There was a time when feelings weren’t acknowledged as much as they seem to be today. It’s not that there were never feelings; we’ve always experienced them. We were created to feel, and experience emotion.
From what I’ve observed, though, it seems as though the pendulum has swung from generations of people who have suppressed what they have felt by having a “just get through this” mentality, or “I can’t let anyone know how I feel,” to a generation of people that is mostly about feelings, and allowing them to form our beliefs and rule our actions.
It seems we’ve not only allowed ourselves to feel, and acknowledge those feelings (which, by the way, are a good thing), but in large part feelings now seem to be the impetus, or the excuse, for expressing those feelings in a way that an individual deems best. Because, after all, there are those who would say, “If I feel this, and this is my experience, then it must be true.”
In other words, in our culture, it has, for the most part, become the norm to form our beliefs around our feelings. That is a very dangerous road to travel, and one that leads to a very destructive end.
“There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 16:25
One of the most near-sighted and detrimental cliches that is often heard at graduation speeches, and on life-changing shows like the Bachelor (sarcasm alert) is, “just follow your heart.” If you just follow your heart, your heart is going to lead you to make some very unhealthy decisions that will not be helpful, but hurtful.
Emotions and feelings aren’t bad, they are a gift (Just read through the Psalms and Lamentations). But they have to be led. If you want a more helpful statement regarding your heart, think on this: lead your heart, don’t let it lead you.
But what does that mean? It means what you believe is crucial in leading your heart. I think the better question for us is, “What do you believe?”, not “What do you feel?” Both are appropriate questions, but the better question is “What do you believe?” Don’t confuse what I’m saying with what I’m not saying. I’m not saying don’t acknowledge what you feel, but rather let what you believe give direction to what you are feeling.
What you believe doesn’t suppress what you feel, it gives direction as to what you do with what you feel. Feelings are valid, but they are not safe drivers on this road of life we travel.
And that is the issue I believe we need to think on. What do you believe? What are the foundational beliefs of your life? What do you believe about life? About the cultural realities we are facing? About relationships? About money? About religion? About God? If you let your feelings dictate those answers, you’ll find yourself being tossed around like a makeshift raft on a raging ocean.
If you profess to be a follower of Jesus, then you have come to believe, by faith, that the Scriptures are true about who He says He is: He is the Savior of the world; He is the Son of God; He is God in the flesh; He is fully God and was fully human; He was born of Mary, who was a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit; He was the sinless sacrifice for the sins of the world. He was crucified on a cross, buried, and on the third day rose again. He ascended to Heaven, to the right hand of God the Father. He will come again for those who are His, and He will make all things new.
And, as followers of Jesus, we believe the Scriptures teach us how we are to live life in this cultural moment.
Take some time and read Psalm 77, and listen to the words of Asaph, the writer of this psalm (If you don’t have a Bible, go to http://www.biblegateway.com and type in Psalm 77 in the search bar). Asaph didn’t hold back what he was feeling. He was struggling. His emotions were raw. He had some honest questions for God. But as you read from his journal, you’ll see that he didn’t let his feelings form his beliefs. Rather, he chose to let his belief direct his thoughts and emotions.
So how do you get to the place that Asaph got to? How do you lead your heart to be led well by what you believe and not what you feel?
• Belief is not a one time choosing, but a daily choosing. It is necessary, daily, to surrender your feelings to choosing to believe the truth about God. Some have called this benevolent detachment. It’s not ignoring your feelings, but rather turning your heart’s attention to God with your feelings and letting Him remind you of who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing. In doing so He will remind you of His nearness, even though you may feel alone; He will remind you of His love, even though you may feel unloved. He will remind you of His grace and forgiveness, even though you may feel immense shame. He will remind you that you are His, even though you feel rejected. And in His reminder, you choose to believe He is true and what He says is true.
• The most self-soothing thing you can do is speak God’s truth to your soul, and God’s truth is found in the Scriptures.
• Each of us need to have some direction and how to navigate all that we face each day, and are experiencing in our culture as a whole.
• Proverbs 3:5-8–“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.”
• Psalm 32:8–“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”
• Failing to remember who God is, and all He is done, leads to an erosion of the soul upon which the foundation of your beliefs rest.
◦ Remember how He has saved you.
◦ Remember how He has provided for you.
◦ Remember how He has protected you.
◦ Remember all He has done.
• And if you are having a hard time remembering, take time to silence your mind and soul by practicing the rule of life of solitude. Busyness and hurriedness is the enemy of remembering.
And for those who are unsure about what they believe about God, or the Scriptures, why not give God a chance? Why not ask God to show you who He is? Why not find someone, who displays what you believe a follower of Jesus looks like, and ask them why they believe what they believe? Why not read the Scriptures and ask God to speak deeply into your soul?
It couldn’t hurt. As a matter of fact, I believe it will change your life.