Maybe you’ve heard the story before of the man lying in bed on a Sunday morning, and his wife said to him, “It’s time to get up and get ready for church!” He rolled back over and replied with a groan, “I don’t feel like it. Give me three good reasons why I should.” She said, “Number one, because this will draw you closer to God. Number two, you’re setting a good example for our children. And number three, you’re the preacher!”
I’ve been that man far more times than I wish to recount.
I don’t always feel like reading my Bible. I don’t always feel like praying. I don’t always feel like standing up and preaching on Sunday mornings. And I know I’m not alone. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had conversations with people who have said, “It would be dishonest for me to go to a place of worship and praise God when I don’t feel like it. I would be a hypocrite.”
Eugene Peterson responds by saying, “Feelings are important in many areas but completely unreliable in matters of faith” (A Long Road, 54). Sometimes—many times—we do something not because we feel like, but because it’s the right thing to do. Paul Scherer is laconic when he writes, “The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel” (The Word God Sent, 166).
In one of the Psalms of Ascent, sung by Jewish worshipers for generations as they ascended the holy hill of Jerusalem, David writes, “As was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD” (Psalm 122:4, ESV). We are commanded to give thanks to the Lord whether we feel like it or not.
If we worshiped God only when we felt like it, there would be precious little worship.
Every time I complain to Laura about how tired I am, and I don’t want to go to our Life Group (even though it meets at our house), I am surprised at how my feelings catch up with my obedience. Afterwards, I say to Laura, “I’m really glad I went. It was so good to be together as a group tonight!” Every time I bemoan the Sunday morning routine of getting ready to preach, I find that when I obey, regardless of how I feel, my heart begins to align with my will and actions.
The truth of the matter is that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting (Peterson). The next time you don’t feel like reading your Bible, praying, or joining with others in worship, choose to act in obedience to what you know (and what Scripture teaches) is right. You will be surprised at how action improves your feelings every time.
“I was glad when they said to me, `Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1).