God made us to be both thinking and feeling creatures. While both our minds and our emotions have been affected by the fall, our emotions in particular have a tendency to undercut the assurance that truth should provide. We need not dismiss our feelings (they are part of who we are, after all), but we do need to recognize when they are leading our hearts away from the assurance of God’s promises.
The Bible is filled with truths that many of us know but don’t always feel. For one thing, we ought to feel thankful, but we often don’t, overburdened instead by the cares of this life. Jesus tells us not to be anxious (a feeling), but to remember God our Father’s providential care for us (Matthew 6:25-34). David knew that a sure-fire path to despondency is dwelling on misguided emotions. That’s why he encouraged himself with what he knew to be true in Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul…for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
How can we be encouraged when depression or worry strikes? Pray the opposite of what you feel:
- “Father, all I feel right now is loneliness and anxiety. I know that you care for me, but I don’t feel it. Please assure me that you will provide, today, tomorrow and forever. Thank you that you have given beyond what I can ask or imagine in Christ Jesus.”
We may also not feel like doing what we know to be right. But beneath that misguided feeling the Christian has the advantage of the Holy Spirit, prompting him or her in the right direction. The Holy Spirit does not just point to the Bible and say “do that.” Amazingly, we are called to “work out our salvation,” as Paul writes in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” So God gives us the strength to do the work, to choose the right thing in this case, and to do it. But he also gives us the will to do it. That is, the Holy Spirit reorients our desires to be God’s desires – so we want to do it.
How can we work out our salvation by letting the Holy Spirit do his work? How can we learn not just to do what God wants, but to want to do what he wants? You guessed it: prayer! Pray the opposite of what you feel:
- “Lord, I feel envious of my sister in Christ because of the perfect life she seems to have, when you seem to be sending me only trouble lately. Although she is my friend I feel envious; give me the desire to think of myself less and love her more.”
- “Lord, I have basically made my hobby into an idol. It is what I daydream about, what I use all my free time for, and what I spend all my disposable income on. I want to want your presence more, but I don’t know how. Change my will so that you are my heart’s desire. Please put this idol in its place.”
When your feelings are out of alignment with God’s will, don’t try to hide them from him. Tell your heavenly Father what you are feeling. Ask him to realign your feelings with what you know according to the Bible to be true. Then trust the Holy Spirit to do his work. Having that blessed assurance that your will is lining up more and more with God’s – it’s a great feeling!