Have you ever had moments in your life when you knew what was true, but you just simply didn’t care? Or maybe you’re in a difficult season when closeness with Jesus seems impossible. If you’re like me, these moments can be very frustrating—especially when it comes to your spiritual life.
Someone once said that the longest distance to travel is the 13 inches between our head and our hearts, and I’ve especially found that to be true when it comes to my relationship with Jesus.
I’ve often found myself wondering why I don’t feel the wonder, awe, and affection for God that I did when I was first saved. Sometimes I do feel these things, but then there are seasons when I simply know the right things to believe, but am spiritually numb to them.
I’ve heard that familiarity can breed apathy, so perhaps its because I’ve been a Christian since I was 12, or because I’ve studied a good bit of the Bible, or because I’m familiar with the truths of the gospel. And yet…I thought these were suppose to help me have joy in Jesus, not hinder me from it
Maybe you can relate: you’ve grown up in church your whole life, perhaps got saved at a young age, even attended and served in Vacation Bible School. Whatever your religious involvement, the fact remains: when you think about Jesus and the gospel, your heart doesn’t feel the passion and love for him you wish it did.
I believe this spiritual numbness will one day be removed from us in heaven, but until then: what do we do in the meantime? How do we regain a sense of desire, love, and affection for Jesus? Well, to be honest: I’m not sure we are the ones who can do this. Let me explain:
Jonathan Edwards once observed a difference between knowing honey is sweet and actually experiencing the sweetness of honey in our mouths. Edwards used this point to illustrate the difference between knowing the truth about God verses experiencing that truth in our lives. There is a difference, Edwards pointed out, between knowing the right truths and loving the God of whom those truths speak of.
To see this practically, think about how many conversations you’ve had where someone says “God is good” or “God loves you” or “God is in control” and all you can think in response is, “I know…”
If you’re like me, this response is common. For some reason we simply don’t find the comfort and strength from certain truths that are meant to encourage us. In these moments we know a truth about God (“honey is sweet”), but we are not experiencing that truth as a living reality (i.e. tasting the honey).
So, what do we do? Here’s my thought:
We pray for the Holy Spirit to awaken our hearts to the beauty of the gospel.
I say beauty, because many of us don’t need another fact about Jesus. We have the right facts, we just don’t see how wonderful and amazing they are. Sure, we “know” they are amazing in some sense, but for some reason they don’t feel amazing to us in this season.
Moreover, I say we must ask for the Holy Spirit to do this work in us because Jesus said the Holy Spirit would come to glorify him (John 16:14). One of the ways He does this is by enabling us to see the wonder and greatness of the facts we already know (See Ephesians 1:17-20; 3:14-21).
Let this encourage you: God wants to awaken your heart to see the doctrines of your faith as life-giving truths to live by, not just abstract or impersonal concepts to merely acknowledge. He intends to awaken your affections, not just inform your mind.
The solution to our spiritual numbness is not, “Do more and try harder.” Rather it’s to behold the glory of the gospel in a way that enables us to “taste and see that Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
This will of course require us to do things (i.e. read the scriptures, pray, pursue community, etc.), but these are doorways to delighting in God, not the ultimate destination. The goal of the spiritual disciplines is not to become good at the disciplines, but to “lay aside every weight of hindrance” and “fix [our] eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
By the Spirit’s power, our love for God can be re-awakened and refreshed. I agree with J.D. Greear who said, “The fullness of the Spirit makes us feel the love of the gospel. Salvation goes from being a doctrine we believe to an embrace from our Father.”
How can we pursue this practically? I think one way is by taking the petitions God has given us in His word and making them our own prayers. In doing so, we commit to ordinary obedience and pray for extraordinary affections.
For example, the Psalms are full of petitions for God to awaken the heart to see the greatness of who He is:
- Psalm 27:4—One thing have I asked of the Lord,that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
- Psalm 51:12—Restore to me the joy of your salvation,and uphold me with a willing spirit.
- Psalm 119:18—Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
In my own experience, taking these Psalms and making them into my own prayers has proved very fruitful. If we know that the Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus in our lives, then lets ask Him to do this by glorifying Jesus in our hearts.
For me, this meant pleading with the Lord for about two years. In this season, my heart had become so cold to the wonder of His grace. I found myself knowing the right truths, yet feeling nothing for the God they spoke of.
Slowly, as I began making these Psalms (and others) my personal requests, God broke into my spiritual drought and I was once again able to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.”
I don’t know if it will always take that long for everyone, but I do know that the overflow of God’s grace was worth all the moments of pleading with Him to remove my spiritual numbness.
I’m not sure where you’re at with God this week, but maybe you just need to stop for a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to re-awaken your heart to the beauty of the gospel.
Perhaps the good news of the gospel has become old news to your soul and you just need to askGod’s Spirit to refresh you with the good news of His love for you. I pray this article has encouraged you to do so.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive…
 J.D. Greear, Jesus Continued…Why The Spirit Inside You is Better Than the Jesus Beside You (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 106