I’ve often heard people say things like, “I must not be close to Jesus because I don’t feel close to Him.” But the Bible makes it clear that we’re not supposed to go by our feelings or how things appear to be on the surface. “We walk by faith, not by sight.”1
If we rely on our feelings as an indicator of how we’re doing spiritually, we’re going to be unstable. We’ll be tossed to and fro by the various feelings that happen to come along, and we’ll never be able to anticipate how we’re going to be doing tomorrow, because that would be determined by how we feel when we get up in the morning.
Regardless of how we may happen to feel, we can know that our relationship with Jesus is firm and that His love for us is unwavering. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,”2 “The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you,”3 and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”4
Walking by feelings invites discouragement
If you’re operating according to your feelings, you might be feeling terrible a lot of the time because there’s a lot of negative in the world today, not to mention the lies and doubts of the devil! When you are flooded with negative thoughts, you can begin to think you’re a failure or a hopeless case, until you end up totally defeated, discouraged, and in despair. Then it’s easy to think negative thoughts such as, I certainly am not close to Jesus! In fact, He must not love me, because look how terrible I feel!
When you’re relying on your feelings, your emotions can wreak havoc and make you feel very far from God. When you’re walking by sight5 instead of faith, you’re more vulnerable to doubt. When besieged with such doubts, you’ve got to “fight the good fight of faith”6 and resist the devil and his lies.7
If you don’t feel close to Jesus, don’t worry about it
When my daughter was small and I would tuck her into bed, she would say, “I’m going to snuggle up in Jesus’ arms now.” She could imagine that, and I’m glad she could, but I’ve never had that kind of imagination. I don’t feel like I’m resting on Jesus’ breast when I go to sleep. I’m not that imaginative, and that’s just the way I am.
Some people are able to enjoy things like that, whereas others of us can’t. Some of us are much more emotional and “feely” than others. But if I allowed myself to be worried just because I don’t feel a big emotional closeness to Jesus, I’d be constantly down! I just have to take things by faith. There aren’t too many verses in the Bible about feelings, but there are a lot about faith and trusting God and believing His Word.
You can know if you’re close to Jesus because His Word promises that if you “draw nigh to God … He will draw nigh to you.”8 Even if you can’t feel any closeness at all, you can know you are close to Him if you’re doing your best to draw close to Him and to love and please Him.
What if you’ve made mistakes?
Of course, when we know we haven’t lived up to what Jesus expects, it’s easy to feel guilty. Oh, I can’t possibly be close to Him because of all my faults and shortcomings! But don’t let the devil—or even your own heart—condemn you.9 If you’re sorry for your mistakes and sincerely desire to be close to Him, He will be merciful and gracious to you.10 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”11 “A broken and a contrite heart, He will not despise.”12
If you sincerely want to please Jesus, He will certainly “draw nigh unto you” when you call out to Him. The Bible promises, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him in truth,”13 and “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”14
So regardless of any feelings of discouragement, guilt, or remorse that you may be experiencing, if you know you’re truly seeking to love and please Jesus and follow His Word, then you can trust that you are close to Him—whether you happen to feel that way or not!
In fact, sometimes people are the closest to Jesus when they feel the furthest from Him. For example, when we’re humbled by our own mistakes and shortcomings, we don’t usually feel so inspired or close to God, but we may actually be very close to Him. There are also times when some people may feel that they are very close to Him when in fact they may not be close to Him at all—particularly if they’re trusting in their own works or goodness instead of His goodness, grace, and mercy.
Sometimes we feel bad because God is speaking to our hearts, convicting us of a sin, or trying to warn us about something. So when we’re feeling bad, we should examine our hearts and actions to find out why we’re feeling that way or what God may be trying to show us.15
The key to closeness
How do you know if you’re close to Jesus? How do you get close to Him? You do that by reading and following His Word. Jesus promised, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”16 So if you’re loving Him and keeping His Word, then of course you’re close to Him. He’s made His home in your heart, and that’s pretty close! It’s as simple as that.
Being close to Jesus
We may sometimes experience certain thrills of the spirit—the spiritual high of helping someone find Jesus, or when God’s Word has spoken loudly and clearly to us—which are a token of God’s love and a special encouragement from Him. But we can’t expect those feelings, and we shouldn’t get discouraged or feel that something is wrong with us or our connection with the Lord if they don’t happen.
You’re not always going to be excited and feel inspired and be jumping up and down for joy. Sometimes you’re hungry or tired. Sometimes you’re sick. Sometimes it’s a struggle to keep your mind on the fact that Jesus loves and cares about you, and that if you hang on long enough, He will pull you through.
So sometimes you might not feel close to Jesus, and other times you might. But don’t let that worry you. Even if you don’t feel close to Jesus, you can still be close to Him, because closeness to Jesus is much more than a mere feeling!
What we want is to be close to Jesus! If you happen to feel close to Him, be thankful. But if you don’t happen to feel close to Jesus, don’t be discouraged. And remember, you can know you are close to Jesus if you love Him and are trying your best to please Him.