“The feelings we receive from our devotional life are the least of its benefits. The invisible and unfelt grace of God is much greater, and it is beyond our comprehension.” – St. John of the Cross
We live in a very feeling-oriented culture. We’re supposed to feel good about ourselves, our bodies, our jobs, our churches, our government, our entertainment … if we don’t feel good about something, then something is very wrong!
That belief system, however, is completely incorrect. To be sure, feelings are an important aspect of life; they are part of how God made us. But feelings are never to be a barometer of truth or well-being. They are too volatile for that, and too easily manipulated.
Take the case of our devotional life: we often think that if we “feel good” after spending time in prayer or Scripture reading, that we have had a “successful” devotional time with God. Maybe. But quite frankly, maybe not. I can feel good but not really have quieted my heart in prayer or been listening to what the Scripture had to say to me. Likewise, I can feel completely miserable after baring my soul to God and hearing truth from his Word.
So how do we know if we have had a “successful” quiet time with God? Well, first, examine your thoughts, your words, and your actions during your quiet time. They are a much more reliable gauge than your feelings because they are objective, not subjective. And second, remind yourself that your goal is not to feel good: it is to connect and communicate with the Lord of Hosts, and to receive the outpouring of his love and grace. And that can happen even if we don’t “feel” anything at all.
* How much do you rely on your feelings as a barometer of truth or well-being?
* How would you characterize your thoughts during a typical quiet time? Are you able to focus on God and his Word and your prayers, or are you easily distracted? If the latter, what distracts you, and why?
* How would you characterize your words during a typical quiet time? Do your prayers contain a balance of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication? Or do you lean more in one direction than another?
* How would you characterize your actions during your quiet time? Do you try to multi-task while having your devotional time? Does your physical posture indicate reverence?
* Do you find it easy or difficult to realize that God’s grace may be at work even if you feel nothing or actually feel terrible? Why?