Your Feelings Really Do Matter
Have you ever had this conversation about feelings?
“I don’t feel like God is with me.”
“Oh but we don’t live by feelings. We have to stand on the word.”
“Yes, and I know what the word says, but I don’t feel it. This situation has overwhelmed me and it’s all too much…”
“Scripture says that God won’t tempt you beyond what you can bear and he will use all things for the good of those who love him. The word of God is truth, not how you feel.”
Let’s be honest: have you ever given it?
I don’t know about you but sometimes advice like this leaves me with the overwhelming notion that maybe God just doesn’t care about my feelings. Like somehow my emotions are too big for him to handle and he would quite like it if I would just calm down before coming to him.
Let me make it clear: I’m not saying that our feelings override Scripture or that what we feel about God is an accurate picture of who he really is. BUT I am suggesting that sometimes, in our efforts not to allow ourselves or anyone else to be tossed about by our feelings, we sometimes propagate the misguided belief that our emotions do not matter at all. The result is that without even realising it we learn to deny our negative feelings, believing they are bad and unholy. When uncomfortable feelings surface, we feel guilty and ashamed and stuff them down further.
I have heard so many Christians talk about painful things in their lives (sometimes events from long ago that still bear scars or seeping wounds) and, through gritted teeth or sad eyes, they will say something like, “God’s ways are not our ways. He knows what he’s doing.” I admire their courage and of course what they are saying is true and good. The problem is, they often don’t mean it. Of course, they want to mean it, they want to stand on truth, but, though they may not even know it, there is sometimes a little thread of hurt that, if pulled, will reveal a deep root of bitterness or a broken heart, marred by the anguish of abandonment. Though it has been silenced and denied, I believe the heart would cry “Why? Why did that happen, Lord? Why did you forsake me?”
Surely such a cry needs to be voiced, needs to be dragged out into the light, needs to be handed over- real and raw instead of gift-wrapped in strained cliches- to the Lord.
Our heartache matters.
Our weeping matters.
He wants us to be real with him- not because he needs it but because we do.
If we feel abandoned by God or perplexed by his silence, it matters. If disappointment has caused us to doubt God’s love for us then we need to be honest about it. He wants us to be real with him- not because he needs it but because we do. Yes, we must recognise that not everything we feel is Truth, but everything we feel is true and negative emotions are a sign that something is wrong.
If we feel like God does not love us, something is wrong.
If we feel like we do not love God, something is wrong.
For many years as a Christian, I had the perception that the world thinks of love as being full of emotion and passion, whereas ‘true love’ is all about commitment. If a worldly couple finds their passion waning then they assume the love is gone and justify going their separate ways. Us Christians, however, are well versed with the truth that feelings change and that when the passion isn’t there you remain faithful because of the vows you have pledged. Staying together despite feeling nothing- that is true love. But is it?
Whilst it is quite right to remain faithful through whatever storms you face, may I be so bold as to suggest that if your marriage is not one that is generally full of joy, excitement and glorious passion then something is clearly lacking? If you feel nothing for your spouse (or your children or your friends or anybody supposedly important to you) then boldly proclaiming, “I don’t live by feelings, I know we love each other,” really wouldn’t cut it, would it?
In the same way, though we are to cling to truth through times of trial, if there is not joy, excitement and glorious passion in your relationship with God then something is very wrong.
In the same way, though we are to cling to truth through times of trial, if there is not joy, excitement and glorious passion in your relationship with God then something is very wrong. It is right to stand on truth. But it is not enough. We ARE meant to feel it. We are meant to feel God’s love and we are meant to feel love for him in return. When we don’t feel it, let’s remain faithful to our vows. But let’s not settle there.
I am convinced that Jesus was (and is) a man of deep emotion. On the night of his arrest, he sweat blood and tears as he pleaded with his Father to find another way. On the cross, he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Had his Father truly forsaken him, or did it just feel like it? Theologians will debate the issue but, either way, the advice to “ignore your feelings Jesus and stand on truth- you’ll be fine in three days” would have been rather trite at that moment. Surely Jesus, as the author of it all, knew more than anyone how the cross would be transformed into glorious triumph. Yet he did not suppress his pain. Nor did he deny his feelings or grin and bear it with the mantra “God will work it for good.” He wept and he pleaded and he cried out in anguish. If he allowed himself to feel and vent the fullness of his emotions then he surely gives us license to do the same. In fact, we simply must.
Declare truth over your situation and accept that how you feel is not the highest reality.
But deny your feelings? Never.
Your feelings matter.