Every night it’s the same. I give my 4-year-old daughter a bath. I help her get into her pajamas. She says goodnight to Mommy. Then she gets in bed and I read her favorite stories—stories that, by now, I have basically memorized. After she’s asleep, I pray over her, turn out the lights and close the door behind me.
If you’re a parent, you know the feeling of doing the same things over and over for your kids. It becomes repetitive. It can also become boring—how many times can you read that same book before it gets on your nerves?
However, when you do those things, you’re doing them for your kids, not for you. So what if you have the book memorized? Read it anyway. So what if the bedtime prayers become autopilot? Say them anyway. So what if the routine becomes boring? Do it anyway.
This can be very much like our relationship with God. Sometimes we think, “I don’t feel like God is close to me.” Or “I didn’t get much out of that worship service.” Or “I don’t like saying the same words every week because then I’ll just be going through the motions.” But it’s not about us. It’s especially not about how we feel.
This is partially why things like prayer and Scripture reading and worship are called spiritual exercises. Just as many of us don’t feel like doing physical exercises, when we do them, we are admitting that there is something more important than how we feel.
When we worship, pray and nurture our relationship with God, we don’t do those things only when we feel like it. We do them out of love.
If faith is based only on how you feel, then you have built your house on shifting sand. You know that your feelings change. Many of us believe our faith and our feelings are interconnected, but the chemicals in our brains that affect our feelings fade. Just like starting a new relationship, it may be exciting at the beginning—but then the excitement can go away. Does that mean the relationship is over? Not necessarily. If the relationship is based only on pleasant feelings, then, yes, it’s over. If it’s based on commitment, dedication and faithfulness, then the relationship is still strong.
When we worship, pray and nurture our relationship with God, we don’t do those things only when we feel like it. We do them out of love. Imagine if you told your kids that you didn’t feel like helping them take a bath, tucking them into bed or reading them a story. That would not work. Instead, you do those things out of love for them and to strengthen your relationship.
So on Sunday morning, go worship with others. When you have a meal, pray before you eat. When you hear a call to serve or give extra money, do it. Jesus didn’t call us to follow only if we felt like it. He called us to follow.
Like the life of a parent, the life of discipleship is hard. Neither is about how you feel; both are about loving someone anyway. What makes them different is that God will always choose to love you. Your kids might misbehave, test your patience or waste time getting to bed—but God will always love you. God will always be faithful to you. God will always be here for you. That’s something we all need to hear over and over—especially when we’re not feeling it.