Feelings, feelings, feelings. We all have them. Some have got that loving feeling. Others have feelings of dread. We know when things don’t feel right and wonder how long the good feeling will last. Feelings are all around us. How much influence should our feelings have on what we do? How do our feelings affect our faith?
If it feels good
In America we are told, “If it feels good, do it.” Unfortunately, that can lead us down some very dangerous paths. Doing something that feels good in the moment often has negative feelings and results in the afterglow. Taking a look at a beautiful woman who is not our wife, minimally or not clothed, may feel good in the moment, but the guilt and shame afterwards is oppressive. To be undercharged for something at a store feels like we got a great deal, but we also know that to not correct the cashier is akin to shoplifting. We can justify it, but when we dig to the bottom, it is still stealing.
A saying that I’ve developed in the past couple years is, “Hard does not equal bad.” I want to add to that, “A good feeling doesn’t mean it’s right.”
There are many things that I have done because I wanted to feel good, yet they weren’t right. To be first feels good, but Jesus says the first must be last in His Kingdom (Mark 9:25). To stand up for myself and my desires feels good, but Scripture says to submit yourself to one another (Ephesians 5:21). In other words, put others before yourself.
A fickle master
Feelings are a fickle master. They come and they go, often without any reason. One minute you can be happy and confident, then for no apparent reason, everything feels wrong.
I remember when my kids were teenagers living at home. I called it the “lightswitch emotions.” We could be laughing and having a great time, everything good and happy in the world, then, like someone flipped a switch, without any known reason, tears, and the world was suddenly falling apart. They couldn’t explain it, and I certainly had no clue what was happening.
These lightswitch emotions aren’t unique to teenage girls (though they may be more pronounced then). If we are honest with ourselves, most of us can relate to sudden shifts in our feelings, often without an identifiable cause. Since feelings tend to be unreliable, how do you confidently depend on something that is so fleeting?
Does God speak through feelings?
God created our feelings, and I do believe that He uses them to speak to us. Most of us have the ability to know by our feelings that something is wrong. Our conscience (aka the Holy Spirit), has an amazing ability to give us feelings that direct us away from what is harmful and towards what is good. It may be in a feeling that we cannot explain, but we know it to be a clear direction.
The tricky part is that the enemy also uses our feelings. After all, he is the great deceiver, taking what God created as good then manipulating, twisting, and corrupting it. The enemy is an expert at manipulating us through our feelings.
We need to be in tune with the Lord to know what feelings to trust and which ones are untrustworthy. It is only through the discernment provided by the Holy Spirit that we are able to accurately know what each feeling is and whether to follow it or not.
Living by faith
Living by faith is often the opposite of following our feelings. I’m learning how to walk by faith when my head says “This doesn’t make sense” while my spirit is saying “God said”. The key is to determine where that “feeling” is coming from – is it from me, or is it a prompting from the Holy Spirit?
Faith is the assurance of things to come (Hebrews 11:1). While feelings are fickle, faith is solid. There is an assurance when we are living in faith. It may be unexplainable, but it is very real.
It is important to know the basis of that assurance, which is founded in God’s character. We can know beyond doubt that He is who He is and that will not change. As we get to know Him better and better, our faith will grow.
Whatever you are needing faith to believe, look for God’s character in that matter. When we learn who He is, we are able to have assurance, even in the midst of human uncertainty. For example, God is love (1 John 4 and other passages), therefore, we can be certain that anything He does or asks us to do is loving.
I had someone tell me that as he prayed for God to give him faith, he had more doubts. I replied that was like me praying for bigger biceps and having a set of dumbbells appear.
Our muscles grow through exercise and resistance. Providing dumbbells is an answer to my prayer for bigger biceps. I then have the responsibility to pick up the weights and use them to grow my muscles.
Faith is much like our muscles. If we don’t use them, they will become weaker. The more we apply our faith, the stronger it grows. We have to face the resistance of doubt and make the decision to act in faith. The more we do so, the greater our faith will become.
It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). We are called by God to live by faith, not by feelings. Ironically, our faith comes from Him. As we press into knowing and being with the Lord, our faith will grow, and we’ll be better able to interpret our feelings.
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