There seems to be a division between studying God and loving God. These days, we’re quick to differentiate between “head knowledge” and “heart knowledge” and note them as very separate things. It’s almost become thought of as legalistic or strict to encourage disciplined study of the Word, and many people say they get nothing out of it.
It appears we as modern Christians are primarily concerned with our emotional connection to God, and “studying” (a word negatively associated with schooling) simply doesn’t further this emotional state. I strongly agree that an emotional love towards and relationship with the Lord is important—it is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in us—but I think it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to faith.
The practice of studying God has a profound effect on our relationship with Him, even our emotional connection with Him. The act of studying teaches us discipline, which permeates into every aspect of our lives and helps us remain obedient in tempting situations. But more than the action of studying, the content we learn has a dramatic impact on our hearts as well.
God’s extremely interconnected. He doesn’t remain in compartmentalized boxes, with a box for “worship” and one for “study” and one for “prayer.” All these aspects of faith blend together and form the essence of who He is and ultimately who we are. When I study God, whether through the Bible or a sermon or a Christian Living book from Barnes and Noble, the truths I learn about Him cause my emotional connection with Him to deepen.
For example, last year a friend recommended Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler to me, a book about all the names of God. Through this book, I studied God as I would study for a test, repeating the words to myself and attempting to commit them to memory. This was an unemotional task, but it had deep-seated emotional effects in me later. For example, I learned God is called “El Olam” meaning “Everlasting God.” We sing a worship song by that name, with lyrics that read,
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won’t grow weary
And when I sang that song in church for the first time after learning “El Olam,” my heart praised in a whole new way. I was able to call God by His full name and was overwhelmed at that privilege. Just like a boy who calls his girlfriend by her first, middle, and last name when he’s proposing, knowing God’s intimate names is powerful and very much emotional.
I wouldn’t have felt that new love for the Lord in worship if I hadn’t previously studied Him beforehand. And I give that example not to promote actions themselves but rather to show the value actions hold in our emotional lives. It’s worth it to study God.
The level of your relationship with Him should not be determined by how emotional you are as a person or how often you cry in church. And feeling emotional love towards God doesn’t write-off your need to learn all that you possibly can about Him. There is always more to discover, more to cherish, and more to wonder about. We won’t understand everything we learn right away, but that’s why the Bible says studying is hiding His Word in our hearts… We study Him to store away knowledge that our heart will remind us of later. It will come out through prayers and songs of praise, deep conversations among friends and quiet moments with our Father. What starts out as unemotional studying turns into passionate adoration as we’re ushered into a deeper friendship with God. As we study piece by piece, the puzzle of I AM begins to come together, and we can’t help but fall at His feet in deep love and pure emotion.