As humans made in the image of God, we are built for love and connection. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Yet there are times (more often than I would like to admit) where I don’t feel like loving. I feel too irritable to be patient with my husband. Too jealous and insecure with friends to offer encouragement. Too busy to love the Lord, my God, with prayer and worship.
I know my husband is deserving of patience, and I am aware of how to be patient with him. I know my friends are deserving of encouragement, and I am aware of how to encourage them with my words. I know my God is worthy of praise, and I am aware of how to praise him. It isn’t the knowledge of love that I am lacking. It’s just that I don’t always feel like loving, and my lack of feeling often leads to a lack of action. Anyone else been there? We know we should feel love in these kinds of moments, but how do we force a feeling?
Perhaps, it’s not that we aren’t feeling enough love, but that we are feeling a whirlwind of every other emotion known to mankind: exhaustion from balancing work and family, anxiety of what the future holds, pressure to perform, envy of the things others have, frustration of unmet expectations, disappointment in our limitations, pride when listing all our accomplishments, guilt in canceling social plans, and the list goes on. It’s not that we are lazy or incapable of loving the Father; maybe we are too burnt out on feeling the demands of this life that we don’t have emotional capacity left at the end of the day to feel for our God what our hearts were made for.
Maybe we don’t have to beat ourselves up and consider ourselves “bad Christians” when we didn’t attend church because we slept in on a Sunday morning. Maybe we recognize that our bodies are exhausted from scrambling around from vacation to work to taking care of the kids to happy hour with friends to zoom calls with family and long projects at work. Maybe we aren’t the problem. Maybe it is the overwhelming hold that this world has on us that is keeping our love for others muted and hidden. Maybe it isn’t trying harder or convincing ourselves to love God more. The seed of the Good News is already in our hearts, we need only stop suffocating it with the demands of life and allow it to breathe, grow, and produce its own fruit, all in an effort to make our love a movement of God and not a tight fisted effort of our own.
As Paul urged the Church in Thessalonica, and as David wrote in the Psalms, to live a quiet and simple life is something that pleases the Lord, and I believe our generation is in need of the same reminder.
“Now concerning brotherly love, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
“O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”Psalm 131:1-2
Let what the Bible says create our definition of the “successful” life. In the age of social media, showcasing vacations, happy hours, new cars, new houses, and side hustles, we have to be intentional to not allow the wonders of this world to drag us into sensory overload, and eventually an attention span that refuses to sit in stillness and rest. Food. Nature. Connection. Sleep. These are simple things that the Lord made our bodies to enjoy. We don’t need to cave into the pressures of being busy, exhausted, and always on the move to live a fulfilled life. The simple life is not one of passivity and sluggishness, it is one of intention. It is an active choice to give our spirit space to feel what the Lord has created us to feel.
To love God and his people is the most natural and fulfilling thing we can pursue. It abides inside all of us. We just need to give it space to bloom. The feeling of love is quick to come when we reflect on all he has done in the past, all he is doing in the present, and all he can do with our future. It is in spaces of peace and uninterrupted time that we give ourselves a fighting chance to truly reflect. The overwhelming life—a life schedule that we think we can sustain, but truly cannot—can quickly lead to a constant state of emotional burnout that handicaps our ability to feel and act out true love.
Perhaps our job is not to force a feeling of love, but to remove all the obstructions standing in our way of feeling the one thing we are all yearning for—love.
Reflection and Application
When I check in with myself to see how I am doing and take inventory of my mind, body, and spirit, I ask myself three questions. I invite you to do the same!
- Does my walk with my Lord, family, or friends seem to have hit a point of emotional numbness?
- Am I feeling emotionally burned out?
- What in my life is steering me in a direction of burnout?
Photo credit: Emilee Carpenter
Sarah is a California native with a heart for the world. Writing is a newfound passion of hers, and experiencing the power of the written and spoken word has invigorated her walk with Jesus tenfold. She is excited to begin her journey of becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist in order to reconcile families together in a powerful and purposeful way.