One of the things I most love and enjoy about worship and praise songs is that they help me to feel close to my Savior. I loved the occasional praise chapels during my undergraduate education because I would usually leave those services feeling energized and happy. After all I had just connected on a deeply spiritual and emotional level with my God.
The only problem with these emotional highs was the relatively typical crash on the other side – physical exhaustion, a tired spirit, sometimes even a little depression. Emotions are a physical response to something, and for those of you who remember your biology and psychology, they swing back and forth based on how the chemicals and hormones in your body fluctuate and how your brain interprets those changes. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in to give you that wonderful high, but physiologically the parasympathetic system _must_ kick in to bring you back down. However high you were flying in the first part is conversely how low you will come back down in the second. That’s why, hours after a victory party celebrating a win in some sporting event, for instance, you will feel so tired and drained. The parasympathetic system is balancing out your body’s chemical changes and preparing it to rest and rejuvinate from the sympathetic workout you just gave it.
If you’ve ever felt depressed and tired not long after a wonderful worship service and wondered why, it’s probably because your parasympathetic system is laying you low for a while. It’s also why you may not necessarily ‘feel’ God’s presence as closely (and also why you are more likely to fall into sin). Emotions are wonderful things – they bring a level of excitement and intimacy to any experience that nothing else can rival. The problem with feelings, however, is that we tend to rely too much on them to provide accurate assessments and reveal truth. As such feelings and emotions should not be trusted to provide anything more than the icing on the cake.
I heard a testimony a while back from a young lady who talked about her desert experience with God. She talked about her struggles as she endured a number of crises, all the while reaching out to God only to be frustrated because she couldn’t feel Him in her life. She wrestled and fought and wept as she questioned God’s presence in her life, as she labored to overcome each obstacle in her life. She wondered where God was, why He didn’t respond to her pleas to make Himself known to her.
And then she emerged from that dark tunnel and discovered that God had been with her all along. As she looked back over the landscape of the recent months, she found that she could not have gotten through it all without His help. Yet, He had chosen to withhold the _feeling_ of His presence in her life. He was forcing her to struggle and, subsequently, to grow by removing the option of allowing her to rely on her feelings and emotions to carry her through. He was testing her strength of will and tenacity and the power of her belief to be the primary elements that drew her to Him.
It is through the dark and difficult times that people most grow. It is the hardships and the headaches that force us to leave our weaknesses behind and to rely on that which is greater than ourselves to overcome. It doesn’t usually feel all that great; indeed, we usually feel very afraid and alone. But feelings are deceptive and do not always reflect accurately the truth of what is. They enhance any situation, whether for good or for ill, but they do not necessarily inform us of what _is_. How often have you entered a situation with confidence because you felt good about it, only to discover that things are not as you thought ( _felt_ ) they were? That is why God gave us minds and the ability to reason and to think. We can look at the facts of the situation as we know them, fall back on our beliefs, and rule our own bodies to do what we know is right.
Emotions make great servants but very poor masters. Bear that in mind whenever you find yourself making decisions based on emotion (how often does _that_ turn out well?), and remember that just because you can’t _feel_ God’s presence in your life does not mean that He is not there.