“I’m so discouraged today. I would be a hypocrite if I went to church today.”

Despair is a terrible advisor of daily decisions, and yet statements like this one above are the very real convictions of too many struggling Christians. “I can’t pray right now, I’m just so angry”, “Leave me alone, I don’t like you right now”, “I’ll love you again when I can mean it”, “I can’t go to home group this evening; people can’t see me like this”, and many other versions of these are claimed as explanations for not doing what we know is right. The justification is very simple: we don’t want to be hypocrites. We know it is not right to pray when angry, to love when there is resentment, or to smile over coffee at a church meeting while weeping inside.

In a moment of more controlled thinking it is easier to spot the obvious folly of such statements. It is not precise enough simply to describe hypocrisy as doing something insincerely, or pretending to be what you really aren’t at that moment. Instead, hypocrisy would be to tell others that it is good to pray even when they don’t feel like it, but then not do so yourself. It is hypocritical to say that church is a hospital for the spiritually sick and weak, and then use your own spiritual weakness as an excuse to stay at home on Sunday.

It is definitely not right to demonstrate love to someone while internally venting your frustrations against them. But the problem is not hypocrisy. The problem is “internally venting your frustrations against them.”

We don’t fix anger by abstaining from prayer. We don’t overcome hatred by abstaining from acts of love. We are not encouraged during a trial by abstaining from church. Instead, next time you don’t want to do what is right because you don’t feel like it, do it nonetheless. Your downcast or sinful feelings will be corrected quicker and better by doing the right thing than by not doing what is right.

Our emotions are good indicators of where we are, but they are not good advisors on what to do next. Instead, trust that God’s way is always best, even if you think today is an exception. When you acknowledge God in all your actions, then He will use that very action even to work on your feelings, heart, and attitudes. We are very wise in using “I don’t want to be a hypocrite” as an excuse not to do the next right thing, but if we fear God, then we will overcome misguided excuses, stop our evil thinking, and be blessed by the Lord for doing so.

This is the foundational truth on which the entire book of Proverbs is built.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
it will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:5-8