As I’ve touched on before, over the past year or so my emotional life has been profoundly transformed by God’s love. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like shades of powder blue, pale pink and steel gray have burst into a full spectrum of neon blue, florescent pink and fire orange. The wall I kept hitting, the unexplained barrier that wouldn’t let me experience but a fraction of any one emotion (mixed with angst that I couldn’t feel more) is gone. I’ve been filled with His incredible peace (John 14:27). I am safe. I am loved. I am okay. That blessed assurance, even in the midst of uncertainty, is why I continue writing. The communication lines are wide open between my heart and heaven; every word helping me adjust to my new life. There are tears, but there are also smiles and moments of sheer bliss just reveling in God’s palpable love for me.
Faith Is A Verb
That said, as I spoke of in the “N” portion of my TRANSFORMED acronym (Never Give Up): faith is not a feeling. Faith is demonstrated by our actions. “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). Trust in God is shown in daily self-discipline as we follow what we say we believe, regardless of how we feel. Although my enhanced emotional life does strengthen my faith (who doesn’t want to experience intense joy, or feel downright hugged by the God of the Universe?), it is not the ultimate litmus test of true faith or even a fulfilled life. Feelings are but a happy, complicated and challenging part of the human experience.
Can Feelings Be Trusted?
Emotions are unwieldy, fickle and lightning fast at times. In fact, some people get the most exercise of their lives just jumping to conclusions and getting bent out of shape! The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Don’t get me wrong: emotions aren’t bad in and of themselves. God created them and has them too, but they must be controlled. For me, if I let my emotions lead, my natural worry and fear alone would drive me to the brink of insanity; the resulting confusion sending my life careening off of a spiritual cliff. However, God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 4:33). While they enhance our experience, feelings alone cannot be trusted to steer the course of our lives. Even if we feel quite strongly about a particular decision or issue, it doesn’t mean it’s God’s will. We are often simply too close to the situation to keep a clear head.
So what do you do with that rush of anger, flush of envy, or frenzy of fear? Take a deep breath. Pray. Stay grounded in God’s Word to understand things from His perspective. He’s got you in His eternal, loving hands. Rest in that knowledge. Here’s a poem I wrote about the subject:
Follow my heart or follow my mind?
Seek after the Lord, true peace I find.
Emotions confusing, fickle and weak,
compared to the solid wisdom I seek.
Gently He shelters me under His wings;
Eternity whispers above earthly things.
Such drama plays out before my eyes
–quickly caught up, ‘til I realize
and pause the scene to listen for God’s voice,
writing and praying to make the wise choice.
Today and in all the days that remain–
contently courageous, against the grain.
Daily submitted, in His power I grow;
A joyful God follower, singing as I go.
On the Flip Side…
Eventually the newness may wear off of my initial transforming experience, and joy might wane. We all have dry seasons, or wonder at times whether we’re doing the right thing. That’s when it’s most important to be confident in what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1) For sure, our true colors come out during difficult times, showing where our trust is actually placed. True faith is shown in unhurried contentedness when all around is chaos. Trusting He’s with us even when we don’t feel His presence. Continuing to pray even in those times our prayers don’t seem to get past the ceiling. Singing hallelujah when the answer has yet to be revealed. The Lord honors such joyous persistence with an other-worldly peace and a strength that sustains. I learned this several years ago: keep doing what He told you to do last, until you hear something different. Stay the course. God still hears and still cares more than you know. Don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).
I’m so thankful that the Lord has awakened my placid heart. He has and will continue helping me tame this technicolor soul into the person He has created me to be, doing the good works He’s prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). Emotions and all.
Extra Credit (to God)
Here’s a link to a song by Josh Wilson that speaks to this subject. It also bears the same title as this post! Faith Is Not A Feeling (Note: Link will open up in a new window.)
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
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