The Feeling Swing
As with most things I feel like we've seen a major pendulum swing in our culture in regards to the role of feelings in our lives. I think many of us can bring to mind examples of seeing our older generations (parents and grandparents) repressing their feelings and often living by a list of "shoulds" and "should nots". Feelings were often disregarded and undervalued.
Then we saw a major swing to a culture that is ruled by emotion. People are pushed to "dig in", feel everything, be authentic, be real, be raw. Often feelings have become a license to say whatever is on your mind (with a lack of forethought about consequences for us and on others) especially on social media or a license to reduce our lives to how we feel in the moment.
Like most pendulum swings I believe that the healthiest state is somewhere in the middle and not on the extreme ends. Feelings are wonderful, beautiful and true to life things. They should not be ignored or stuffed. But the thing about feelings is that they are excellent servants but terrible masters. Being ruled and governed by our emotions is a tumultuous way to live.
I am a person who typically wears my heart on my sleeve. I am in tune with my emotions, have no desire to hide or to stuff them but I spent a lot of my life giving an unhealthy amount of attention to my feelings. I often felt the need to process EVERY emotion and from every angle until I felt differently (aka how I wanted to feel). It was exhausting. When we are governed by our emotions we are tossed around all over the place. Circumstances will naturally trigger various emotions and thus our peace is at the mercy of situations in our lives and we are in for a bumpy ride.
I love reading the Psalms as I find them so relatable. David does not couch his words with God. He does not stuff his feelings. They are all in there. The good, the bad and the (making me slightly uncomfortable) violent!
I believe that we can learn from David though in how he releases his emotions in a healthy way (to God, not screaming at a person) and is honest with where he is at. THEN... he puts himself back into alignment by telling his soul (mind, will, emotions) what to do!
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
1 Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103: 1-5
Emotions are a fantastic indicator on what is going on under the surface. They are like lights on a dashboard either saying "all systems are good to to" or blinking and saying "this needs some attention." Emotions are NOT however always rooted in truth.
When our emotions don't line up with God's truth then it is our feelings that need to change (line up) and not our theology. (So often people create theology out of their feelings!)
These are the times when we need to actively submit to God. Isaiah 9 says that his government is that of peace and it shall have no end. When we submit to the government of Jesus we are submitting to His peace.
Think for a moment about what you would say to someone who genuinely believed in Jesus, had repented and received Him but told you that they "didn't FEEL saved." I'm guessing you would tell someone "Well you are saved. Because that is what the Word says." and list off all of the glorious verses of truth.
Faith is a big part of submission and aligning our feelings with the Spirit. In the instance above, a person needs to have the faith that they are indeed saved. That God's Word trumps their feeling in that place.
Whenever we are lining up our feelings with God's truth it will require faith.
The Israelites let their feelings lead them a lot. Often that feeling they were submitting to was fear. No matter what God brought them through we see them meet their next challenge and they totally freak out. Pretty much every time. And we (being able to see the whole story) roll our eyes and think "Israel. Pull yourselves together! He just parted the Red Sea for goodness sake!"
But how often do we do the same? I know I do it all the time. I come up to an undesirable circumstance and no matter how many things God has brought me through up to this point I feel I need to go through the customary freak out phase. And I believe that God will eventually pull me through that freak out but what if there is a different way...
What if we can walk up to an obstacle and say "Hmm. This doesn't look great but I know my God and I know He will make a through. Mountain - get out of my way!" What if we can skip the whole freak out by telling our feelings "Nope, I don't agree with fear. We are not friends. I am standing on the promises of my Father."
God was constantly revealing His character in His people and through His intervention. He still is. When we KNOW Him, we know the truth to align with. We can practice a new habit of responding to our situations with faith, courage and peace.
One little tidbit I heard Havilah Cunnington speak on was how the simple mindset shift of saying "I don't" is,as evidenced in scientific research, to be 8x more effective at changing behaviour than saying or thinking "I can't".
So the next time you're faced with worry or fear try saying "I don't fear. I don't worry. I am not an anxious person." You may feel all of those things but you're allowed to tell yourself how to feel.
1 Timothy tells us that God did not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, of love and of self control (or a sound mind). So the TRUTH is that you are not a fearful person. You are a powerful person who has self control. You can take a hold of that truth through faith and begin to walk that out.