On a trip to Anaheim a while ago, Jon and I attended a worship service at the Crystal Cathedral. There are many aspects of the service that I could describe, but the highlight was the minister’s interview and baptism of Evel Knievel. After years of denying God and living an ungodly lifestyle, the daredevil turned his life to God. He described a feeling of God’s urging him and embracing him, a feeling of calm assurance and peace. He urged the congregation that, if they wanted this same feeling, they should also be baptized. This invitation produced such a huge response that the remaining time allotted for the service was spent baptizing people. I don’t question Mr. Knievel’s sincerity, or the sincerity of anyone baptized that day, but I realized how much emphasis people place on seeking a feeling rather than seeking God himself.
In the midst of this world’s troubles and heartaches, we want to “feel” joy and peace; we want to “feel” God’s presence. When we return from a church camp or retreat, we want to hold on to that spiritual and emotional high. All of these feelings and experiences are wonderful, and we should thank God for them. But they should not be used as a gauge to determine God’s nearness to us, or to indicate the strength of our relationship with Him. We should not expend our energy seeking out and trying to hold on to them. You have probably experienced how elusive they can be, how much they are affected by internal or external influences, and how quickly they can fade away! How many times have you felt a calm reassurance, or joy, or spiritual high and then walked into your daily routine only to be rudely awakened by a bad experience? Or were eventually worn down by the monotony of a job, school, or responsibilities? Or discouraged by the reoccurrence of sin in your life? Did you wonder what was wrong with you because you lost those good feelings? Do you view yourself as less of a Christian when you feel upset, angry, frustrated, or distressed? We are not always going to feel close to God, or feel joyful, peaceful, and calm. We’re going to have bad days, struggles, frustrations, doubts and turmoil. And that’s okay! Consider David, whom God considered a man after His own heart. He didn’t always feel close to God: “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). He didn’t always feel joyful: “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2). He didn’t always feel peaceful and calm: “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me” (Psalm 55:4-5). David was not a man after God’s own heart because he always felt good; he was a man after God’s own heart because he sought God in all circumstances and all emotional states. God does not love us less or become less pleased with us when we experience negative emotions. God is pleased when we seek a deeper relationship with Him and a life centered on Him, no matter how we feel at the moment.