"Feelings, nothing more than feelings, trying to forget my feelings…"
The concept of feelings has been a topic as of late in my circles. It is one of those subjects that keep coming up off and on. Christians are constantly instructed by each other that it, this God thing we do, is not about feelings. Feelings cannot be relied upon. Feelings cannot be trusted. We must stick to the facts, stick to the concrete, what we know, what the Bible tells us, stick to tradition, stick to routine. We are to avoid feelings and emotion. Feelings and emotions are seen as fickle, always fickle, cute and fun when you’re in love, but fickle.
We do ourselves a grave disservice when we think like this. First, it is not God recommended that we ignore our feelings or disconnect from our emotions. Yes, Scripture calls our heart deceitful, if the heart be the source of feeling and emotion, but God, in Isaiah, also says our thoughts are not His thoughts, His thoughts will always be higher. Yet, in scripture we are called upon to take thoughts captive and bring them to obedience as we also have David’s lead in scripture to call upon God to create in us a clean and pure heart.
God himself has feelings, he loves, grieves, he has joy. We are called to emotion by scripture, rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. To live an emotionless, stoney life is not God’s intent.
How is it that feelings are inferior to thoughts and ought to be ignored? Christians tend to believe that feelings are faulty and cannot be trusted but that thoughts when properly thought are the basis of knowledge, they are less faulty once trained. Yes, like the trained scientific thought that for years held to the belief of spontaneous generation. Christians think it enough to hold on to provable thoughts of God. But I ask where exactly is the proof that allows you to have such faith? Does your faith spring from absolute proof?
Christians become excited when it appears that there will be scientific proof of God’s existence, scientific proof that a biblical event has indeed occurred, the e-mails fly, magazine articles are passed around. But is that what our faith hangs on?
If someone were to come to my house waving my daughter's birth certificate, holding out family photos and video clips of other people speaking of my daughter it would not impress me as to her existence. I know she exists because I have experienced her, I was there at her birth, I smelled her little self, I fed her and bandaged wounds and scrapes as she grew. That is how I know my daughter exists.
That is how I know my God exists, I have experienced Him and now I know He is real, more real than my daughter or my-self. Since I have experienced Him, felt Him, smelled Him, heard Him, I no longer wonder and have doubt. Myself I doubt, whether I am a child of His I have since doubted, recently, I wonder if the me I know is me, who I believe myself to be may be a lie, but of God I no longer doubt. But the telling of how it is I know would not prompt world wide acceptance of God. The telling would prompt the following response; very few would nod their heads in understanding, a few would be puzzled but encouraged to continue to seek Him for themselves, many would say “how interesting” but would not be encourage to look for Him any further than the pages of scripture and worry about my stability, many more would write it off as the babbling of a whack-o and a few would wonder if I need to be committed. For the vast majority my version of reality would be no more real than events on Star Trek.
The popular understanding of my proof would be that it rests originally on feeling and emotion and not rational concrete trainable thought. That it is feeling and emotion that indeed has corrupted thought. And indeed I would agree. All except the division between thought as trainable and feeling and emotion as inherently wily and capricious.
We have a tendency to think of thought like a dog and feeling like a cat. Cats come and go where they please, they use the litter box because they want to but cats are beyond being trained. Dogs however are trainable, given the time and consistency dogs will do as their master says, sit, stay, heal. Thoughts are dogs, feelings and emotions are cats.
I have been in proximity lately of a reoccurring dialog between men, discussing Jesus’ words on lust. Good learned men are convinced that Jesus was not calling out those men who, while looking at a woman nonchalantly, were overtaken by man-ness and all of a sudden found themselves lusting. That would be madness they declare, impossible, like asking them to no longer be human. Instead they claim that Jesus was speaking of first having lust in their hearts and then looking at a woman with that in mind. Granted, this argument is plausible, it certainly seems fair and it surely is far more merciful.
That is if you consider it merciful to ignore that we can and ought to take all thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. It is merciful if you think it good to leave it wide open to letting a large part of our lives out from under submission to our Lord Jesus Christ and an enormous foothold for Satan.
For emotion and feeling is just that, thought. And God calls us to think His thoughts, to bring all thoughts under submission to Christ and leave nothing of ourselves out there capriciously blowing in the wind. We are made in the image of God, we will have emotion, we will feel, to leave a majority of ourselves outside of God, outside of submission to Christ is to commit the worst of compartmentalism.
The enemy is not that we feel or that we have emotion. The enemy is that just like thoughts, feelings and emotions are put up against God. That we allow ourselves to continue in self-indulgent, self-agrandizing, self-preserving emotions and feelings, that is the enemy. That enemy is increased when we recognize the faultiness of our present emotions and feelings and instead of bringing those forms of thoughts into submission we ignore them, we dismiss all those forms as faulty and not to be trusted. Enjoy them for what they are, a momentary fuzzy wuzzy but do not look to them as anything more than a hormone rush and for heaven’s sake do not indulge them or give them a serious thought.
Through this type of ignoring they become like a two-year old left on its own to figure out how to behave. It would be fine, I suppose if the two-year old stayed a two-year old, unfortunately that is not the case and when we attempt to raise two-year olds in such a manner we end up with thirteen year olds that we know even less what to do with and they in turn become thirty-year olds that appear to never have grasped the meaning of adulthood, hopefully mommy and daddy and the zoo-keepers of their lives don’t ever die.
But we need not deal with feelings and emotions in this manner, they needn’t grow up to be an incredibly crippling albatross around our necks or shoved into the closet to never be seen again. God meant for us to take all thought, not just lofty concrete rational verifiable factual thought, under control. We can and we will if we desire, through the strength we have in Jesus Christ, take emotions and feelings under control. By the leading and teaching and counsel of the Holy Spirit we can and we will if we desire to, begin to have God’s emotion, God’s feelings, God’s thoughts.
We can give with His compassion, we can laugh with His delight, we can dance with His joy, we can smile with His pleasure, we can weep with His sadness, we can comfort with His grief, we can wake with His love. But we must desire His not ours.