“Do you feel God’s love?” In this question there a thousand others. “Do I feel God’s love all the time?” “Is it wrong to not feel God’s love?”; “If I don’t feel God’s love, does this mean I have no faith?” These questions go to the deepest part of how we interact with our faith, and our Lord.
I would like to say yes to these questions. I would like to testify that I possess a constant feeling of divine delight washing over me every moment of my life. Life would be easier if this was the case. Discouragement, frustration, longing, all would disappear. I would live in unrestricted bliss, drinking in the free blessings of eternity. Sadly, this is not the case. I must confess that this is not how my life of faith is lived. The answer to the questions above is a resounding “No.” No, I don’t always feel God’s love. No, this isn’t wrong; and no, you have not abandoned the faith. And neither have you.
This is the answer because the love of God cannot be defined as an emotion. Frankly, if we speak about God’s love as if it is a blissful feeling of which we are in constant awareness, we set ourselves up for failure. It is as if we assume that we will always live amid tangible expressions of positive emotion. Love becomes equated with the feeling of butterflies in the stomach or a twitterpation of our hearts.
This simply is not always the case. While we affirm the constant reality of God’s love, there are times where this “feeling” is absent in our lives. To assume that God will make us feel perpetually warm and fuzzy is to assume that the absence of those feelings testifies to the absence of God. The lack of feeling denies the emotion. This will undoubtedly create a deep sense of discouragement in our faith. Either we assume that a deeper experience of Christ’s love is beyond our own ability, or we will assume that Christ has removed his love from our lives. Either way, we will be left feeling unwanted or unloved.
God’s love doesn’t work like that. It is not an emotion which colors our life with rainbows and roses. The love of God doesn’t produce the spiritual equivalent of a school-yard crush. God’s love is deeper than that, more expansive, and more transformative.
John writes “Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them. In this way, love is made complete among us” (1 John 4:16). The love of God is not a feeling felt for our personal enjoyment; it is the very presence of God. This means that the love of God is the atmosphere in which we live. Like fish swimming in the ocean, the love of God surrounds us. We can no more find ourselves outside the love of God than we can find ourselves outside that presence of God.
What does this mean? It means we can choose, as much as possible, to recognize the reality of God’s love for us, and for others. It means that we can dare to believe that we are loved, even when we don’t feel it. Undoubtedly, this takes a certain degree of stubbornness on our part.
More radically, the fact that I don’t always feel God’s love is ultimately a good thing. It forces me to recognise that God’s love isn’t based on my emotions. God’s love is an undeniable fact. Accepting God’s love in my life, therefore, is an act of faith. It is a bold and daring decision to believe that God loves me for no other reason that God chooses to.
You are loved by God, but it’s not because you have earned it. You are loved by God, but it’s not because you are bathed in warm and fuzzy feelings. You are loved by God because that is who God is. You are loved because God chooses to love you, and nothing in this world will deny that fundamental reality of your life. Even when you don’t feel it, God’s love remains. Of that you can be sure.
4 thoughts on “When I don’t feel God’s love”
I just read your article “When I Don’t Feel God’s Love” and felt that I had to comment. In the article, it states that everyone has periods (seasons) where they don’t feel God’s love. I have never felt God’s love for me. All I get from God is silence, absence, broken promises, and unanswered prayers. None of that shows love for me. You might suggest that Jesus dying on the cross is God showing His love for me. I say that was thousands of years ago, not in my life (time). I didn’t see that act of love, thus not something shown to me personally. The only emotions I get in relation to God are all negative. Sadness, grief, sorrow, disappointment, discouragement, disillusionment, frustration, and anger. All because God is never here for me in any way. After 43+ years of nothing from God, it is hard to maintain faith. Yes, it takes a lot of stubbornness to stay devoted to a God that completely neglects you. Thanks
God bless you, through the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ holy name, Amen.
Hello Ken. Thanks for your comment, and for articulating what a lot of people struggle with. I think we do a bit of a disservice when we make it seem that the Christian life is one where we feel happy and joyful all the live-long day. That’s just doesn’t happen. God’s love isn’t equivalent to positive emotions, which means the struggles or negative emotions within ourselves is not indicative of an absence of God’s love.
That being said, I do want to clarify. While there are seasons and times where we do not feel God’s love, I don’t mean to suggest that we can NEVER feel God’s love. God does love us, and thus we can be confident that God also wants us to know that love deeply in our lives. While we may not feel God’s love every moment, there are times where we are invited to experience the depths of Jesus’ love for us – as a tangible and visceral reality for our lives.
The fact that you say you have not felt God’s love since your 20’s grieves me. I am sorry that the only emotions that faith produces for you are sadness, frustration, discouragement and anger. If the church as created that scenario for you, then I want to offer my apologies because that is not what the life of faith should feel like. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s love poured out upon us. Thus, our life with God should include moments of grace and warmth, of love and joy.
God delights in you, Ken. Jesus does not neglect your or discard you. The Spirit rejoices over you with singing (Zeph.3:17). You are created in God’s good and loving image, a poem that heralds the goodness and grace of God. What is more God’s love is showered upon you in a multitude of ways – through being caught up in music; through the blessing of creation, through he care of family and friends.
I pray that God grant you the blessing of feeling Christ’s love, deeply and personally. Even if it but for a moment, may your heart be overwhelmed with the depth of Christ’s unyielding love for you. Because it is real.
Thanks for your reply.
I have never thought, let alone believe, that the Christian life would be happy and joyful all the live-long day. Jesus told His disciples that we would have trials and tribulations. As you wrote, there should also be some good parts to life. All I experience in life is hardship. Life-long poverty with no way out except God. Here is the “rub”; God ignores me entirely, thus no way out. This poverty-stricken life is hard enough to deal with, but add God’s complete absence, and this life (existence) is torture. The negative emotions are not caused by the church. They are the result of God’s silence, absence, broken promises, and unanswered prayers. God’s lack of interaction is the cause. I have never seen, heard, or felt anything from/of God in my life. “Gods love is showered upon you in a multitude of ways. Through music, it is just another part of creation. Through creation. I find creation to be lacking anything for me. Unless you count misery. Through family and friends. This is a long story, so the short and sweet answer is: God has taken my family and friends from me. Left me with a brother and niece. He hates God with a passion. She wants nothing to do with me until I give up my stupid God, her words, and put family first by lying about what she is. A female. I don’t have a church to attend. I can’t afford to get to church, let alone tithes and offerings. God hasn’t given me enough to be a proper Christian. I need more (some)from/of God in my day-to-day life. Thanks
God bless you, through the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ holy name, Amen
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