Why Don't I Feel Like God is There?

There's a Reba McEntire song called, "What Do You Say?" that has a line that is repeated several times: "Just close your eyes and let your heart lead the way." She's talking about knowing what to say in difficult situations, but that line really stood out to me. It reminded of nearly every Christian I've met in my life.

Part of the major attractions of Post-modernism is that fact that deconstructionalism (i.e., the attempt to dismantle any sense of "absolutes" in reality, truth, etc.) attempts to make everything relative. Therefore, if truth is not the standard, but a preference, then I get to decide what I consider truth to be. Isn't this great? We no longer have to say things like, "we all know that's wrong or right," or "that's not fair." We can only say, "that does not keep the societal preferences." Now, this blog is not about how silly and inadequate this notion of ethics is; this blog is only about how this fundamentally-flawed philosophical position has been bought -- wholesale -- by the Church. And it's devastating.

This is not a novel observation. There have been plenty of pundits before me who have noticed it; even predicted it. Nearly every Christian I meet today (and in the last decade of my ministry) really do believe, or are highly tempted to believe, that Christianity is right for him or her. It's what "floats my boat," "makes me feel better," "helps me know that granny is waiting on me," and so forth. Rarely do I meet modern Christians who believe Christianity to be valid because it's True; they believe in Christianity because it's good for them. That is, at bottom, most people pick a religion because they are utilitarian - if it "works" or meets some need of theirs, they keep it.

If there is one thing that Christianity cannot be, it cannot be merely a preference. People did not suffer crucifixion, get burned alive, get shunned by all family members, lose social and political positions, and live in fear lest authorities come drag them away during prayer meetings for centuries because they believed that Christianity simply "made them feel good."

Believing in Santa Claus made me feel good when I was a child. It really did. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I would never -- never in a million years -- offer myself to be tortured because of Santa.
The early Christians and early Church Fathers were so convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead that their entire lives were radically changed. They gave up everything that got in the way of living out that belief. Even when they did not feel like God was present (e.g., if they were killed, like Jesus felt while on the cross), they knew He was present because the gospel was True. Nothing could change the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead; nothing could change the fact that the manifestation of the Kingdom of God had begun as manifested in the several, small communities spread throughout the Empire.

What they felt about God while in despair had nothing to do with facts, with history. They were not ashamed of the gospel because they believed it to be true, not because they always felt God's presence.

Sometimes I'm tempted, like those Reba McEntire lyrics, to "close my eyes" and simply let "my heart lead the way." And sometimes, when I do that, I feel very happy and "close to Jesus." But for most of the time, in the "real world," those moments cannot be sustained. My feelings come and go. And they are supposed to do that; God designed my feelings that way.

Christianity is either true or false. Jesus and the Apostles never claimed to be spreading some new preference, but a fact. And they were either right or wrong, true or false.

If we Christians think that God has to feel close in order for Him actually to be close, then we are trying to manufacture a feeling. And this reduces Christianity and the promises of God's presence and love to mere feelings. Moreover, like the perfect relativist, it makes Christianity all about me. It says, "For Christianity to be true, I must feel God at this moment."

My wife is not always in the same room with me. I cannot always "feel" her presence. But, I never doubt her existence. She exists. This is a fact. It is either true or false, regardless of how I feel.

So it is with God. Praise God it is this way. I want a God who is not controlled by how I feel.