Natural and Good.
Imagine a world without emotions, without feelings and passion, what a dead and lifeless world would that be. Sure we might not have any grief or sorrow but we will also have no joy, excitement etc.
We humans are emotional creatures, I believe it comes from being made in the image of God. God is not impersonal and emotionless, the whole Bible is filled with God’s emotions, filled with His heart.
God feels anger – John 3:36, Eph 5:6
God feels compassion – Ps 78:38-40, Matt 9:36
God feels grief – Gen 6:5-6, Eph 4:30
God even feels hate – Ps 5:4-5, Isa 61:8, Rom 9:13, Ps 11:5
and many other emotions. However, we always acknowledge that we are fallen human beings with a sinful nature, our emotions are also tainted and affected by sin.
God, on the other hand, is perfectly Holy and Righteous.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah – 55:8-9
If you would like to read more about God’s emotions, I recommend you read here.
Reaction & Response Not Reality.
God does not want us to be emotionless, He did not create us that way, He created us with an ability and a capacity to feel joy, compassion, regret, anger etc. Certain emotions are for our own safety like fear and suspicion. God even commands certain emotions from us. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. – Matt 22:37; Deut 6:5
This means to have affection for God and to live out that affection in obedience. We are to fear and have reverence for God. – Matt 10:28
We are to serve God with joy and a cheerful heart. – Deut 28:47
Our emotions and feelings are reactions and responses to our environment, circumstance and to our external world.
When we have a realisation we have a corresponding emotion.
When we hear an old favourite song, we are filled with nostalgia. When we are with friends and family, we are filled with joy … most of the time.
The same with our relationship with our Lord.
When we read about God in his word, we are filled with awe and wonder. When we sing a hymn that tells about God’s great grace and mercy, we are filled with joy and gratefulness. Our feelings are a response to reality, our feelings do not determine reality.
We are currently living in a very emotions and feelings driven society, our 21st century western culture is putting great emphasis and value on emotions.
Sure, like I said earlier, emotions are natural and it is a good thing to be able to have, recognise and evaluate emotions and feelings – to be emotionally intelligent. However I do not believe that emotional intelligence is what this “spirit-of-the-age” is striving to promote and encourage. Rather it is encouraging people to give credence and surrender to every feeling, whim and impulse, sometimes it is promoting obsession, fixation and self-indulgence. It is advancing a culture of what I would like to call shallow, sentimental emotionalism.
Emotionalism is currently everywhere, playing and preying on our emotions, using our feelings as manipulation and marketing.
With shallow and mostly meaningless concepts and ideologies like:
“trust your feelings”,
“follow your true self”,
“what you feel is true, is true for you”,
“your truth” and many other feel-good-mantras being handed out like some “Cotton Candy for the (rotten) Soul”, it’s no wonder that we are obscuring the lines between feelings and facts.
Feelings are valued above truth. We are being taught that only our deepest feelings and desires are our true and “authentic-self” and the only way to be really true to your “authentic-self” is to pursue every desire and to do whatever you feel like when you feel like it. It’s being advocated that feeling and not fact is what determines our reality, that feeling and not fact is our ultimate and only trustworthy guide for discernment.
Feelings are given free-rein … or should I say free-reign.
Building on Shifting Sands.
The relativism and general suspicion of reason of a post-modern world created the perfect environment for this feelings-over-facts philosophy and approach to life. But can we live like this? Can our feelings always be trusted?
I don’t know about you but I have experienced many feelings in the past (and probably would still in the future) that had no basis in reality. I’ve felt jealousy when there was no reason for it. I have been angry over a misunderstanding. Then, of course there were many days that I felt annoyed because … well, just because. I’ve made some bad choices and decisions because it felt right. Our feelings are capricious, ever changing and ready to be swept away in any direction at any time. We all know this, we’ve all experienced this sometime in our lives. How can we build on such a foundation? Imagine an Engineer, tasked with the responsibility of building a large bridge, telling his employers and those who commissioned the project that he feels that the bridge would be safe and that he feels the project would be feasible. No, he would have to do the math and the technical plans and compare and back-up his feelings to the cold, hard facts.
I am not saying that our feelings will always lead us astray or be wrong, many times they might even be right. However we should not be building our lives purely on the shifting sands of emotion. When we are overly reliant on our emotions for discernment we become very easy to manipulate, making it easy for us to be controlled or to be lead into false ideas and teachings with sentimentality or with superficial & fleeting feelings of excitement and euphoria.
Emotions are like waves in the ocean, coming and going.
We should anchor our feelings in our faith and our faith is anchored in the facts – the solid foundation of the Word of God.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – John 14:6
Can “your truth” set you free?
All throughout the book of Judges, into the books of 1 & 2 Kings and through all the Prophets we read about how God’s people and their rulers and kings did what was right in their own eyes and not what was right in God’s eyes. Translated into modern 21st Century English, they did what they felt was right and not what they knew to be right in accordance with God’s Word – the law given to them by Moses.
“… Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” – Judges 21:25
“And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord …” – Judges 4:1
“And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord …” – 1 Kings 14:22
Whenever God’s people and their leaders turned away from God, doing what is right in their own eyes and what is wrong in God’s, corruption, hardship, strife and even reprimand from God followed.
What does the rest of God’s Word say about “following our hearts” or “trusting our feelings” and to blindly “pursue our passions”? What does the Bible say about the true nature of the human heart? How should Bible-believing Christians view our emotions in light of truth?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;” – Prov 3:5-7
“The one who trusts in himself is a fool,
but one who walks in wisdom will be safe.” – Prov 28:26
“The heart is more deceitful than anything else,
and incurable—who can understand it?” – Jer 17:9
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” – Gen 6:5
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” – 2 Tim 4:3-5
“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” – Rom 12:2
“May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” – Psalm 19:14
Who will Reign?
As Christians, as those who follow our Lord, Jesus Christ, shouldn’t it be more important for us to live in accordance and obedience to Him than to follow our own impulsive emotions? Absolutely!
Does this mean we can never do or pursue anything that we like or want? Of course not, but we always proceed with wisdom, discernment, wise counsel and firmly anchored in the Word of God – our never-changing beacon.
Let God be the arbiter of truth and let God be the ruling authority of our lives and not our feelings.
“Feelings come and feelings go,
and feelings are deceiving.
My warrant is the Word of God,
naught else is worth believing.”
– Martin Luther