I was preaching one Sunday morning, and towards the end of my sermon, I began feeling not so well. My stomach began churning. By the end of the worship service, all I wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed. And that is what I did! After a few hours, whatever had brought the uneasy feeling to my stomach passed. And by the latter part of the afternoon, I was back to my old self.
It was not a serious thing, but I did not come away from that worship experience with a good feeling inside. The question I have for you is, do you think that the bad feeling I experienced was caused by a lack of experiencing God in the worship? Of course not! The feeling had nothing to do with my experience of God that morning. It probably had much more to do with the burrito I ate the night before.
But too often, we measure our experience with God based upon how we feel physically or emotionally. A certain song is sung that takes us back on a nostalgic journey to a time of fond memories. Or we listen to an inspirational preacher that stirs a deep longing for adventure. We begin to feel a tingling, warm, and fuzzy sensation inside. We equate it with the presence of God.
But is the “spiritual high” we experience about the presence of God? It might just be that the church band was incredibly talented. It is easy to get trapped into striving for that next spiritual high. We make our good feelings to be our idol. We seek the “high” more than we seek God. What is worse is that the more we make the “high” to be our idol, the more discontented we will be when we come off that high.
Recognize there are other spiritual beings in this world. There are principalities that can give you an intense “spiritual” experience … but are not of God. The devil is described as the Father of Lies. And his greatest lie is to put himself before you as God. You better be sure that it is not the Devil giving you that good feeling inside.
There are times when God is experienced more fully when we feel terrible. The depth of pain, suffering, boredom, sorrow, disenchantment, and loneliness lead us to more fully grasp our need and – perhaps unknown – longing for God. The spiritual desert will point us to a need that is greater than the warm fuzzy feeling. Think about the Prophet Elijah when he fled to a cave in the Sinai desert where he cries out in despair and loneliness. But it was in that moment where he had one of the most profound encounters with God that is recorded in Scripture (see 1 Kings 19:9-13).
Faith is not a feeling. It is to believe something to be true despite how we might sometimes feel. Our faith is that we know God is present even though we may not be emotionally moved. We may feel that God is far away, but we believe he is as close as he has always been, even closer.
I believe God is present, not because I feel it. I believe God is present because He promised to be.
- Are you guilty of believing God is more present in your life when you experience an emotional and spiritual high?
- How is trust in God’s Word and the Sacraments more grounded than trust in your emotions?
- What is the danger of making a spiritual experience to be the foundation of your experience of God?