Facts & Feelings

Laugh as the Sun comesImage by Arnett Gill via Flickr
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

After my last Word For Today post I got to thinking about faith and emotions. It's a big question and one I grapple with a lot. It's true that people are different and some are more ruled by emotion and intuition than their heads. I am the former. When  it comes to faith and spirituality this can create a few conundrums for me. On the one hand I am invited by God to walk in joy, peace and fulfilment, finding satisfaction in the amazing Presence of the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand I am not to rely on emotions that may be fleeting and transient, although I hope that in the new creation these positive emotions will be permanent!

As I write, I am not unaware of some of the appropriate theological answers. Yes, His Presence is a fact and not necessarily felt; I live in an imperfect world where my emotions are damaged; maybe there is another spiritual force which can affect my feelings; spiritual joy is very deep and not related to what I feel (I never quite got that one!). But I am a little uncomfortable when I hear preachers say we shouldn't listen to our emotions. God is emotional and he made me in His image. He can be angry (Ps 2:12), jealous (Zch 1:14-15), merciful (Ps 78:38), and joyful (Dt 30:9). Emotions are not bad and when they affect my relationship with God they are to be listened to, and maybe even trusted.

Our church community has been going through a very difficult time in the last few years and you could say the emotional life of the community has been extremely strained. Someone said to me, "there is no feeling anymore". That may be subjective, but it's important nonetheless. Finding spiritual life in such an atmosphere is a challenge to say the least. I am rambling I suppose, but I'm interested in how others approach this. When someone says "Our faith is based on God's revelation, not on our emotions", how does that work in practice if you are a sensing, introverted type as opposed to a rational, thinking type? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Kansas Bob said…
Good stuff Mike. I do wonder about folks who experience a kind of revelation that does not affect their emotions at all ever. I think that Jesus was emotional when he ministered - I think that being moved with compassion speaks to this idea.
Oh, emotions. What do we do with them?! Honestly, I think you're asking good questions here. The best thing i can say is that I'm glad Jesus can handle ALL of our- conflicting-upsetting-ballistic-downcast-joy filled emotions. It's a roller coaster ride sometimes. But it's life.
ChrisJ said…
Mike: I battle this problem constantly and like you I know all the theological answers. I am truly an introvert, a homebody, not social, like to be in my own quiet place. Yet if you met me you would think I was completely an extrovert. I teach classes, I speak at meetings. I've been a pastor's wife for 51 years and the last 30, in a large church. So I've learned to be an extrovert when it counts. Basically I'm not very emotional (my British upbringing by parents brought up in the Victorian era? I don't know.)Raised in a dysfunctional home, I learned early to control my feelings, yet I feel things very deeply. I'm really very sensitive with a low self esteem, but I've learned not to let it show. At the same time I'm very down to earth, pragmatic, capable and practical. What a conflict this has been for me!

So here I am at 70+ and what have I learned? I have learned that facts come before feelings. Feelings come after fact. God commands us to love Him. In our world we 'fall in love'. But by commanding us, God is making us face the FACT of His love. Once we've acknowledged that fact, the emotions follow as we act as though He loves us. We then begin to See His love which produces the emotions. We can talk ourselves into anything, but God's Word tells us the truth. So my greatest comfort today is that I am so certain and completely convinced that God LOVES me no matter what and knows all my emotions and what I think are facts, and what I think are motives. Often I don't even know myself if I'm right to feel a certain way. I haven't really known myself until recent years. But He knows me through and through and when my two sides come into conflict, which they do frequently and have in the past in hard-to-take ways, I turn my face into my pillow and tell God I don't know what to make of it all; pour out to Him all my uncertainties, self doubts and confusion, emotional conflicts, and those things I'm so sure I was right about. I can then rejoice in the fact that God knows and loves me far better than I know myself and thank goodness, He UNDERSTANDS me! Like Job I don't even know Him as well as I think I do. But this one thing I know, He cares! And He has His reasons. So I turn my thoughts from my self and my confusion, to dwell on Who God is and What he is (my Rock, my Savior, my Comforter, My Guide, my Teacher, My leader,the One who made me -- and on and on,) seeking His face by remembering just Who He is and What He is to me, and what He has done for me throughout my life. It's like an expanded version of counting your blessings; more like worship and praise than ever I do in Church. I do this consciously and carefully, if emotionally, until I feel His peace take over my conflict and confusion.

What a blessing.

It's then that I am so thankful for all the good teaching and experiences, good and bad, that He has led me through,-- or how would I know Him at all?

As I draw closer to Heaven I am convinced that all the time I have thought I have been serving Him here on earth, He has actually been melting, molding, making me fit to serve Him in His Kingdom. No more introverted personality conflicts there!

Didn't mean to preach , but only share what I have experienced.

I find it of great comfort that God did not answer Job's "Why's" and only asked him, "where were you when..." He doesn't answer Job because Job was not in any position to understand God's great plan of salvation. We have so much more understanding now, but still it's not enough in this world and how can we ever know the ways of God with man? He's God! Praise Him!

Blessings Mike, for having the courage to touch on this topic.
Mike said…
Chris, I'm speechless. Thank you so much for shedding light on such a difficult subject. It's wonderful to hear your perspective. I guess the pressure comes often from the expectation I put on myself, and that which comes from 'church' on how I should be. Bless you Chris x
Steve said…
Jesus wept....comes to mind, let alone the soulful cry of desolation from the cross...My God My God Why has thou forsaken me? Christ was and still is emotional as well as highly intelligent. It's part of being human.
Melanie said…
So interesting!! I love emotions! I love to be full of joy! Laughter is my fav!! Peace that passes all understand is where it is at! I cry all the time and feel compassion a great deal! My guide is this...if my emotion is keeping me from obeying God...or causing strive...hurting others..it is not the type of emotions that give life and will cause me to walk further away from God and dull my ears to hearing His voice. Thus...they need to be dealt with and never indulged in. A lot of it has to do with renewing of the mind and thinking thoughts that line up with what God would want us to think. Not an easy thing...but doable in Christ. Anyway..my thoughts...
Anonymous said…
I have more thoughts and feelings on this subject than I can fit here... I think that both feelings and revealed truth about God work together to help us understand and know God as well as help us understand ourselves. I think and feel that both are essential.

I am re-reading a very very good book right that has been so helpful and insightful about the importance of knowing God and knowing self in the spiritual journey -- The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner. I highly recommend it. Blessings.
Anonymous said…
Wonderful comments here on this post, too.