Are Feelings As Important as we Suppose?
Feelings versus Reality

feelings

By Grantley Morris

In many Christian circles today there is an undue emphasis on feelings. Some people understand the limits of such expressions. Others, however, end up confused and bewildered by the emphasis. Even more distressing, are those with the highest intentions for whom looking to feelings unknowingly degenerates into what could actually be called superstition.

Every day, I hear from casualities of this spiritually unhealthy practice. From all over the world, distressed people keep writing to me, needlessly worried about their relationship with God. Not surprisingly, their e-mails are filled with the word feel. They can barely say anything about their relationship with God without using the word every few sentences. Their own words highlight the heart of their problem.

Spiritual things are not physical, but neither are they emotional. We all understand the first part of that truth, but many of us are highly confused about the second. We know how ridiculous it would be to try using a ruler to measure spiritual growth, or a heart monitor to detect spiritual activity. Using feelings as a spiritual indicator is equally inappropriate. In fact, exalting feelings to that position is downright dangerous. It is as ungodly as using tarot cards, or some other occult practice, for spiritual guidance. Why? Because we are called to live by faith, not by feelings or circumstances.

God and his Word never change. Feelings, on the other hand, are as fickle as the wind.

Imagine being hoodwinked into believing if the wind blows from the east, God loves you; if it blows from the west, God is furious with you; if it blows from the north, you are eternally damned. That would be both terrifying and insulting to God. What is just as terrifying and insulting to God, however, is being conned into believing our feelings indicate God’s attitude toward us. It is a nightmarish, spiritually dangerous superstition that is nonsensical to the spiritually mature but grips some people so powerfully that they actually believe it.

To treat the wind as an indicator of our relationship with God would be to dethrone God in our lives and deify the weather. Expecting our feelings to reveal how God sees us, however, is just as mistaken. To be freed from this bondage is to be free indeed.

The enemy of our souls – the deceiver – cannot mess with God’s truth, but he readily messes with our feelings. God allows it, because he expects us to live by faith. Feelings toss us around like a boat in a storm, but faith keeps us anchored to God, preventing us from drifting onto rocks.

chilled out cat

Forget about feeling God’s presence, or feeling peace, or feeling forgiven, or feeling loved, or feeling anything else. Let go of all of that. It has nothing to do with spiritual reality. Instead, honor God by resting in the certainty that no matter how you feel – numb, scared, confused, in physical or emotional pain, or whatever – God is with you. Emotions may rage within, keeping you from feeling peace. Nevertheless, you have peace with God. You are no longer God’s enemy, but his friend, because of the spiritual miracle Christ worked by his death and resurrection. That means that no matter how bizarre, or even terrifying, your circumstances, God is with you, and he is all you need. Regardless of how much everything within and without screams the opposite, God remains warm, good, patient, kind, gentle, loving, understanding, compassionate and generous.

Our emotions and sensibilities are as changeable as the weather, but God remains steadfast and faithful. No matter what the weather is outside, the God who has made your body his home (Scriptures) remains in you, in all his power and wonder. On cold, dreary days, the God enthroned in you is just as warm, powerful, loving, and delightful, as on exquisite, sunny days.

The Christian life is not about feeling, nor about doing, but about being.

various feelings

Surprising Reasons for Feelings Going Berserk

Through absolutely no fault of their own, even spiritual giants can be hurled into bewilderingly deep and prolonged anxiety or depression. Moreover, either of these conditions not only send one’s feelings haywire, many experiencing it have not the slightest clue as to what is happening to them. In fact, it is not uncommon to even not realize one has anxiety or depression. The afflicted, of course, are acutely aware of bizarre or disturbing thoughts and emotions but often have no clue of the cause. This makes it disturbingly easy for spiritual people to leap to the wrong presumption that what is happening to them must be spiritual in origin.

In the general community, there is so much ignorance about depression and anxiety that appallingly many people not only make fools of themselves, but grieve God, by stupidly blaming the victims, even though they typically battle the onslaught with such intensity and heroism that all of heaven wants to cheer their efforts. Self-appointed experts shoot off two-bit advice with the arrogance of an ignoramuses thinking they can dismantle a nuclear warhead.

    Sidenote: We often unknowingly blunder into situations that are more critical, delicate and complex than we ever imagine. At such times, the desperate need is to be graced with enormous helpings of humility, kindness, gentleness, patience, compassion and self-control, beyond anything we have ever before known. Blurting out the first thing that enters less than God-sized minds is as safe as firing a shotgun into a crowd in the hope of killing a fly that might possibly be what is bothering someone.

feelings

Anxiety and depression are so closely related that professionals often prescribe the same treatment for them. It is not unusual, in fact, to be assaulted by both maladies at the same time.

