I stared at my Bible lying open, but untouched on the counter. Behind me the coffee brewed and upstairs my family still slept; this was my time. My time to read, pray, write… whatever it was that God had for me that morning this was time to do it. And I normally cherished those moments of quiet, but not that morning. That morning I simply didn’t want to.
I had the time. My Bible was ready, coffee was moments away from joining me, but I didn’t feel like reading my Bible because I didn’t feel like being with God. Despite his constant presence over the years and his unfailing provision, I was in a time of uncertainty and God had not shown up yet. I didn’t know what he was doing in my life, I couldn’t see his plan, and quite honestly, I was frustrated with him. He felt far away and I felt lost. I wanted to feel his presence, I wanted to be moved and have my emotions shaken, but that hadn’t happened in a while. The last thing I wanted to do was read my Bible and hear nothing, again, and feel alone.
The truth is, that was not the first time that had happened. I tend to go in cycles of feeling close with the Lord followed by times of distance. Times when I am excited to read and pray, followed by times when it doesn’t feel worth it. And that’s the root issue, isn’t it? Feeling. So much of Christianity today is built around feelings. We want to experience an emotional response, we long to have our affections stirred. We hope for gasps and goosebumps and tears, but when they don’t happen we start to believe that God wasn’t there.We measure our spiritual growth by our feelings rather than our Father and when that happens it can be really hard to get back into the Word. It is for me, at least.
When Feelings Lie
Feelings are wonderful things and I love that we have a God who delights in emotions. He is a God who gave us joy and wonder, sadness and hope, even anger and pain. He is a God who not only gave them to us, but experienced them as well. He knows how we feel, he really does. But feelings are not the end all of our faith. I have learned, and am learning, that they have a nasty tendency to lie to us. Feelings are wonderful, helpful, real, but they are not truth in and of themselves. No, truth is found in the person of Jesus and in the Word of God.
I love those moments when I feel close to God, they are incredible blessings to me. But when I don’t feel his presence, I have found that the best thing for me to do is to stop seeking the feelings and start seeking the Lord. This is loving God with our minds. It’s choosing to look past the feelings of loneliness, of confusion, of hurt, of whatever is telling us that God is not there, and look to the scriptures instead. It’s drawing near to the truth of his word, to learn about him and love him through that.
Digging Deep to Draw Close
For times like this, I’ve found that a good study Bible is so helpful. A good study Bible can help you move past waiting for emotions and move towards learning about our creator God. It can open up passages that you thought you already knew, show you things you’ve never seen before, and help you understand something that never seemed knowable before. A good study Bible can help you really dig deep into the truth of God’s word and in doing so, draw closer to him. And that is key.
A few weeks ago I was contacted to see if I would like to check out Zondervan’s new NIV Faithlife Study Bible*, and the timing could not have been better for me. I had been feeling rather adrift, alone, and unsure of God’s plan and presence in my life. My feelings were telling me that God was not there and that spending time in the Word was not worth it. But in my heart of hearts, I knew better. I knew I needed to dig into the Bible. So that morning, as I stood waiting for my coffee in the dark and in the quiet, I chose to open the scriptures and love God with my mind. I read, I studied, and I worshiped through both. I may not have felt the stirrings of his presence, but I know that he was with me.
The Living Word
We live in a world that is filled with to-do lists and action plans. We are bombarded with distractions and can be overwhelmed with reasons why reading our Bibles and spending time with God are a waste of our time. Even our very feelings can tell us to just walk away. But the Bible really is living, just as the writer of Hebrews said, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
When we come to the Bible we don’t need to rely on feelings and we don’t need to experience an emotional reaction, though both of those are wonderful when they do happen. Rather, we can approach the word of God sure that what we are reading is true, right, and the very words of God. We can know that there is always more to learn about our Heavenly Father and no matter how many times we have read it in the past, there is always more waiting to be revealed. I am learning that no matter how far away I feel, God is close. And no matter how quickly my world is changing, He never does. Our heavenly father who made us, loves us, died for us, and calls us his own, has given us a way to know him and an invitation to meet him there. Don’t let feelings, or lack thereof, prevent you from drawing close to your savior.
It not always easy to read the Bible, I know that well. But it is always worth it.
*The Faithlife Study Bible is wonderful and I would highly recommend it. It was beautiful, easy to follow, filled with excellent insights, and even included varying viewpoints on tricky passages. The info-graphics, especially, were really helpful and I found I learned so, so much. For more information about it, check out their website here. And I’ve included some pictures in case you’re interested.