Unfortunately, we do not always feel God’s love. Sometimes, we feel that God is ignoring or neglecting us. When we are anxious about our material needs or disconsolate about our spiritual condition, we want to feel God’s reassuring hand and hear his soothing voice. But we don’t.
What should we do?
First, we should remember that feelings are not reliable guides to reality. In high school, I competed in a speech meet that I felt I had won. I spoke flawlessly. My only real competitor, however, jumbled the opening lines of her speech and started over. I was sure the trophy was mine, but the judges pronounced my competitor the winner. My feelings had led me astray, as feelings often do.
Second, in light of the unreliability of our emotions, we should let facts determine our feelings. God’s Word is the most reliable source of information we have about him, so what it says about him should determine how we feel about him, especially when we go through difficult circumstances. Consider the logic of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25–27: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Jesus replied to his audience’s anxiety by noting two facts: (1) God cares for you more than birds, whose needs are always met; and (2) anxiety is unhelpful. Jesus let those facts shape his emotional life, and he encouraged his followers to do the same.
Third, and finally, we should walk by faith. St. John of the Cross wrote about “the dark night of the soul,” when we do not feel God’s presence or comfort at all. Interestingly, he considered such a night a gift from God. When life is going well and our emotions are all positive ones, it is easy to believe in God and do his will. But take those crutches away, and will any faith in him remain? Are we fair-weather friends to God? Do we love God for God, or selfishly?
Faith is not a leap in the dark. It is not a belief in the bizarre or absurd. It is the simple trust that God can be taken at his word. God loves you powerfully. That is a fact whether you feel it or not. Have faith, and one day—if not today—the facts and your feelings will meet, and you will see God “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12).