"Good feeling" addicts anonymous
Recently I went to Cru's Life Options conference in Minneapolis. It's a conference for upper classmen designed to help them discern God's will post-college. Our speaker was Roger Hershey and the last day of the conference he offered to have breakfast for anyone who wanted to get up early and join him. So I and a few other students went and got to ask him questions directly. One thing that he said that morning (and throughout the conference) is that my feelings are not God.
I have two things to say in this blog. This is the first: as an extremely feeling-based person, this has been hard for me to wrestle with. I have been guilty of saying things like "Well I just don't feel peace about it" or "I feel like God is telling me...."
Last year I realized something, that most of the time when I made statements or claims like that, it often had more to do with what I personally felt about a situation than some voice from heaven dictating how I should feel about it.
Now before I go on let me say this: are feelings legitimate. I believe that we were created with them. And because we were created in the image of God, I believe that God has feelings too. They are good and they are God-given.
But my problem is that I place too much stock in my feelings. Often in my life they have acted as the voice of God, guiding me, making decisions and telling me what to do. And while I believe that God shapes our desires and feelings about things we encounter in life, ultimately they are not him. They can be truth, but they can also be false. (The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?- Jeremiah 17:9)
To be perfectly honest this has thrown my personal faith for a loop. I rely so heavily on feelings in my relationship with Jesus, in my quiet times with him, when I pray, worship to music, write-- everything! And in some ways I think this just how God created me. This semester I have wrestled with my feelings-based faith a lot. It has caused a lot of doubt to creep into my mind. It has caused me to despair because I know nothing else. But God has been faithful to lovingly lead me through.
The second thing I am learning about feelings is something Hershey said at breakfast that morning: I am good-feelings addict. I chase them, pursue them and when I don't have them, I assume something is wrong with my faith, my relationships life (paraphrased). The reality is that God doesn't promise us that we will always "feel good" about the things we encounter in life. We won't always be on top of Mount Sinai.
Sometimes, we can start to pursue and worship the way God makes us feel, rather than God-himself.
So some of you feel-y people may be relating to this post a lot and feel trapped. I know I certainly have wrestled with feeling lost in how to navigate through what feelings are God-given, what are my own and what are some sanctifying mixture of the two. Let me tell you how I have been dealing with these things and maybe it will help you too.
Compare your feelings with the truths revealed in God's Word.
Sometimes the things we feel are clearly wrong (lust, pride, conceit) and we can find Biblical evidence to back that up. But I believe that we can use the Bible to guide the rest of our less-clear feelings too. For me a big one has been what I "feel" like I should do with my future. Well, I know what God's will is for those who believe in him (Matthew 28:16-20), I know how he feels about me ("...for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." - John 16:27) and I know how he wants me to feel about other people ("You shall love your neighbor as yourself. - Matthew 22:39).
The Bible says a lot about how we should feel in certain circumstances. If you are like me (a sinner and constantly not feeling what I should...) there is hope for that too.
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."-Romans 8:26-27
One verse that I love because it shows that God understands that most of the time we are afraid, cowardly and unable to do his will without the Spirit pioneering for us is in Joshua. My dear friend Corinne wrote this one out for me before I left for Seattle this summer and God has brought it to my mind consistently since then.
"Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:6-9
So whatever you feel today (I know I personally feel cozy since I am at Indie Coffee), know that there is a God who is bigger than your feelings and desires for you to feel things deeply as you live your life for him.