Let’s look briefly at these two conditions, just to highlight how divorced from spiritual factors both they, and the unexpected feelings they generate, are.

Tragedies such as child abuse, trauma, betrayal, abandonment, death of a loved one, and so on, can not only send one reeling at the time but, unless fully resolved instead of shoved into the back of the don’t-go-there closet, they can leave a person with emotions that for decades are out of sync with current reality.

In addition to a wide range of experiences, any of which can play havoc with a normal emotional response, there are also a wide range of imbalances in our body chemistry, any of which can likewise mess with our feelings. Our bodies are so finely tuned that a little too much or too little of just one aspect of our body chemistry can do it. Hormones (serotonin is just one) and even a vitamin or mineral deficiency can hurl a person into long term depression or anxiety that stubbornly resists concerted efforts to heave oneself out of. Even an iron deficiency can mysteriously plunge a person into bewildering, on-going anxiety. Imagine thinking oneself a spiritual failure because of a vitamin or mineral deficiency! It happens.

When we fail to grasp the difference between the emotional and the spiritual, or between current circumstances and eternity, it is inevitable that we – ably supported by Satan – will squander too much of our lives needlessly beating ourselves up.

No matter how cleansed of sin a person is in the eyes of the Holy Lord, anxiety can feel indistinguishable from a nagging, or even torturously guilty, conscience.

Anxiety is so unsettling that it floods many others with overwhelming doubts, no matter how Spirit-filled and faith-filled, they might be.

Courage does not mean lacking fear, but forcing oneself onward, despite it. Actually, courage cannot even exist where there is no fear. Without fear, it might be ignorance, foolhardiness, or simply the luck of having lived a sheltered life, but it is not courage. Likewise, faith is not the absence of doubt, but forcing oneself onward, despite it.

Anxiety also robs its victims of a feeling that people typically mistake for peace, even if the person is exceptionally godly and spiritually powerful. For any who come to Christ, all enmity with the Holy Lord is removed. They have the most precious thing in the universe: peace with God. Yet, despite being totally at peace with God, any Christian plagued with this medical condition feels no peace. For them, spiritual peace is choosing to believe God is in control, despite every inner alarm blaring.

As we can guess from what we have seen, spiritual joy is not the absence of sorrow, or absence of problems, nor is it being in physical or emotional peak health. It is about wrenching your eyes upward, despite all that hell throws at you. Paul described himself and his world-changing, Spirit-filled companions, as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Clinical depression not only makes those it afflicts feel joyless, it makes them feel emotionally numb. People who confuse the emotional with the spiritual, however, are likely to mistake this for a spiritual problem. Emotional deadness has absolutely nothing to do with spiritual deadness, and it being hard to feel, has nothing to do with hardness of heart.

different emotions

Regardless of the precise reason for feelings going haywire, however, the end result is a priceless opportunity for vital spiritual growth, by learning to live by faith, not feelings. What makes this so precious is that we might acquaint ourselves with various spiritual principles by reading or pew-warming but only through such challenging opportunities can we actually build these principles into our lives so they become life-changing and eternally rewarding.

It is not God’s way to cause babies to instantly become competent adults. Neither is it his way to zap us into spiritual maturity in an instant. Just as one cannot become a concert pianist overnight, it invariably takes year upon year of painstaking practice to become proficient at living by faith, instead of being thrown by feelings. It is not loud-mouthed spectators or well-read academics who, in heaven’s eyes are the spiritual elite, but those who keep slogging it out in the daily grind of oppressive circumstances. Earth might not recognize these achievers – and they themselves might think they are failures – but heaven will honor them for all eternity.

Peter was walking on the water, and doing fine – until distracted by the wind and waves. That’s like us in our walk with God. Emotions and circumstances are superficial. The substance is Christ. Even if, like Peter, you momentarily forget Jesus and begin to sink, your Lord is still there to grab you and keep you safe (Matthew 14:29-31). Keep your eyes on him, however, and astonishing things can happen.

Because you are human, you have feelings. At the same time, because you are a child of God, you are greater than your feelings. Just as our physical bodies are part of God’s creation, so are emotions. It is wrong to despise either of them, but that does not mean they always function perfectly, nor that we can rely on either of them for spiritual guidance. Since “. . . the things of God’s Spirit . . . are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, emphasis mine) do not expect them to be emotionally discerned. Times when we cannot sense God with our emotions should surprise us no more than when we cannot detect him with our physical senses.

Having feelings is fine; being bullied by them is not. Your feelings do not define you, nor limit you. Just as money is not spiritual currency, neither are feelings. Feelings are a part of your earthly existence, but when it comes to spiritual discernment, keep devaluing them until they mean nothing to you. Don’t fear or run from unpleasant feelings, nor become enslaved to nice ones. Neither try to eradicate feeling. Simply dethrone them. Let God, not feelings, be your God. This has nothing to do with escapism, and everything to do with embracing spiritual reality.

