The Idolatry of Feeling

Mike Focht 11/17/2023

Innocent joy accompanies the early stages of spiritual growth. We are discovering God with youthful excitement and anticipation. Our spiritual life moves by leaps and bounds in the morning light of salvation. This is all right and good. When God plants a tender shoot, He takes special care as it progresses through its most vulnerable stages. 

   As we progress in our spiritual growth, we will come to points where the early feelings of delight and joy fade. The shadow of sorrow crosses our path. Pains, physical and emotional, find us again. Circumstances turn for the worse. Even the sense of God’s presence withdraws, and we can feel as lonely as we were before we knew Christ. We are no longer conscious of the strong reality of spiritual life. In these times of dryness or darkness, we can begin to doubt the validity of our previous growth and even our salvation.

   Service that was once a joy is a burden. Going to church is inconvenient. Praise and prayer are barren and plastic. Reading our Bible, which once seemed like our very food and drink, becomes drudgery. God, who was once so close, seems so far. Everyone will reach this place at various times. It is a lonely place but also the precipice of genuine spiritual growth.

   We have learned to walk with God in the light and joy and blessings of His presence. Now, we must learn to walk with God in the dark, with tears and raw faith in His Word. Heart searching and critical introspection will not help us here. In fact, those exercises may very well keep us guilty, confused, and self-focused. The step of growth we need is a very simple one. 

   We must answer a straightforward question: Will I only obey God or believe when I feel like it? In essence, am I making an idol out of my feelings? To put the question another way: Will I obey and believe God or my feelings? What happens when I don’t have the thrilling sense of His nearness? What happens when the Word of God doesn’t come alive to me? What happens when praises don’t bring me to tears? What happens when my prayers seem useless, distracted, and full of unbelief? What happens when I don’t feel like a saint? Is my spiritual growth false if I’m just not feeling it? Will I only worship God when He allows me to taste the candy of spiritual sweetness? 

   God forbid! To follow God without feelings is a natural and necessary part of our spiritual growth. Stop looking at yourself and look at Jesus. Stop serving God for good feelings and commit the well-being of your soul to Him as a faithful Creator. We don’t pray, fellowship with believers, read the Word, or seek Him because it makes us feel good. We do it because He is our Savior and God. We are called to love Him by keeping His commands—not feeling His commands. This is how we prove that God and His will are greater than our feelings. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

   We must grow by learning to trust God’s Word over our feelings. We need to repent of the idolatry of feelings. When we do, times of refreshing will come. God made our feelings, and He will enliven them at the proper time. God didn’t make us in His image and likeness to be the plaything of our emotions. That is why He will purposefully take away good feelings for a time, to teach us to love Him in simple faith and sincere obedience. 

   Don’t buy into Satan’s lies that your Heavenly Father will leave you in a spiritual drudgery your whole life. The liar tries to unslave us to our fallen emotions. Instead, grow into maturity by seeking God in faith and leaving the matter of your feelings up to Him. God is the Creator of our emotions, and only He can put them right. Put your feelings on the altar, and God will cleanse them through His holy fire and send that fire back down from heaven at the proper time and the proper place. Jesus never calls us to stir up spiritual feelings. Jesus does command us to seek God first and leave the rest to Him. We are the servants. He is the Master. 

   Pursue God without any expectation of good spiritual vibes. Open your Bible and say, Father, I love you, and I am going to seek You. I trust that You will provide for me what I need exactly when I need it. Let me know Your love at the good pleasure of Your will.