On what will we base our lives:
feelings that are subject to change or
the unchanging character of God?
“I didn’t have this overwhelming feeling when I got saved. Sometimes it makes me question if it was really ‘for real,’ you know?”
“I don’t really like reading those passages that talk about sin or hearing it preached at church. It makes me feel bad. I’d rather hear stuff that pumps me up!”
“I just feel like God doesn’t really love me sometimes or that maybe He would love me more if I was more like that super-spiritual person I know. I’m just kind of worthless.”
Any of these sayings sound familiar? Do they resonate with you at all? All of these statements have something in common: they are all based around feelings that have dictated a person’s line of thinking.
What I like to call “feel-ology” is the study of one’s feelings, and it seems to permeate our culture. We have become obsessed with our own emotions and trying to understand them, quickly turning into solely introspective bumps on a proverbial log… or in our case, stumps in a pew. But emotions are tricky sometimes and run very deep.
If we as Christians are to follow the Lord Jesus wholeheartedly and die to self, we have to spend less time consumed with our own feelings and more time enjoying (getting to know and experiencing) our beautiful Lord.
Are feelings all bad?
“He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.” | Psalm 33:15
We should be careful to discount feelings as useless, as God has given us an amazing ability to feel emotions of a wide range. But trouble comes when we spend so much time pouring over our own feelings or past offenses that it takes our eyes off of Jesus. I know some well-meaning and very lovely people who see no merit in emotion whatsoever… they feel it’s “taboo” or “not okay” to talk about emotions. But emotions are very much a characteristic of God! He is FULL of emotions and thoughts toward sin, the lost, His children, etc. (see Romans 1:18, 1 John 4:8, Isaiah 62:5, and Judges 2:18 for some examples).
But just because not all feelings are bad doesn’t mean we should be obsessed with them. Nowadays, I know less and less serious Christians who want to study the character of God (“theology”) but would like to spend hours ranting on social media or engaging in fruitless conversation over things based on feelings (“feel-ology”). Of course, not all debate is bad or harmful, but if we base our lives on emotions, we will succumb to a future full of stinking thinking.
Are these emotions Spirit-led?
A.W. Tozer once said,
“God never intended that such a being as man should be the plaything of his feelings,”
meaning that we aren’t to be utterly controlled by unbridled emotions. And yet, we see the Lord Jesus Himself moved greatly by emotions, such as anger and deep compassion (see Matthew 9:36 and Mark 3:5). The key difference between the Lord Jesus acting on emotion and us acting on emotion (such as blowing up at the friend who borrows something without permission) is that He was always acting in line with the Father’s will.
If our emotional response is bred out of the Spirit moving in us toward a purpose that glorifies God, then it is something to go with. However, if it is something that pulls us to focus on self and doesn’t ultimately bring us closer to God, it isn’t something worth dwelling on and we shouldn’t let it move us.
Are these emotions totally true?
The psalmist David wrote about his feelings a LOT and expressed his questions and concerns to the Lord. One of these examples is in Psalm 13. He starts off with all of these questions and while he does, he reveals some things he “feels” that aren’t true.
In verse 1, he assumes God has forgotten him and hidden His face from him because of how he feels about his circumstances. The feeling is very real, but the emotion of feeling forsaken wasn’t grounded in the truth. David later goes on to take his eyes off himself and onto the TRUTH of the character of God:
“But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” | Psalm 13:5-6
Emotions like what David was experiencing here aren’t ultimately grounded in the truth. But David gives a great example of what to do when they come up in our hearts:
talk to the Lord and recount His character.
While emotions can be very real, it is most important to give them up to the Lord and trust Him with the rest. If we are believing lies like “God doesn’t love me” or “nobody really cares” or the ones that were cited at the top of the page that are based on feelings, we need to put on that spiritual armor and fight with the Word of God!
When we allow our feelings to dictate our beliefs about God, we are putting our own thoughts in the place of Him… we are in essence exalting ourselves to the place of “god” of our lives… yikes!! Scripture encourages us to take every thought captive:
“…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” | 2 Corinthians 10:5
When we walk hand-in-hand with the Shepherd, He will move our hearts to be in line with His. Let your emotions look like His. My friends, speak the truth to your heart. Don’t base your life on “feel-ology” but on the unchanging character of our great and loving God. He will show us the way forward. He will steady our hearts no matter the emotion.