Just as faith takes you way beyond what you see, it soars way beyond what you feel. To live by faith is to be freed from earthly restraints. It takes you into spiritual reality; an entirely different dimension that is not limited by what you see or feel.

Feelings are simply feelings.
They don’t have to believed,
obeyed, or even noticed.

                              – Grantley Morris

When Feelings Let Us Down

Every one of Jesus’ disciples – all those faithful followers, who meant so much to him – deserted him when he most needed their comfort and support. Was he shocked? He expected it (Mark 14:27). He even expected one of them to betray him; turning him over to his enemies. Likewise, you can expect to be deserted and even betrayed by your feelings when you seem to most need them. Nevertheless, as your Leader remained steadfastly faithful to God despite all the abandonment, loneliness and anguish, so can you. In fact, it was not when Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:2-3), nor when multiplied thousands were flocking to hear his every word, but during this devastating time of apparent failure that he most glorified God. Likewise you, his follower, can glorify God the most when every warm fuzzy, and every hint that God is with you, flees.

God and feelings are opposites. God is rock solid; feelings are fickle. God is eternal; feelings are fleeting.

To expect feelings to consistently line up with spiritual reality is demanding far too much from them. You might as well expect them to tell you the winning lottery number. To backslide from living by faith that the blood of Jesus cleanses you from all sin, to looking to feelings to confirm God accepts you, is to gamble away your eternity.

Jesus said that doing his father’s will was his food (John 4:34). He hungered for it. It sustained, strengthened and satisfied him. In what Hebrews 10:7 cites as a Messianic prophecy, Psalm 40:8 says Christ delights to do God’s will. It could not, however, have felt less like that on that bleak night in the garden when sweat poured from him as he agonized over doing God’s will. For our holy Lord, there was not tripping on some spiritual high when things grew grim. By steadfastly resisting his feelings when they screamed the opposite of what he knew he should believe, he was showing us what living by faith really looks like. It was his glory. Likewise, you pressing on when your feelings scream the opposite of what God declares to be true, is your glory.

worried

No one’s feelings are divine. They originate not from the spiritual, God-sensitive side of us but from a part of us that, like our physical bodies, we inherited via our fallen ancestors. The emotional side of us reflects hints of our Creator’s genius but is flawed because of the fall. Its imperfections will remain with us for as long – but only for as long – as our mortal bodies.

Try not to interact with your feelings and unwanted thoughts. Disconnect yourself from them, so that you neither act on them, nor believe them. Merely observe them like you would a stranger. As you do, note how they are just thoughts and feelings. They wash over you but they are not divine. They are neither all-powerful, nor infallible. They are not to be feared, nor trusted. Your Lord is far more powerful than any feeling that hits you. And his is love. His perfect love cancels any need for fear. Fears will come but only as deceptive feelings, not as any reason for concern.

happy

In the next page, we will add to what we are discovering about feelings, to include what, for brevity, I call signs. By that, I mean hoping for other confirmation of God’s acceptance beyond faith or even feelings. You might not go to the extreme of demanding from God worldly success, a new car, or a fairytale marriage to prove God accepts you. More likely, you are hoping for the Bible to open at a meaningful verse, a miraculous deliverance from a besetting sin, answered prayer, a personal prophecy, a supernatural vision, or some such thing, to confirm that God is with you.

Feelings might be flimsy – as vague and fleeting as vapors – but what I call signs are tangible proof of divine approval. Can they provide the assurance we crave? Gaining a correct understanding of this is critical to our spiritual well-being. That makes this next page of extreme importance:

Next: Signs of God’s Approval

Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2020 Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give.

Vital Help

I suggest you follow the above link but if you want a change of pace, the following is here for you.

Urgent Questions?

The Beginning The only way to not miss any of this feast of uplifting webpages about false guilt is to start at Feeling Condemned? There’s Hope! and follow each link. You won’t regret it!

Feeling Rejected by God An important part of this series of webpages

Unforgivable? The part of the series that deals with the unforgivable sin

Testimonies They thought they were unforgivable

Scriptures Some of the vast number of Scriptures proving that you can be forgiven

Does God Love Me? God’s Love for You Revealed A separate, very important series

Demons The beginning of a series of webpages

Dealing with Depression and Discouragement

God & Suffering Coping with fears that God might be harsh and unloving

Becoming a Winner Breaking addictions and besetting sins

Encouragement When You Feel Defeated

Index to Entire Site A treasure trove of stimulating, compassionate, often humorous, webpages for Christians by the same author on a vast number of topics. This website is enormous!

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