Nine words changed my life. While in college, I became a believer and linked up with a parachurch organization. I attended weekly local meetings and periodic summer and holiday conferences. While at these conferences, I heard many students get very emotional, as they talked about how much they “just LOVED the Lord.” While I admired (and secretly envied) their zeal, I couldn’t identify with it. Since the conferences were mostly in the “deep South,” in the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” and I was from Maryland, I first chalked it up to southerners being more emotionally expressive than northerners. Still, the contrast between their zeal for the Lord and my more staid expressions of gratitude for what Christ had done for me (even the description sounds stiff) continued to bother me.
Showing outwardly passionate feelings regarding Christ wasn’t me. I knew I couldn’t fake such emotions. I began to ask myself questions like, “Do I really love the Lord?” and “If I do, how could I show it?” It was then that the Lord opened my eyes to those nine life-changing words that are found in John 14:15. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” He did not say, “If you love Me, cry”—or shout, or display some other emotion.
That was my answer! Showing love for the Lord was not a matter of feeling, but of doing. It was better to do what God wanted rather than to operate on feelings alone. Feelings may accompany a believer’s decision to follow God’s commands, but they aren’t the indicators or proof of the person’s love for God. Feelings were the caboose of the train that “comes along for the ride,” not the fuel of the engine. Even Jesus demonstrated His love for the Father through acts of obedience, not emotion. See John 14:31; 15:10.
It is difficult to express how liberating that was for me! I stopped ruing what I could not do, conjure up emotions, and started to focus on what I could and should do: make decisions based on what the Lord commanded. It is significant to note that, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the word “feel” and its tenses are found only 13 times in the Bible, and only one of the uses pertains to emotions. That usage is in Hebrews 4:15, where our high priest empathizes with our weaknesses. There are no verses connecting loving God and feeling, rather only loving and doing.
This simple, yet profound, obedience/love connection has encouraged and sustained me for almost fifty years. Then, this past December, God showed me another avenue through which people could express love for God. I had been experiencing the truth without realizing it. The printed notes of a community Bible study I attend noted that it is gracious of God to give His people the gift of music to express deep truths and emotions that words alone could never convey. How true this has been for me. I have found a more intimate connection to God when I am “caught-up” in worshipful music, praising the Lord. Music helps me/us voice what we can’t say in words or feel in some other way.
These two truths have deeply enhanced my walk with the Lord. I can be confident that God sees my obedience as evidence of my love for Him. And, I can treasure the moments that He makes contact with my heart through worship. Romans 8:26 says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we cannot put our prayers into words. Perhaps the Spirit likewise translates the language of the heart, whether it is communicated in my obedience or in my worship, and tells the Father, “That’s what Donna meant to say.”
By Donna Walker