she chose me. My emotions don’t disqualify my marriage when it’s tough, but my emotions affirm my marriage when we are close.

The point is I don’t always “feel” like I love my wife, but I have chosen to commit myself to her even when my feelings don’t match up. My feelings might tell me that I don’t love her because I don’t “feel it” in the moment, but the reality is our marriage is for life and I love Heidi more than anything in this world.

There are days I don’t feel like I love God. But I am in a love relationship with God that isn’t based on how I feel for the day, but based upon the faith that God gave me 24 years ago to love him and live for him. So, I trust my covenant more than I trust my feelings or my emotions.

But does that mean I shouldn’t feel emotion or be emotional?

No.

God is emotional and has feelings.

If we are made in God’s image, then we also are emotional and are supposed to have feelings. Here’s how God feels about spiritual things:

God feels anger: Psalm 7:11; Romans 1:18
God feels laughter: Psalm 37:13; Psalms 2:4
God feels Compassion: Psalm 135:14
God feels grief: Genesis 6:6; Psalm 78:40
God feels love: 1 John 4:8; John 3:16
God feels hate: Psalm 5:5; Psalm 11:5
God feels joy: Zephaniah 3:17; isaiah 62:5

And the biggest point of it all: God came into our world to know every temptation and every feeling and emotion we can experience, but the difference is that he didn’t sin while feeling everything we felt (Heb. 4:15). That’s what makes God so trustworthy and understanding about your emotions and your feelings about a situation: He knows what you’re going through emotionally because he is emotional. He made you emotional and he knows what emotions you’re feeling right now.

We can live from faith to faith (Rom. 1:17), strength to strength (Ps. 84:7), grace to grace (John 1:16) but not from feeling to feeling.

If you live from feeling to feeling you are in danger of “emotional living.” Emotional living is the opposite of a spiritual life in Jesus or “spiritual living.” So how do you know if you are emotional living?

HERE ARE SOME SIGNS OF “EMOTIONAL LIVING”:

Sign #1: I don’t feel God, so God’s not with me or doesn’t care about me.

Emotional living says if you don’t feel God then God is either mad at you, upset at you or doesn’t want you. Spiritual living understands nothing can separate you from the love of Christ (Rom. 8).

Sign #2: I’m feeling it, so I better jump in and just do it.

Emotional living leads you in the wrong direction because what if what you are feeling isn’t true? … now you’re heading in the wrong direction. Spiritual living relies on God’s wisdom and counsel and chooses not to make abrupt, hasty decisions but calculated wise decisions with the right counsel.

Sign #3: I feel it’s right, so it must be true.

Emotional living doesn’t tell the truth. Emotional living wants your emotions to speak first and then let truth back up what you’re feeling. Spiritual living relies on Scripture to confirm and affirm the truth of a situation.

Sign #4: I feel it strongly, so this must be my reality.

Emotional living leads you to believe that the only tangible and reliable evidence of your faith is your tears, your joy, etc. Spiritual living understands that what you feel right now is not always what is actual.

Sign #5: I feel like I am the only one that understands what I am going through because no one else feels it like I do.

Emotional living makes you think your feelings are unique to you and that no one in your community could possibly understand. Spiritual living relies on your community for support and prayer to help you navigate the decision or the season.

Sign #6: I don’t feel like praying or reading my Bible, so God must not be real.

Emotional living makes your spiritual life dependent on having a feeling to back up every spiritually good desire. Spiritual living is an understanding that faith is critical for moments when you don’t feel like it and that faith sustains you until the next time you do.

Spiritual living isn’t void of feelings. Spiritual living relies on feelings to affirm and confirm what God is doing, but refuses to make feelings the primary source of God’s will for your life. The primary source of God’s will for your life is and always will be obedience.

Jesus made that absolutely clear when he said if we love him we will obey him (John 14:15–31).

Read part 2 here »

Read more from Alan Pastian »

Alan Pastian is a campus pastor at River Valley Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, an Outreach 100 church (No. 23 Fastest-Growing, No. 46 Largest). For more: AlanPastian.com