Do you struggle to connect with God if you don’t feel like it?
There’s nothing wrong with being emotionally connected with God. It’s important. But equally important is connecting with God regardless of feelings.
It’s about choosing to connect regardless of how we might feel at the time.
Unfortunately our feelings, and our emotions can really take us down paths that we just don’t need to go down. They can distort reality and convince us that things are dreadful when maybe things are just a bit ‘not great’. Or they can warp our sense of perspective and convince us that we can do superhuman things, or even influence our understanding of who we are.
These are extreme examples, but when you have a mental illness, these examples can be commonplace. If a person is experiencing clinical depression their emotions can take them down into very dark and dangerous places and the thought of praying to God for help seems completely impossible.
I know. I’ve been in these places. In fact, I have experienced all these examples. Well, maybe not the superhuman thing, but still. Close 🙂
My point today is simple. Our emotions – our feelings – cannot be relied upon to accurately analyse our capacity to connect with God.
On the one hand, when we are really well, it’s easy to dismiss the need for prayer and time with God because everything seems to be going so well. We feel good. Our lives are back on track and everything is working like a well-oiled machine.
On the other hand, when we are really unwell, it’s extraordinarily difficult to convince ourselves that we have a right to even ask God for help, let alone seek his peace and healing and love. We’re easily convinced that not even God himself could help us and all the times that he has become a shadow in our past, impossible to grasp and bring into our current reality.
Because emotions can weigh heavily on how we choose to respond to our circumstances, we need to be even more diligent in how we approach our relationship with God. And even more diligent in the good times. Why?
Because in the good times, when we feel well and capable, we have the motivation and capacity to implement healthy change, reframe our thinking and recalibrate our behaviour. Using this energy to dig deeper into God gives us bigger reserves to draw on when we are not well.
And then, when the ravages of mental illness pull us down the slippery slope, we have ammunition. We have a prayer life that has been in full swing for a while and a connection with God that is much harder to break.
Because we’ve used the good times to build healthy habits – time with God, praying in the Spirit, reading the Word and connecting with Godly people – we have more strength to keep these habits and even if we go down into the depths, we will be more convinced of God’s strength to pull us out, and even more so, that he will be there in the depths with us.
So here’s the thing: prayer is like food. You can go without it for a little while but soon it will affect your life. So just like eating breakfast because you know your body needs it, spend time in prayer and communion with God for no other reason than your soul needs it. Like a good exercise routine, you will miss it when you don’t have that time and will become so used to it, that it will become second nature.
Consider Psalm 103:1-5:
Praise the Lord , my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord , my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagleʼs.
If you can find a way to pray, even by just reading scriptures like this one out loud (because this is also prayer!) and disconnect yourself from the emotions swirling around in that moment, you will tap into a new kind of prayer – one that does not rely on your emotions or feelings to make it happen. And this kind of prayer is the kind that strengthens you inside and builds a fortress of trust and reliance on God.
This is the kind of prayer that saves our souls when we are in the darkest places and just like food, is vital for our existence and eventual full recovery from mental illness.
May you be blessed with the strength to choose today to reach into God’s love and grace.