You know how great it is when you are feeling good and everything just seems to be running smoothly – worship is a joy and doing the things you know you need to do seems effortless yet full of meaning. It doesn’t happen to us all the time, of course, and notice how I prefaced this introduction: “… when you are feeling good …” Our feelings can make a vast difference to how we perceive our own worship and spiritual activity, but they shouldn’t.
It’s easy enough to think that when we feel great – exuberant, happy, full of positive feelings and faith – our worship is great, but that’s not necessarily how it really is. In the same way, when we feel down – unwell, discouraged, without any joy – we may sometimes think that our worship is not as full or as meaningful, and we can condemn ourselves for this by presuming our negative feelings equal lack of faith or an improper attitude of worship. But the truth is that our feelings really have nothing to do with how our worship and our daily spiritual walk is perceived by God.
Look at it this way: pretend for a moment that you are calling a close relative or best friend on the phone. Do you think that how you happen to feel at that moment affects how pleased the other person is to hear from you – how happy they are that you made the effort to call? Hopefully we wouldn’t just complain or sound “down” all the time in making such a call, but even if we did, isn’t it likely that the other person would value the fact that you called – despite how you felt – all the more?
Worship really is like that. God doesn’t judge our spiritual performance by how we feel and neither should we. In fact, although true worship is often filled with joy, it can be dangerous to think that just because we are happy we are worshiping deeply – and vice versa. Just because we don’t feel great doesn’t mean our worship is empty or worthless.
We can extend this fact to many Biblical stories: Imagine how Joseph felt in Pharaoh’s prison for all those years – doubtless he often didn’t feel wonderful, yet God honored and rewarded his persistent faith and worship during that time (Genesis 41:51-52). Imagine how the apostle Paul actually felt in that Roman prison – especially as the prospects of his release dwindled – yet his faith and worship clearly remained untouched (Ephesians 6:20) despite the human feelings he may have had. It’s not that this just applies to spiritual superheroes, either. Think about the little people – the sick and desperately unhappy people – Jesus helped in his ministry, often commenting when they were full of faith (Mark 5:34, etc.). Clearly the spiritual performance of these people was not affected by their current feelings.
But sometimes, if we let them, our feelings can get in the way of effective worship and service, and we must always keep this in mind. We may feel “down” due to circumstances such as loss, trouble or illness in our lives, but we do not need to wrestle with ourselves as though we have to be happy all the time to be worshiping fully and effectively.
Ultimately, it’s much more important to just be close to God than to feel close to Him. We need to walk with God regardless of our feelings and sometimes despite our feelings. And when we do, just like that phone call to our closest relative or friend, we can be sure that our communication is welcomed – perhaps all the more so – however we may feel at the moment.