By Kirk Abatelli, Crosswalk.com
Does lack of excitement mean that we lack passion for God? Or does lack of enthusiasm mean our passion for Christ is gone? Not at all. Many would define passion today as a barely controllable emotion, but that is not the case.
While teaching at a Christian School, a young girl came to me to talk about a church that she said, “lacked passion.” I asked her to explain what she meant by that. She answered, “There’s no energy. No excitement.” I responded, “So you see passion as excitement, and even enthusiasm.” She answered with a resounding, “Yes. There are no hands raised, no one singing their hearts out, no one saying, ‘Praise Jesus.’ They are just sitting there looking somber and serious. No energy.” I replied, “Lack of excitement does not equal lack of passion.”
In the same class there was another girl who was shy and quiet but when she spoke you listened. With doubt in her voice she said, “I don’t think I am a Christian.” I asked her why she would think that, knowing she prayed quite often and served behind the scenes helping people. “Well, pastor, I am not as passionate as others when it comes to Jesus because I don’t show my excitement as they do. I prefer calm. I like to fold my hands and not extend them in prayer.” I encouraged her that her faith in Jesus and His sacrifice for her made her a Christian, not the amount of energy she used to express her faith. Passion for God is a devotion to Him, and a desire for Him. It is not always associated with excitement.
The energetic faith versus the calm faith
Many in our culture believe if a person is calm and does not show excitement or energy that that person lacks passion. There are many who are quiet and reserved that the first young lady would consider as lacking passion.
Mother Theresa comes to my mind. She had passion, but hers is seen as she fed the hungry, aided the distressed, and cared for the poor. She did not do it with hands raised up but with hands outstretched to feed the poor and embrace the little children. She did not shout out “Hallelujah” but had a quiet laughter that showed us her love for Christ. She did not yell loud praises but in soft prayer thanked God for what He gives. She had passion.
There was an elderly military man in one of the congregations I served that I highly respect. Whenever we talked about Jesus and His blood-filled cross, he did not get excited. Rather tears filled his eyes and his voice with a quiver said, “I can’t believe He did that for me.” After he confessed his sins, I told him God forgave all his sin because of Jesus’ sacrifice for him. He softly said, “Amen. Amen.” Whenever he received the wonderful gift of the Lord’s Supper, tears came once again with a “Thank you.” He had passion.
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane He fervently prayed to God the Father. He was not enthusiastic or jumping up and down with excitement. Drops of sweat mixed with blood dropped down His face while He prayed. In the quiet cool evening Jesus passionately prayed for strength to go to the cross and die for our sins.
Hebrews 12:2 says, “for the joy set before [Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame.” He somberly, quietly, but passionately went to the cross for the joy of saving us. Lack of enthusiasm does not equal lack of passion.
The quiet whisper
Many children, teenagers and adults today believe lack of enthusiasm or energy equals lack of passion. For them passion for God cannot be in the mundane, boring, or sober but in feelings of elatedness and excitement. This definition of passion is a downfall in our culture, which seeks after the next high, looking for the next thrill. Some will call them the “mountain top experiences.”
There is nothing wrong with those mountaintop experiences but the problem lies when those experiences become the definition of passion and the only type of passion we seek after. When we don’t feel the excitement or the “passion,” we then question whether those around us love God. We wonder whether God loves us when we get depressed or feel life is mundane. If this “passion” is the only thing we seek, we can end up missing God a lot of times, especially in the gentle, quiet whisper.
In First Kings 19, Elijah was in a cave and God told him to go out so that He would pass by Elijah. Elijah stood outside the cave and watched, but God was not in the powerful wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks. He was not even in the earthquake, or the fire that came. God was rather in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12). Elijah found God not in the excitement of the earthquake, wind or fire, but in the gentle and passionate whisper of God. Elijah would have missed God’s whisper and presence if he only sought after the “mountaintop” moments.
Years ago, an art teacher friend painted a picture for me with a verse that read, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” I believe she was nudging me to slow down in life so that I can listen to the Risen Christ’s passionate whisper and for me to explore another form of passion in the sober and calm.
I love the passion in enthusiasm, excitement and something new, however I’ve learned to have passion in the silent prayer, the sober, and the mundane. I even desire it sometimes. I assume most parents, like I, would appreciate too the moments of silence once the kids are in bed. It is in the passion of the calm and the “unexciting” moments we can hear Him whisper. I have learned to welcome those passionate moments of the quiet, sober, and mundane, where I sit with my risen Savior and just reflect on the wonders of His grace.
Thinking of how much He loves us to make such a sacrifice and realizing that those moments of spending time with God just being still are one reason He rose. I find myself at times just pulling out a hymnal in the church and singing to God. I try to take my friend’s “subtle” advice by going out of my way to have those quiet and sober moments, just to sit with God and be still. Lack of excitement does not mean a heart that lacks passion. Sometimes it means the heart is passionately listening to the gentle whisper of God.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Ben White
Rev. Kirk Abatelli is a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod for 13 years, and is currently serving Faith Lutheran Church in Oak Ridge, TN. He has also lead Bible Studies, performed Baptisms, and encouraged teenagers at the Paradox Teen Center. He is a husband, father and foster parent. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Concordia University Ann Arbor, and with a Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He likes hikes, spending time with family, video games, Star Wars, and Marvel movies. His favorite verse is “[Christ] is first in everything” (Col. 1:18b).