September 27

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings, Part 1

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

I Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

What to do with our feelings is one of the great struggles of the Christian life. Feelings are personal and complicated responses to internal and external stimuli that can bring us joy, sadness, fear, or confusion. They can be enjoyable and actually quite helpful to us. Even the most cursory of readings of the Old Testament demonstrates that the Lord Himself is a God of sometimes intense feeling.

The ancient Hebrews were an emotional people, and one of the few drawbacks of the King James Version of the scriptures is how it elevated to heights of literary majesty a written language that was much more intense, colorful, and rough-and-tumble in the original. The story of God’s connections with man is laden with intense emotion.

God wants us to have a healthy relationship with our emotions. Some people feel things more deeply than others, and some tend to be more emotionally expressive. This is neither a sign of spiritual strength nor spiritual weakness. It’s just a personality trait.

There’s nothing like the joy of holding a new baby, or the excitement of a loved one coming home. Happy anticipation of an upcoming event is a God-given joy, as is the joyful peace of having obeyed the Lord and knowing that you’ve pleased Him. These are gifts from above.

Yet we all know the destructive power of feelings of jealousy, bitterness, anger, pride or hatred. These are feelings we know we can’t have ruling our actions, and He is working constantly to equip us to identify and resist those kinds of feelings.

While the Lord doesn’t want us to be slaves to our feelings, being tossed to and fro by every wind of feeling, He also doesn’t want us to become skilled at suppressing them. That’s simply another form of slavery to feeling. He wants us to rule over our feelings in the power of the Holy Spirit, embracing the healthy ones with all the joy they can bring, and knowing how to do spiritual battle against those that seek to wrongly influence our actions.

Some Christians throughout the ages (and whole groups at times) have seen the power of negative emotions, and believe that suppression is the best answer. It’s not, and it’s not healthy. And it avoids what the Lord wants to impart to us, which is how to work with emotions, and even how to work with God beating the enemy at his own game when he tries to trip us up with feelings.

Yes, emotions can actually be very helpful to us, even the negative ones. More on that tomorrow. But for now, let’s rejoice that our Savior completely understands, as He was tempted in every way as we are. Yet He didn’t sin, which means He not only has the plan and power to overcome the temptations of negative emotions, but He already did it Himself. Camp a bit around that thought today.

Prayer: Father, help me to have a healthy connection with my feelings. I want to feel all the emotions you want me to, but I don’t ever want feelings to lead me. Please put them in their proper place in my heart and my life, and help me see the victory of Jesus in this area.