Feeling loved and being loved. Two very different things.
The first is an illusion at best, a taunt at worst. The second is reality—a fact. It is what it is.
When we feel loved the world seems right. A smile lifts our face and a song fills our heart. Yet, when we don’t feel loved our face is downcast; despair easily slithers into our heart.
I will be honest and say that most times I feel loved. I feel lovable. Those times are lovely! Worshipping is easy to do. Bible study is a joy. Claiming the promises of God, like the one in Romans 8:35, is as natural as breathing. Showing love to others is effortless.
(Don’t you hate “but then…”)
But then, something shifts. I oftentimes don’t even know what. But suddenly I feel anything but lovable. And I certainly don’t feel lovely. My heart no longer feels tenderly held. Instead it feels squeezed and pressed. My soul aches. My body retreats to a place of solitude. I want to be alone, but aloneness just reinforces my whispered fear that I am not worthy to be loved.
These times weigh me down. Everything seems harder. Sleep beckons me. Expectations frustrate me. Responsibilities sneer at me.
But what fascinates me is that more often than not, these times of feeling unlovable follow times of being very aware of God’s love.
Mountaintop moments can quickly plunge to despairing depths.
Many times after we experience amazing moments with God on the proverbial mountaintop, we feel empty. We have poured so much of ourselves into that moment and when it is over we feel depleted. We are left vulnerable. It is during these times that we desperately need to be filled up with God’s Presence.
Perhaps this is why Jesus retreated to His Father so often following miracles. We read over and over again throughout the Gospels where Jesus would retreat by Himself to pray.
He would retreat from the fervor so that He could commune with the Father.
I tend to anticipate attacks before a mountaintop moment. I expect pushback. I expect difficulties. But so often my guard is lowered once I’m on the mountaintop or just after.
That was the case this weekend. Last week was full of good things. Spiritual things. Two different Bible studies stared, both of which I serve in leadership roles. One of which met at my house. God is stretching me and growing me through both studies. I was ready for pushback. I have been on guard against spiritual attacks. (One of the studies is even on the Armor of God, so I feel even more prepared for recognizing the enemy’s tactics). Last week was also filled with many other things such as kid’s schedules and this little book writing thing I’m working on (see Book). It was a full week and I approached it as such. Lots of prayer. Lots of Bible study. Resting when I could.
Friday came and went. The Bible studies were amazing and God provided in extraordinary ways!! I felt loved. And I shared love. It was glorious! The women left my house and I breathed out a huge thank you to the Lord before I went to sleep.
Then I woke up to a feeling of defeat. Why? What had changed while I was sleeping???
Have you ever woken up and just felt off? That was me.
I can’t point to one thing, one turning point, but things had turned. The spiritual euphoria of the day before was gone. In it’s place was a feeling of emptiness. And unloveliness.
Just twelve hours before, I had felt like a cherished daughter of the King. Now I felt like a battered servant girl.
I wish I could say that I recognized the enemy’s fingerprints immediately, ran to God’s Word, and once again felt the glow of His love. But that would be a lie.
Truthfully, I still feel a little off. A little empty. A little worn. But I am becoming more purposeful in getting away with God. And I am starting to ask Him to talk to my heart, instead of allowing my mind to listen to my feelings.
When I listen to my feelings this is what I hear:
I don’t feel loved.
I don’t feel worthy to do ministry.
I feel like I’ve messed up too much.
I don’t feel like I can do it.
I feel so tired.
I feel so afraid.
But when I ask God to talk to me through His Word this is what I hear:
Nothing can separate me from God’s love. (Romans 8:35)
God will equip me to do what He has called me to do. (Hebrews 13:21)
There is nothing God won’t forgive if I ask (1 John 1:9)
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
God is my strength and my helper. He holds my hand. (Isaiah 40:31)
God is with me (Psalm 118:4)
So today, instead of listing all that’s wrong, and instead of rehearsing my feelings, I will get away with God and rehearse the facts of the faith He has given me.
I will stand on His Truth and rest in His Word.
I may not feel that lovable today, but I will stand on the promise—the fact—that I am loved by Love Himself.
And I will keep reminding myself that Godly love is not a feeling—it is a fact!