The head or the heart? The mind or the emotions? The will or the affections? Often, we’re tempted to think of these as opposite ends of the spectrum—we can either be filled with information or be “filled with the Spirit” (understood here in an emotional sense)—and apologetics types are stuck on the wrong side.
If you’re like me—principally left-brained and taken with information and facts and doctrine and theology—sometimes getting your heart to respond to God when your head is busy musing about God can be hard.
For many of us, emotional intimacy with God is difficult to come by. It’s just more natural for us to ponder ideas than to get emotionally close to the One we’re thinking about. If that describes you, I have a few thoughts that might help since it describes me, too.
First, I think the facts versus feelings, head knowledge versus heart knowledge motif is a false dichotomy; we don’t have to choose one or the other. Generally, feelings are responses to facts. The more we know about something—or someone—the more our feelings are likely to kick in.
Temperaments are an issue, though. God made us each unique. That means we’re often inherently inclined in one direction and not the other. Above, I said it’s “more natural for us” because God designed us that way for his special purpose.
Second, though both head and heart are important, I’m personally convinced the “head” side of the equation is more critical. It’s one reason I’m not LDS or New Age. C.S. Lewis didn’t trust passion—too easy to be manipulated and misled by it. Those who are quickly moved by emotion are vulnerable in a way that deeply thoughtful people are not. Emotions make life delicious, to be sure, but truth makes life safe—and safety is the important thing when it comes to spiritual matters.
Think of your Christian life like a train. Truth is the engine. It provides the power and the pull. It gets our lives moving in the right direction and keeps us on the right track. Experience is the caboose. The train can get where it needs to go with just the engine. The caboose, though, can never pull the load.
Of course, abounding in knowledge but having little heart for God is spiritually deadly. One characteristic of genuine regeneration is that our hearts cry out, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). We hunger for him, but often intimacy with him eludes us. We have good theology, but our experience is not so great. What now?
James promises that if we work at drawing near to God, he will draw near to us (Jas. 4:8). But how do we do that? Let me suggest an approach that helps me get my own “caboose” moving with the train in practical ways.
At my desk, on my computer stand, is a sticker that says, “Coram Deo.” The Latin phrase—literally, “in the presence of God”—reminds me that wherever I go and whatever I do, I am in God’s presence. He is right there with me. I nurture that frame of mind all day long to make my time with God more emotionally satisfying.
For example, since, according to James, the initiative is on our side, I try to start every day consciously connecting to God. One of my first waking thoughts is, Good morning, Lord. It gets me going. It sets the pace. God is with me. When I get up, I sit with him and open my heart, expressing my needs in prayer. Coram Deo.
As the day wears on, I take every opportunity to converse with and interact with the Lord, consciously aware of him as my companion in all I do. I share my questions and concerns, my anguishes and heartaches, my happy moments and thankful thoughts. I affirm trust in him in difficult and confusing times. Coram Deo.
Finally, I end my day with the Lord, too. I bend a knee at bedtime and take an inventory of my day, thanking God for each particular thing that happened—pleasant or unpleasant, satisfying or difficult. Coram Deo.
So, here’s what I suggest will help you move emotionally closer to God. Start your day with him, end your day with him, and work to keep him consciously near your heart every moment in between. And even when the sense of divine embrace eludes you, God is still right there with you nonetheless. Coram Deo.