What are Christians supposed to do when they believe unfailingly in God but reach a point where they don’t seem to feel God?
I listened to an interesting sermon recently from Life Church Pastor Craig Groeschel. The message is part of a series titled, “I Want to Believe, But…” and responds to common responses to people who raise objections to faith or struggles in their faith walk.
I’ve been a Christian for almost 35 years, and I can tell you there are times when I don’t “feel God.” There are other Christians I’ve known for years who have invariably reached the same point at different times along their faith journey.
Here’s the reality of the situation: it happens.
Any Christian who tells you there’s never been a time they didn’t experience doubt or even a brief feeling that God wasn’t hearing them or that they weren’t hearing from God is probably not being truthful with you.
Such feelings of doubt or questioning, after all, come with nearly all relationships in our lives, don’t they?
For me, one of the first times I remembered feeling concern was when I looked around the sanctuary of a church I was in at that time and started counting how many people were making demonstrative gestures indicating they were (apparently) being struck by genuine God moments.
What’s wrong with me? I wondered. Why am I not so moved that I’m raising hands toward the ceiling or saying “Amen” after every other sentence the pastor utters?
I remember another time when an aunt and uncle attended a church service with us. My uncle made a face of disapproval toward a young man across the sanctuary who he obviously felt was going far overboard with the gesturing. Though the face certainly wasn’t kind, it at least reminded me that I wasn’t the only person who had noted a difference in the way people were responding in the church. In my uncle’s case, of course, he thought the problem was the other guy, not himself.
Still, people do notice such things.
It may well be worth another post, at some point, about whether such demonstrations might cause more harm than good, particularly among newer believers who might feel more disconnected than connected.
In the meantime, it’s worth wondering why a believer might actually reach the point that he or she isn’t able to feel God.
Three possible reasons you might not feel God
Groeschel, during his message, which I’ve embedded below, came up with three.
The first is that you might be over-sensationalizing the expectation. Maybe you’re expecting a crash of thunder or the heavens opening up with angels to deliver an answer to some spiritual question. Maybe you’re expecting to hear God’s voice as loud as that worship music that hurt your ears. Maybe your prayers for help for a financial crisis have you expecting to win the lottery with tonight’s drawing.
I’ve never experienced any of those. When I’ve felt a true God moment, it wasn’t what I saw or heard; it was a feeling, a sense of peace, a sudden understanding.
For me, at least, such moments have never come with a roar: they’ve always washed over with a whisper. It’s not something that you “can’t miss.” It’s something you may actually have to look for. But when you feel it, it’s clear who it’s from.
The second issue is that you may have a hardened heart. Our sins may be helping block some of the spiritual intimacy that we experience with God. God is still there, He hasn’t abandoned anyone. But the sin might be enough to shut down some of the presence we might otherwise feel.
Groeshel gives a great example of dressing for cold weather and walking outside and feeling warm. The cold is still there, but you’re prevented from feeling the cold because you’re encased in cold-weather clothing. I think that’s a great illustration, especially the point that the cold hasn’t gone anywhere. I’ve seen too many Bible-thumpers out there try to imply that God has somehow vanished or turned His back on people who have sin they haven’t yet confessed.
The third possibility isn’t about you at all. It may be that God is trying to bring you even closer, hoping you’ll seek a bit harder so you’ll find a great deal more than you are expecting.
You can watch the full message here:
You can check out the church’s website at Life.church.