There were times in my life when I was caused to doubt my faith because I confused an emotional high with genuine faith. But just as the giddy love of newlyweds mellows into something sweeter, deeper, and better--something that can withstand emotional lows and sorrows--our love for, and faith in God matures through emotional highs and lows as the two become one. There is a danger, I think, in putting our faith to an emotional test.
In Job's deepest suffering he was still able to say, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21) I think it is safe to say Job was in no mood to raise his hands and sing a clappy praise song. But his faith was never shaken. Job's great statement of faith is often quoted: "For I know that my Redeemer lives,and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another." Yet seldom are his very next words quoted with it: "My heart faints within me!" (Job 19:25-27) In spite of his heartbreaking sorrows, Job still knew the gospel and trusted his Redeemer.
So often we examine our faith as if faith is something we have to do well enough to be accepted. But faith is not something we do. It is something we have. It is something we are given. (Eph. 2:8) I can't make myself believe God or trust Him with my life. Only God can do that for me. Nor can I believe Him or trust Him better by working myself up into an emotional fervor.
Part of the confusion, I think, is that in our age, when we speak of the heart, we mean the seat of our emotions. Yet in the Biblical context it more often refers to the seat of our desires or affections. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21) Jesus was not speaking of our emotions here. He was referring to people or things we value. Things we are motivated to keep and protect. Things for which we are willing to sacrifice and die. Job's faith was heartfelt, even when he was emotionally low. Though he had lost many things and people that he had loved and enjoyed, he clung to one thing and would not give it up. He refused to take his wife's advice to, "Curse God and die." (Job 2:9) So when we read those verses that refer to the heart, we tend to examine our emotions when perhaps we ought to be examining our affections and our priorities.
I am not speaking against emotions here. They are a gift of God, too. Yet when the gifts of pleasing emotions are absent, faith is not necessarily absent. Many Christian people battle depression. We probably don't help them much if we scold them to conjure up more faith. Perhaps it would be better counsel to advise them to draw upon their faith to withstand their darkest hours. People who are grieving should not feel they have to put on a happy face to show faith. They can sit in sackcloth and ashes as Job did, and utter genuine, amazing testimonies of faith and trust in God.
What a blessing our emotions can be! The thrill of a new revelation from God's truth, the exhilaration of enjoying His beautiful creation, the love of family and friends, the joy of worship--these are precious gifts indeed. Yet let us not interpret the absence of these emotions as an absence of faith, especially during those darkest hours when it is our faith that will sustain us.