Matthew West put out a song several years ago called “Motions.” It was a prayer about how he doesn’t want to go through the motions anymore but actually engage with God and grow in faith. For several years this song was an anthem for me, a declaration that I wanted to put my whole heart into knowing God and seeking Him.
Then a hard season hit and going through the motions was all I had left. Suddenly, a phrase I was trying not to let define my faith–“going through the motions”–became the thing that actually helped me grow.
What it means to go through the motions
Most of the time when we talk about going through the motions in our faith we talk about how it’s a bad thing, how we need to move past motions and take an active role in our relationship with God. There was a point in my own faith journey when I would have loudly heralded that message.
However, after walking through a season where I was struggling to relate with God, I’ve come to see there is a place and time to go through the motions.
When I use the phrase “going through the motions” I mean performing actions but not necessarily having any passion or emotional connection.
In a faith context that means reading your Bible, praying, or going to church because you feel you have to or because it’s expected, but you’re really not connecting with God. You’re doing but not really relating.
Now you might be thinking, how is this a good thing? Don’t we want to do these things in order to build our relationship with God?
Yes, that is the goal. And sometimes when we find ourselves just going through the motions we need to take a heart check and either step away from those disciplines for a bit or reevaluate how to do them in a way that gets our hearts more involved.
But what about when you’re mad at God, when you’re so emotionally zapped from your hard season that all you have the energy to do is show up and do the thing?
Can I just say, that’s okay. And actually, that’s probably the best thing you can do for you faith.
Keep showing up.
Even if you don’t feel like it. Even if it’s hard. Even if being with God is the last thing you want to do, keep showing up.
“Where else can I go?”
During my hard season when I faced a lot of disappointment and anger toward God, most days I still opened my Bible or cracked open my journal. Sundays I still went to church. I kept the Christian station playing on the radio in my car. I kept going through the motions in hopes that my heart would catch up eventually.
That’s the beauty of the spiritual disciplines. Sometimes we do them because we have to, because we know it is what’s best for us even if it feels inconvenient or we feel disconnected. Sometimes we practice the disciplines because we want to. Both motivations are important. One develops routine and discipline, and the other builds emotional connection and relationship.
You need both.
If the desire to invest in your relationship with God isn’t there, that’s okay. Allow the discipline side to take over.
One passage I visited and meditated on frequently was in John 6. Jesus was doing some hard teaching and the people were not willing to accept it, so they turned away and left.
As the crowds he had been teaching went the opposite way, Jesus turned to His twelve disciplines and asked, “Do you want to go away as well?”
To which Simon Peter replied,
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69, ESV).
Keep going through the motions
Though many times I showed up to my devoted time less than enthused, I kept showing up because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was mad at God, but I knew He had the answers. I had enough of a history with Him to know that ultimately He is good and faithful, and though I wasn’t seeing that in certain areas of life, I was willing to keep showing up in hopes that at some point my heart would heal and my desire to spend time with Him would return.
If you find yourself in a hard season right now, could I encourage you to keep that routine, keep going through the motions. Allow the act of meeting with God be what keeps you afloat even if you don’t feel anything.
Keep going through the motions; the emotions will follow.
Also, acknowledge that maybe this season isn’t so much about you pouring out and doing for God, but listening to and receiving from Him.
I’ve found that even in the hard seasons when I show up with a less than connected heart, God is always faithful to show up to meet me, to fill me, to listen to my honest heart.
What practices keep you afloat in hard seasons?
Live in His love!
P.S. Are you looking for a some ways to stay connected with God? Check out my #10daydevochallenge!