“I hear the gospel but it doesn’t move me”

“I confessed my sin but I still feel guilty”

“I don’t feel like I’m saved”

If you have thoughts like these or like the one in our sister’s comment, this post is for you.

The arena of the soul: mind & heart
Although it is not always easy to see, there is a connection between our mind and our hearts.  An old preacher explained it well here, but here’s the summary: although the heart is more important, we get to it through the mind… and God cares about both.  So, as we’re wrestling with hearts that don’t always do what we want, we know that just trying to stir up emotions apart from the mind is not the solution.  We must remember to aim for the heart through the mind.  And, on the other hand, all the study, the thinking, the wrestling, the meditating, the knowledge… it is not an end in itself.  It is for the purpose of seeing the beauty of Christ… of knowing Him.

“So how do I fight when my heart does not respond?”
It’s complicated, for certain.  But consider how some of our spiritual disciplines (SDs) and core values (CVs) at Christos can help us to shepherd our minds and hearts…

  • SD of worship.  Negative emotions often reveal what we are really worshiping in that moment.  So next time you have one, explore it prayerfully, perhaps with a trusted friend.  Try to discern what is behind that negative emotion.  Figuring that out can helps us to repent or to trust more specifically and to take an idol off the throne of our heart.
  • SD of worship again.  Find a Psalm and pray it back to God… tell Him what is true about Him.  I love to do this with worship music as well.  Find the lyrics of a song or hymn, put it in your own words, and pray it back to God.
  • SD of the word.  Often, we do not know the beliefs we have that are troubling us.  This is why a well-balanced diet of the word is so important.  And, just like there are different food groups, there are many different ways to ‘feed’ on the word: memorize, meditate, listen, read, study, hear a sermon, discuss, etc.  For example, last week I was having a hard time reading the word (because of our cute new addition) so instead I tried listening to a couple sermons.  One of them really helped me to process with the Lord some disappointment I’ve been wrestling with.
  • SD of prayer.  During an especially dark season of my life, my dad was a consistent and patient reminder to me to find things I could thank God for.  Also, like the ‘rhythm of wrestling’ from the last post on this topic, getting honest with God in prayer is important.
  • SD of prayer again.  Ultimately, God is the one who gives spiritual understanding.  That’s why I love this prayer.
  • CV of the gospel.  Scripture says to examine ourselves to ensure that we are in the faith.  So perhaps the reason why you don’t have a deeper experience of God is you have never crossed over to faith in Him.  Any of us elders or small community leaders would love to hear from you if you have this concern.
  • CV of the gospel for a believer.  On the other hand, what if you know what your sin deserves and your faith is in Christ alone for your salvation, but you just don’t feel much?  Take comfort from the fact that “God is greater than our hearts” and nothing can separate His children from His love.  In that case, the gospel can still be helpful, but not for salvation.  Martin Luther recognized that his doubts and fears often had the same message.  So he formed a little ‘self-sermon’ and preached the gospel to himself through it (you can find it toward the end of the introduction to his commentary on Galatians).

“What if the darkness doesn’t lift?”
Ultimately, it’s not a formula.  And there are times when – for whatever reason – the darkness does not lift.  So as the old hymn says, “when darkness hides His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.”  Don’t give up drawing near to Him and to His people.  As we were reminded last Sunday, the same One with all authority is the One who has promised to be with us forever.

How about you?
Do your feelings ever seem out of touch with what you know is real?  What is something you do in those times?