Feeling Close to Jesus
By Maria Fontaine
Quite a few times I’ve heard people say things like, “I must not be close to Jesus because I don’t feel close to Him.” But the Bible makes it very clear that we’re not supposed to go by our feelings or how things appear to be on the surface. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
If we rely on our feelings as an indicator of how well we’re doing spiritually, we’re going to be very unstable. We’ll be continually tossed to and fro by every feeling that happens to come along, and we’ll never know how we’re going to be doing tomorrow, because that would be determined by how we feel when we get up in the morning.
Regardless of how we may happen to feel, if we love Jesus and are walking by faith and obeying His Word, then we know that our relationship with Him is still firm. And we certainly know that His love for us is unwavering. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” “The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you,” and “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 54:10; Hebrews 13:5).
Walking by feelings invites discouragement
If you’re running on your feelings, then the Devil is going to do his best to get you feeling terrible most of the time! He knows if he can just get you feeling down, then he can actually get you down! He’ll flood you with his negative thoughts, trying to convince you that you’re a failure, until he’s got you totally defeated, discouraged, and in despair. Then he’ll say, “You certainly aren’t close to Jesus! In fact, you must not even love Him, and He must not love you either, because look how terrible you feel!”
When you’re relying on your feelings, the Devil can play with your emotions and make you feel very far from the Lord. When he sees that you’re walking by sight, you’re an easy target for his doubts. When besieged with such doubts, you’ve got to “fight the good fight of faith” and resist the Devil and his lies (1 Timothy 6:12; James 4:7).
If you don’t feel close to Jesus, don’t worry about it
Some people do feel close to Jesus. For example, when my daughter was small and I would tuck her into bed, she would say, “I’m going to snuggle up in Jesus’ arms now.” She could imagine that, and I’m glad she could, but I’ve never had that ability. I don’t feel like I’m resting on Jesus’ breast when I go to sleep. I’m not that imaginative, and that’s just the way I am.
Some people are able to picture in their minds and enjoy things like that, whereas others of us can’t. We all have certain personality traits, and some of us are much more emotional and “feely” than others. But just because I don’t feel a big emotional closeness to Jesus, I can’t sit around moping. If I were worried about that all the time, I’d be constantly down in the dumps and I would be in a mess! I’m enough of a mess as it is, without having worries and problems like that! I just have to take things by faith. There aren’t too many verses in the Bible about feelings, but there are a lot about faith and trusting the Lord and believing His Word.
You can know if you’re close to Jesus by applying His Word, which says that if you “draw nigh to God” by your submission and obedience to Him, “He will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). Even if you can’t feel any closeness at all, you can still know you’re close to Him if you’re doing your best to love and please Him. We’ve got to go by the facts, by the Word. Your faith in His Word should have nothing to do with your feelings, so it doesn’t really matter whether or not you feel close to Jesus.
What if you’ve made mistakes?
Of course, when we know we haven’t lived up to what Jesus expects of us, it’s easy to feel guilty. “Oh, I can’t possibly be close to the Lord because of all my faults and shortcomings!” But you must not let the Devil—or even your own heart—condemn you (1 John 3:20). Even if you have willfully disobeyed the Lord, if you’re sorry for your sins and you sincerely desire to be close to Him, He will be merciful and gracious to you (Psalm 103:8). And though you fall, you will not be utterly cast down, for the Lord will uphold you (Psalm 37:24). For “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). A broken and a contrite heart, He will not despise (Psalm 51:17).
A lot has to do with your heart, with your attitude. If you sincerely want to please Jesus and do His will, to love and live for Him, then He will certainly “draw nigh unto you” when you call out to Him. The Bible promises, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him in truth,” and, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 145:18; 34:18).
So regardless of any feelings of discouragement, guilt, or remorse that the Devil may try to barrage you with, if you know you’re truly seeking to love and please Jesus, to obey His Word and follow Him, then you’re close to Him—whether you happen to feel close to Him or not!
In fact, sometimes people are the closest to Jesus when they feel the furthest from Him. For example, when we’re humbled by our own mistakes and shortcomings, we don’t usually feel so inspired or close to Him, but we may actually be very close to Him. So just because you’re feeling down does not necessarily indicate that you’re far from the Lord. You can be very close to the Lord even if you’re feeling terrible. There are also times when some people may feel that they are very close to the Lord when in fact they may not be close to Him at all—particularly if they’re self-righteously trusting in their own so-called goodness instead of the Lord and His goodness, grace, and mercy.
Although we’re not ignorant of the Devil’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), and we know that he frequently tries to use our feelings to discourage and get us down, we can’t say that all bad feelings are from him. Sometimes we feel bad because the Lord is speaking to our hearts, convicting us of a sin or trying to warn us about something. So when we’re feeling bad, we should examine our hearts and actions to find out why we’re feeling that way, or what the Lord’s trying to show us (2 Corinthians 13:5).
The keys to closeness: fact, faith, and obedience
So how do you know if you’re close to Jesus? How do you get close to Him? You get close to Jesus by obeying His Word and by yielding to His will, that’s how! Jesus has promised, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep [obey] My Word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). So if you’re loving Him and obeying what He says in His Word, then of course you’re close to Him. He’s made His home in your heart, and that’s pretty close! It’s as simple as that. It’s not a matter of feelings at all.
The point is, we can’t trust or put our faith in our feelings. We don’t walk by our feelings! Whether you feel close to Jesus or not is beside the point! His Word says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22). You have to go by faith! “The just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38).
Being close to Jesus
We may sometimes experience certain thrills of the spirit—the spiritual high that we often feel when we’ve helped someone find Jesus, or when the Word has spoken loudly and clearly to us, for example—which are a token of the Lord’s love and a special encouragement from Him. He knows we like to feel these things, so He gives them to us as pleasurable experiences. But even at such times we can’t expect those feelings, and we shouldn’t get discouraged or feel that something is wrong with us or our connection with the Lord if they don’t happen.
You’re not always going to be excited and feel inspired and be jumping up and down for joy. Sometimes you’re hungry or tired. Sometimes you’re sick. Sometimes it’s a struggle to keep your mind on the fact that Jesus loves and cares about you, and that if you hang on long enough, He will pull you through.
So sometimes you might not feel close to Jesus, and other times you might. But don’t let that worry you. Even if you don’t feel close to Jesus, you can still be close to Him, because closeness to Jesus is much more than a mere feeling!
Those who often feel close to Jesus aren’t necessarily any closer to Him or more spiritual than those who don’t. Feelings are nice if they happen, but they aren’t the gauge of spirituality. What we want to do is to be close to Jesus! If you do happen to feel close to Him, be thankful. But if you don’t happen to feel close to Jesus, don’t be discouraged. And remember, you can know you are close to Jesus if you love Him and are trying your best to please Him.
Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God,
Naught else is worth believing!
Though all my heart should feel condemned
For lack of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken!
I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word
Till soul and body sever;
For, though all things shall pass away,
His Word shall stand forever!
—Martin Luther (1483-1546)
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