Submitted now for your consideration: Pamela, a loving wife, a nurturing mother, a prayerful Christian. This morning, her husband, Richard, left a tender note on the bathroom mirror, inviting Pamela to join him for lunch at their favorite restaurant.
Pamela eyes the clock throughout the morning, anticipating meeting her life-long love at 1 p.m. She’s excited and feeling extraordinarily loved by her husband, so she leaves for the restaurant early in order to buy Richard a small gift. She splurges more, buying two balloons, which float up from the ribbon wrapped around the present.
As she pays for the gift, she looks in her purse and notices she’s left her cell phone at home – again. No matter, it’s 12:30 and in a few short minutes she’ll be with Richard, giving him her undivided attention. Who needs a cell phone in moments like that?
Pamela arrives at the restaurant first and patiently waits for Richard to arrive. What she doesn’t yet know is that Richard has been in a horrible traffic accident and was pronounced dead on the scene at 12:24 – about the time Pamela was tying the balloons to the bow, buoyantly anticipating the approaching romantic rendezvous.
The point to this sorrowful snapshot is that our feelings don’t always reflect the truth. Pamela is soaring high on her feelings of love, even though her husband is already dead. The truth is bearing down on her, and it will immediately alter her feelings when it hits – but her feelings are not yet in line with the truth.
Imagine Pamela as she waits for her husband, and he does not arrive. She’s forgotten her cell phone, so she waits. After a while, she becomes annoyed; after 20 minutes, she’s irritated and hurt. Her feelings still do not line up with the truth.
After 40 minutes, she begins to worry. This just isn’t like Richard. Maybe something has happened. She asks to borrow the restaurant's phone, and she calls Richard’s office, but is transferred to his boss. He says, «Pamela, we’ve been trying to reach you. There’s been a terrible accident ….» The truth and Pamela’s feelings collide.
The fact is, God gave us feelings. There’s nothing wrong with them. As one of my friends often says, «Feelings are just feelings.» Sometimes they reflect the truth; oftentimes they don’t. They can provide positive insight, such as when our fear warns us of nearby danger, or they can give us social discernment, like when we realize we’re falling in love.
But your feelings do not define the truth. Only God defines the truth. You may feel worthless, but the truth is you are uniquely created by God, who loves you deeply. You may feel like you can walk on water, but the truth is you can only do that if Jesus calls you from the boat. You can’t; God can.
Just as the Apostle John tells us to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-3), Paul teaches us to discern the truth through knowledge and deep insight, not through our feelings. He writes, «… and this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ ….» (Philippians 1:9-10 NIV)
Eugene Peterson, in The Message paraphrase of the Bible, translates it like this: «… You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush ….» (Philippians 1:9b-10a MSG) Otherwise, you end up in a life «shaped by things and feelings, instead of God.» (Colossians 3:5 MSG)
Your feelings are from God. They are a gift, and there is no need to avoid them or be ashamed of them. Yet God never meant for our feelings to be the gauge that measures your life and how you live it. Your feelings are not designed to define you or interpret the situations you now face. Only God’s truth can define you, and only God’s truth can pass judgment on the circumstances of your life.
The great and best Good News is this: God’s truth is a person – Jesus Christ, our Lord.
What does this mean?
· You are not your emotions – You are not defined by your emotions. You are defined by God. You may feel worthless, but God says you are wonderfully and fearfully created in his image. You may feel like you’ve failed God, but God says you are accepted in the beloved and that he loves you no matter what you’ve done.
· God uses your feelings – God may use your feelings to reveal a piece of your heart that you need to turn over to God; he may use your feelings to draw you closer to him. Paul speaks of feeling like a wretched man, and that draws him deeper into the grace of God. Your feelings of hopelessness in a situation may be what God uses to show you that you’re hanging your hopes on the wrong thing – because he is a God of hope, and it is a hope that will not disappoint.
· Your obedience is based on the truth, not feelings – The facts may appear daunting, but it is up to God to interpret the facts, not you and your feelings. God calls us to be obedient to the truth, not the way we feel. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says that if you don’t love someone, act as if you do, and your feelings will catch up.