One of my favorite things about social media is the ability to connect with fellow writers and Christ followers. I stumbled across Abbie Meyer’s Instagram account several months ago and fell in love with her beautiful pictures and her equally beautiful words. It is my privilege to welcome her here today, and my hope that you will also be encouraged by the words and images from this sweet girl’s heart.
Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you without any hesitation that I am a feeler. I feel any and all emotions intensely, strongly, and passionately. Perhaps this is why I became a social worker; I connect to others by hearing their stories, and am easily pulled into their lives by empathizing deeply. When I was a kid, I used to hate that I felt so strongly. I’d often become frustrated with myself, trying to “shut off” my feelings. This never worked, and by the grace and guidance of the Spirit, I have been able to welcome these strong feelings with open arms, celebrating that the Father who created me is one who is moved deeply. I am proud that I carry this particular aspect that is so like my Creator. And yet, sometimes I rely too heavily on feeling connectedness with Jesus. I don’t know one single person who has been touched by the Spirit who doesn’t crave that fire down in their soul. To be so wrapped up in the blanket of unending love, and unwavering known-ness. To be on fire for Christ, not caring what others around think, but only caring about radically blazing the way for Jesus to move. And I’ve started to realize that this can turn into an idol. This becomes unhealthy we start to worship the feeling instead of the Creator. In our human-ness, our emotions are fickle. Our passions and feelings shift with just a hint of a strong breeze, and sometimes we are caught in a dry season, with barely any connection and a whole lot of apathy. Friend, I have to stop here and reassure you that this is normal. Mother Teresa spent over fifty years of her life feeling disconnected to the Father. The woman who is the icon of what it means to love the widows and the orphans, and arguably the most beautiful human picture of Christ’s love for his children. See, we cannot base our faith off of feelings.
Sometimes lack of connectedness points to our lives being too loud or too comfortable. Sometimes our hearts stir apathy because we are not making the space of quietness. Sometimes we have (an) idol(s) we are selling ourselves to. And sometimes, it is none of these things, and circumstances in our lives block us from the feeling of fire. I assure you, every Christian, at many times in their faith, goes through a time where the feeling is simply not there. So what to do? For me, it is devastating to feel that wall. Everything in my life could be going splendidly, but if I do not feel connected to the Lord I have to fight not to throw in the towel. I have to strive not to fall into a bit of depression. It is almost as if my life falls apart a little. But sister, the test comes when we reach the desert. It is easy to follow passionately after something that burns in our hearts or when we have a thirst that cannot be quenched.
Jesus tells us a story in Matthew about a farmer who wanted to plant some crops. Like any good farmer, he planted his seeds in a variety of places, hoping the seeds would grow quickly. And yet, many of the seeds died soon after they were planted. In verse 13:5 Jesus describes what happens when we base our faith on shallow and fickle things, saying, “…other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.” Oh friends, if our faith is grounded simply on the ability to feel, we will wither as soon as the sun rises. Although feeling the Lord’s presence is arguably one of the greatest gifts we can be given on this earth, it is not promised to us. So, when our faith feels dry and withered, remember that you have the choice to be planted on the good soil: The soil that produces grain up to a hundred fold.
There are several ways I personally think are best to combat the feeling of apathy or just plain emptiness in faith:
- Consistently pursue the Lord. Nothing is harder than pushing through a dry season. Our tendency is to just look the other way, and to let other priorities push their way to the top. This is one of Satan’s best tricks, isn’t it? To conveniently put off pursuing our faith when we lack the feeling. But instead of putting it off and sinking even deeper into our apathy, let’s fight through it.
- Lean on God’s promises. Although we are not promised feeling, we are promised many other blessings. Jesus tells us He will give us rest in Him. We are promised that God has a unique plan for each and every one of us. We are promised that nothing (not angels, or demons, or worries, or fears, or death, or life, or apathy, or emptiness) will separate us from Christ’s love. Take heart, because even if our hearts fail to long for Jesus, His heart is burning for us.
- Talk it through with a trusted friend or mentor. It’s so easy to run and hide when we feel ashamed, isn’t it? It bothers me that there is a certain stigma behind not being on fire for the Lord 24/7. Listen- are you absorbing this? This is important. NO ONE IS ON FIRE 24/7. It is simply too lofty of an expectation to believe we need to be. CS Lewis says it best when he quotes:
“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go…But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which (both partners) [to] ask, and receive, from God.
Although he is primarily talking about marriage, I believe that the principle of the sentiment can be applied to our relationship with Christ. Talking about our lack of feeling in our faith can be scary, because sometimes the dry spell lasts for a long time, and somehow we feel “less Christian” the longer it lasts. I encourage you to resist the urge to hide it and bury it. Freely admit and ask for prayer against the apathy. Ask for prayer for perseverance. Ask for prayer to reveal the Father’s deep, deep love for you, since we so often forget His heart for us when our lacks the feeling. Talk it through. I guarantee you will find that others have felt the same way you are feeling.
- Lastly, remember that the Spirit was sent as an Advocate for us. Romans 8:6 tells us that “in the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” I can’t tell you how many times this has brought relief and comfort to my spirit. So often I do not know what to pray, especially when I have a loss of feeling in my faith. Psalm 51:12 has often become my mantra in dry spells. Sometimes I pray it over and over again, crying for the Lord to restore my joy. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
Don’t give up, friend. Whether we “feel”, like it or not, we gotta keep on keepin’ on. We should define ourselves not by our struggle, but by the grace of God and the cry of our spirit. God looks at the movements of our heart, and our deepest longings. Have you ever wanted so badly to want it so badly? God sees that. And He tells us, “hey! Draw close to me and I will draw close to you. Just come alongside me, for I long for you to be here” (James 4:8, my words). Take heart, because even if you don’t “feel” like pursuing, this perseverance will soften you heart. And once again, those fickle emotions will creep their way back into your spirit and make home there once more.
In the meantime, God is cultivating our hearts in the waiting, and our gardens are being grown and fertilized, even when we cannot see (or feel).
Abbie Meyer is a 25 year old living out of the abundance of Jesus’ unending grace and mercy. She thrives off of deep vulnerability and connection with others, while striving to live into the call of outpouring encouragement onto others. Often described as feisty, passionate, talkative, and compassionate, She is ENFJ through and through. You’ll most likely find her training for a race, handlettering or painting, whipping up a new healthy and whole recipe in the kitchen, singing worship songs at the top of her lungs in my car, or watching the Office with her husband. What does she love most? Pretty light, hearing people’s stories of redemption, peonies, her husband’s smile, white walls, and the smell of rain. Follow her on instagram: abbiegmeyer