Feeling Nothing? Welcome to a Life of Faith!

The music was glorious. The congregation was swept up in the joys of Christmastime. Hands were raised. Tears flowed. Yet once again I looked like a person waiting for a root canal. I felt nothing positive or negative. Mentally, I was plagued by guilt that I, a missionary, seemed unmoved by the ancient truths that saved my soul. Since returning to the US I had waited for “something” to happen to me. I wanted God to move on what I perceived was a hardened heart. After months of “waiting for God to move” I was starting to feel like I was waiting in vain. There was no zing, swoosh, or zoom. I heard no sound of a rushing wind. I was praying and still feeling like I was dead as a doornail. Then, God spoke.

“What they are doing is easy”. That was it. That was all He said. I didn’t feel a thing, but the impression of that sentiment was so strong I knew it was Him and I found myself realizing something I already knew to be true: nothing is as it appears to be. People’s upraised hands meant nothing if they were not living a life of faith.

The months rolled by and the time for our return to Papua was at hand. I was at a ministry wives’ retreat and there was a moving altar call that touched the lives of many. Women filled the altar, tears flowed, hankies flew and I found myself once again standing alone in the middle of the friends pinching the bridge of my nose like a woman with a migraine. I kept saying, “God please do something wicked* quick”. (*God speaks Bostonian).

Suddenly, I was standing under the eaves of our house in the remote village of Waipapa. I heard the Lord speak clearly and evenly, “I don’t want you to cry. I don’t want you to weep. I want you to go back”. Then, I opened my eyes and saw I was still in a room full of passionate pastors’ wives and they looked a lot more touched than I felt. I said to the Lord, “Couldn’t I have gotten a little zip with that?” This time He said nothing. I had just had an unemotional vision.

Getting older answers a lot of the questions you have as a young person. I am now glad I didn’t get goosebumps when other people did. The Lord knew what I needed and what would mess me up. A lot of emotion would have been a disaster where I lived, and sadly I saw a lot of people walk away from their calling because the enthusiasm they used as a barometer to confirm God’s will suddenly was not enough to keep them going. Life cannot be maintained at such an emotional level. If a rushing sense of emotion indicates the joy of the Lord, then a lack of it would seem to indicate that the joy of the Lord is not present. In truth, joy is a perspective not a feeling and any internal barometer of God’s will is by definition, egocentric.

The Lord knows our emotions like our bodies, were made to reflect His glory but are corrupted by the fallen world. I don’t need a zing to tell me God’s will when I have His Word. His Word says to preach this gospel “in season and out”, which is a nice way of saying, “When you feel like it and when you don’t”. The Spirit of God promises to lead me into all truth, but not all giddiness. God called me to missions and the longer I have served Him in that capacity the less I have heard affirmation of the call. I know I am called. He impressed it on me and then He stepped back and let me live that call out in faith. I had ‘only’ the Word of God and the Spirit of God to guide me. And if I rely solely on the scriptures and live them just as they are written, I will indeed have a super natural life with the Spirit of God leading me in all truth. I have seen a lot of miracles and I have seen a lot of sorrow. I have had some truly amazing days where I felt incredibly awesome. I have had an equal number of days when I felt in the pits. In between I didn’t feel a whole lot out of the ordinary.That means I am living a very scriptural life.

Yes, you will have your battles with your emotions. Never let your emotions define you or your choices. A heart of faith makes decisions based not on how we feel but on the Word of God. Now be free and live as big as your God.

Gunfire at Christmas

The call came early on Christmas morning. Gunmen, enraged over a tribal dispute, had gone into a church and shot worshipers on Christmas morning. My husband was the mission director for the province where the incident occurred and our breakfast guest the head of a mission’s aviation service. Within minutes my husband and guest were out the door headed to the airstrip. I began to make phone calls trying to contact police, who in the country where we worked, took holidays off, so I spent a lot of time with ringing phones and no answers.
As missions is a creative profession, a “Plan B” was hastily pulled together. Doctors, ambulances and police all took the day off, so we got in touch with a network of Christian workers in Morobe Province who dropped their plans, gathered vehicles and headed 40 miles out of town to the airfield to which the wounded would be taken. Hours passed between the time flights took off to pick up the wounded and bring them to a hospital and the time those planes landed in Lae. The area hospital was offering no surgery on Christmas, or Boxing Day so the wounded had only the medical assistance missionary workers could render on board small aircraft and a lot of prayer on their behalf. The transport took several hours and it was 10 hours between the time my husband left home and when he returned.

That made for a very different sort of Christmas. It was a sunny day and in the southern hemisphere, Christmas is a summer time holiday. There are not many “special occasions” but we made Christmas a very important holiday in our home. Gifts were under the tree and a well prepared meal on which we’d splurged a small fortune grew tepid on the counter. I was home alone with our son, and about 3 PM after six hours of patiently waiting for something Christmas-like to happen he asked me, “Mom, is today still Christmas?” I thought a moment and replied, “Yes, son. Today is why we need Christmas”.

Not every disappointing Christmas is marked by gunfire, but it is not uncommon for Christmas to be a hard time of year for many. This is often greater for Christians who feel an added dose of guilt if they are not enjoying every moment of the holiday in the way they feel they should. It’s as if the joy of the day somehow accentuates the sadness they feel inside and they feel sadder for being sad. I had years when I struggled with the same thing but that Christmas marked by gunfire changed my perspective.

If you are feeling sad this Christmas, celebrate the fact that God knows you in your darkness. He came as Light to the World. He cares about the sorrow and willingly is called “The Man of Sorrows”. He sees our sense of hopelessness and declares Himself, “The Hope of Nations”. He feels our loneliness and comes as “Emmanuel” that we remember “God is with Us”.

Joy is not a feeling, it is a perspective. For all who are filled with laughter and happiness and loving all things Christmas, that is a joy that shall not be taken from them. But there will be Christmas days in life when your feelings will not rise to meet your expectations, when sorrow will be palpable and trouble shadow your celebration. Christmas is for you, too. It is your day as well and the perspective you have on the days when life is not so merry reminds you why He came. It’s a worthy way to celebrate and you appreciate the fullness of Christmas for the times that are not so “merry”. Be thankful for these days too. Your perspective is richer for the lean times and more mature for knowing Him in hard times as well. A joyful Christmas to you.