The Struggle for a Greater Experience of God
Why Don’t I Feel God?
I don’t know about you, but one of my deepest desires is to experience God – to be filled with joy when praying, reading His Word, and following Him in the daily grind.
If you share this with me (or something like this), then you’ve undoubtedly felt the lack of experiencing God – like there’s a disconnect in your devotion to Him. You’ve asked yourself, “Why don’t I feel God?” Maybe you’re feeling this now. Simply put, you feel like you’re doing a lot of spiritual things, yet are missing a piece in it all: God Himself.
Three Key Reminders
As someone who knows this struggle, let me suggest three points that we need to remember about God and ourselves.
God is sovereign
We say this a lot, don’t we? God is sovereign. He is in control. Everything is part of His good will. In Christian theology this is a vital truth. We believe God reigns fully – that there’s nothing that happens (in heaven or on earth) that isn’t from and of Him. Why do I bring this up?
When you’re struggling with connecting to God on a more relational basis, it’s important to know that this is ultimately part of His plan. This isn’t an article that discusses God’s sovereignty and our free will, but the truth is that both are true. Yes, ultimately God is in control over every thing, every one, and every situation. And yes, you are responsible for your own beliefs, actions, and words. Believing both of these as “true” takes humility. Why? It goes against our rational understanding. But I believe believing both are crucial when it comes to spiritual growth. Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:3 are crucial: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
When I’m struggling with experiencing God, I am encouraged to do everything I can to understand His love for me and to love Him and others (1 John 4:19). At the same time, I’m not going to get discouraged when I’m not feeling anything because I know God is in control and has a purpose for my pain. This isn’t just true for me, but for everyone.
Your feelings are not objective truth but a reaction to the truth
So, discouragement is a reaction to the truth that you’re not experiencing God. Discouragement is not (and is never) the result of the lie that you can’t or are unable to experience God. If I forgot my lunch one day at work, I would feel hungry at noon, and begin to feel very hungry as my shift came to a close. Does my reaction of hunger to my lack of food mean that I am unable to ever eat food? No! In fact, I’m glad I felt hunger. It tells me I’m real and that I desire food.
Have you ever put this feeling of discouragement upside down? What I mean is, have you ever been encouraged that you’re discouraged when you lack devotion with God? This, in fact, is an encouragement because it shows you that this is something inside you that you need. Millions of people at this very moment are not the least bit discouraged based on their absence of a relationship with God. But you are. You’re discouraged because you know that you need Him.
Your feelings of discouragement don’t equal a result of an inability to experience God. Don’t believe that lie.
So, like a hunger for food, what do you do? How do you satisfy your hunger?
The Bible is the pure Word of God
No, I’m not saying “Read your Bible and everything will go well with you!” I want to address something important about the Bible.
Imagine that you’re in high school and have the biggest crush on someone. You’re just dying to hear them say to you, “I like you too.” Well, suddenly, your dream comes true. They get you alone in the hallway and say it – the words you’ve been waiting for. But…something doesn’t feel right. For some reason, the words didn’t produce the feelings that you had imagined. Immediately, you question their authenticity. Were they being genuine? Is it really true what they said to me?
This, in a very minimal way, is like reading the Bible for many. The Bible, as you know, is God’s Word to us. If you’re discouraged in your relationship with God, then that means God does mean something to you, and you desire to experience Him. But, when you open the pages of the Bible and read His words to you, you don’t feel like you think you ought to feel.
It’s at this moment when the second point (feelings are not objective truth) comes in. You now have a choice. You can either believe His Word to you to be genuine, authentic, and real, or you can base the truth of His Word on your feelings. Let me just say right here that there’s nothing purer, nothing more beautiful, nothing truer, and nothing more genuine than the Word of God. You see, your high school crush could be inauthentic, resulting in your feelings being a true reaction. But your crush is a human. The Word of God, God’s voice to us, is not. Yes, written by humans, but inspired by God.
Peter, in his second letter, wrote,
“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)
Many of us are longing for a greater experience of God – a truer and more joy-filled devotion to Him. Might I suggest that we not forget these important points – that God is sovereign, that our feelings are not objective truth, and that the Bible is the pure Word of God.
The answer to your question “Why don’t I feel God?” is definitely not because you’re unable to. God wants relationship with you.
I believe understanding these points will guide us away from an unhealthy discouragement, and towards encouragement to fight for experiencing God.
This article was originally published on January 4, 2017.