“How am I going to serve a God I don’t love?”
“I don’t really feel like praying, going to church or reading my bible”
“God doesn’t ‘speak’ to me as He does to you”
“It’s not worth trying it out, I don’t feel anything”
“When I pray, I feel like I’m praying to nothing”
Ever asked yourself any of these questions? Ever thought of any of these?
Often times, we let our feelings define our actions. We do things when we “feel” like doing them.
–I. Feeling discouraged —
Have you ever had days when you just felt like doing nothing? Ever spent a whole day watching TV or playing video games?
Have you ever spent a whole day in bed?
Or, let’s get even more serious. Have you ever felt so fed up, tired, frustrated or sad that you don’t feel like going out, even eating?
In the bible, we see a person who felt just like that. Her name was Hannah.
Hannah couldn’t have any children. She was ridiculed and made fun of. In 1 Samuel 1:8, her husband Elkanah would say to her:
“Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted?”
She felt so depressed and sad that she was constantly crying. She wouldn’t eat. Nevertheless, even in the midst of her depression, she turned to God:
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.” v.10
Hannah didn’t mask her feelings. She didn’t wait to feel better to come to the Lord. She prayed, and she wept bitterly as she did so. She told God exactly what she was feeling. She was honest.
Sometimes we hear other people’s prayers of praise and cheerfulness and we think that it is the way to pray. Nonetheless, that’s not what God wants. He doesn’t want a cookie-cutter prayer. He wants a prayer from the bottom of your heart. If you don’t feel God’s presence, tell Him. If you don’t feel like praying, tell Him. But don’t stop praying. Don’t stop reading your Bible. Faith does not depend on feelings. It’s not “hoping” or “feeling” God is there. Faith is KNOWING God is there. And because He is, faith results in action and obedience – whether we feel like it or not.
The pain Hannah was feeling was so intense, that she couldn’t even speak. In verse 13, we can see that “Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving…but her voice was not heard“. Eli, the priest, as he observed her mouth, even thought she was drunk! To this, Hannah responded:
“Not so, my lord…I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” v.15-16
We see other great expressions of honesty all across the bible:
“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?”
“Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?”
“Every day I call to you, my God but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.”
Even Jesus did so!
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34
Now before you get depressed, know that God delivered each and every person that was honest to Him. David, in the Psalms, Hannah in 1 Samuel and even Jesus in Mark, were all heard by the Lord. He fulfilled His promise towards them. When they felt like God wasn’t there, we see that He was. He was working in their lives.
Hannah’s prayer was not in vain. She kept serving the Lord even when she did not feel like it. The outcome?
“and the Lord remembered her… So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” v.19-20
The chapter that follows shows a Hannah that is completely transformed. In fact, 1 Samuel 2 is called “Hanna’s Song”.
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance!
There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God!” v.1-2
Wow! Talk about a HUGE change!
Hannah was able to praise, rejoice and delight in the Lord. He heard her in her time of need. He honored her faithfulness even when she didn’t “feel like it”.
–II. “I just don’t ‘feel’ God”—
Honestly, you don’t really feel anything during worship when you go to church.
Honestly, you don’t feel like God is speaking to you when you open up your Bible.
Honestly, you pray and it’s well…just awkward.
Thankfully, the Bible IS true and relevant to all of us. Even when we do feel this way.
Samuel was Hannah’s son (remember the story we just talked about?). Hannah brought him up around church, and she spoke to Samuel about God.
Samuel grew up to be a young man that served God (1 Samuel 2:26). He served at church, did good things, studied the Word and even slept at the temple! (1 Samuel 3:3)
One small detail? He had never heard God speak to Him. He had never “felt” God.
“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” 1 Samuel 3:7
Wait, what? Samuel was faithful and diligent with God. He knew what he had to do, and he did it – regardless if he felt God or not.
Nevertheless, God was with Samuel. He had always been near. In chapter 3, we see that God speaks to Samuel for the first time:
“…the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (v.8-10)
After this, God gave Samuel a huge revelation for the people of Israel. God was with Samuel throughout the years, and everybody recognized he was a man of God.
“The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” 1 Samuel 3:19-21
We see how Samuel’s relationship with God got stronger and stronger, even in a way where God spoke to Samuel all the time.
Even when Samuel was not feeling good, He spoke to God about it:
“…this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”
Whenever he had a concern, He presented it to the Lord:
“When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
Do you see a pattern here? Samuel prayed, God answered. They had a relationship like no other.
This relationship formed over time. At first, Samuel didn’t “feel” God. He had never heard Him speak. Yet, he obeyed. Like her mother Hannah, Samuel was faithful to God even when he didn’t “feel” like it.
In the end, both were delivered. God blessed their lives abundantly and guided their every step. They did not only feel God, but they saw God walking with them in every single part of their lives.
–III. A relationship : just like any other—
Think of a friend. Any friend you have. Do you have that person in your mind? Ok.
Did you love him/her ever since you were born?
The answer is no.
You had to meet him/her first. You had to approach or talk to that person. Slowly you start getting to know that person. Time passes by and you start building a relationship, a friendship. You develop a philia love (friendship/brotherly love in the Greek).
Love did not just “happen”. Action and closeness were needed.
So, why is it so hard for us to see God that way? Obedience to the Lord should not be dependent on emotions or emotional experiences. Emotions come and go. His love for us does not.
Pray. Be honest. Seek the Lord. Read your bible. Find a church.
Choose to obey. Choose to follow. Have faith.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said:
Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.