“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.