It’s a winter Monday morning in Minnesota, and the alarm reminds me that I plan to go for a run and then workout at a local gym. In my not-so-awake state, I groan at the thought that I don’t feel like exercising today. In this moment I realize I have a choice to make: follow my feelings and blow off the workout, or push past the feelings and do the workout anyway.
God has wired us to be emotive beings: we feel things as we go through life. For example, feelings can alert us to danger. Safety experts advise us that it’s wise to trust your feelings and act when you sense danger is near. Feelings can also help us gravitate towards compassion and love in our relationships with family, friends, or a spouse. Feelings of guilt about something we have done can lead us to turn to God for forgiveness and seek to be reconciled with someone we have hurt.
However, feelings can also be deceptive.
Because we are living in a world cracked by the rebellion of humans so long ago, our feelings can sometimes lead us to false thinking and poor responses or actions.
• Feelings can lead us to dwell on past wrongs that God has already forgiven.
• Feelings can convince us that although we will always be unlovable, even though we are beloved, adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God, who called and saved us out of love through Jesus Christ at the cross.
• Feelings that are outside of God’s presence and power can lead us to make bad choices with unintended, disastrous consequences.
In our flawed state of being, feelings can also lead us to complacency or inaction when God calls us to trust Him and move forward in His plan for our lives. I think this was in the Apostle Paul’s mind when he wrote this:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do…I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24-25(NIV)
The harsh reality is that our feelings often try to overrule God ‘s plan for us. Paul touched on the one and only answer to navigating through our feelings: the power of God that is experienced in a transformational relationship with Jesus Christ.
On that cold Minnesota morning, I do get out of bed and spend time in prayer and God’s Word. I also reflect on the previous day when I felt like staying home rather that worshipping with my fellow brothers and sisters at our local church. My wife and I went to church in spite of my sluggish feelings and we experienced God in amazing worship and a message in which He spoke to me in a deep way. I would have missed that had I followed my feelings.
In the chill of the morning, I ask God to empower me with His Holy Spirit to do the things He desires for me and from me this day. I surrender my feelings to God and ask Him to superintend every thought and emotion inside of me. A short time later I pack my gym bag and head out. Ultimately when I’m done, I feel good. That’s the way the best feelings work—they come after the choice to do the hard things God puts before us, usually not beforehand.
I don’t know what feelings you are experiencing in the circumstances of your life. However, I invite you to surrender those feelings to God and ask Him to empower you with His Spirit, which always leads to a healthy, good emotional outcome. Then carry on in the work He puts before you armed with His power, not your own.
The good feelings will follow!
God bless you.