I believe Christianity is true, but how do I feel it?
READER: Reading your Letters From a Skeptic recently helped me conclude that Jesus really is Lord and that he died for me, so I decided to become his follower. But for some reason I don’t yet feel like I’m all the way there. It seems like there’s a disconnect between my head and my heart. I don’t feel God like I think you’re supposed to. I believe Christianity is true, but I don’t feel like it’s true. Can you help me?
GREG: I’m so happy you’re starting to “walk the path” and am honored that my book and teachings had a little role to play in bringing you there. Thanks for sharing this!
There are two things I’ll say in response to your question. First, I want to encourage you to passionately commit to following Christ as best as you know how whether you feel anything or not. Our feelings are damaged goods in this fallen world, and you can’t rely on them for much of anything — certainly not to decide what is “true” or not. So if you have reason to believe Jesus is Lord, then I encourage you to embrace him hook, line, and sinker. Faith in Christ includes being faithFUL in our life to Christ, but it doesn’t necessarily include feeling anything one way or another.
Having said that, I want to tell you that feelings are always a function of what is going on in our imagination. This is my second point. We usually aren’t aware of it, but we have videos and soundtracks and images popping in our brain all the time, and each one has a feeling component. We are conscious of the feelings, but usually not of the stuff in our imagination that is associated with the feelings. In order to change our feelings, we need to change the videos and soundtracks and images playing in our head.
Most people don’t feel God-stuff because they don’t imagine God-stuff. In this fallen world, our brains are conditioned to function atheistically. We block God out. But I want to encourage you to start incorporating him into your thoughts. For example, you know God is all around you, so try to imagine that and remain aware of that as much as you can throughout the day. And when you pray, I encourage you to ask God to help you imagine talking to Jesus in whatever setting the Holy Spirit inspires you to imagine. Don’t do this in order to feel something. Do it because it’s true, and the core of our growth in Christ is simply getting our minds and our behavior — and yes, even our feelings — to be aligned with truth. As you do this, you may find yourself beginning to feel the reality of God’s love, presence, etc.
I have two books on this topic you may find beneficial. In the first, Seeing Is Believing, I talk about the role of imagination in prayer. In the second, Escaping the Matrix, my friend Al Larsen and I talk about strategies that empower us to change our feelings and behavior by changing our imagination.