And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart,
all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.
In my early 20s I went to a church where I often heard preached from the pulpit, “Don’t do what feels good, do what produces good.”
As an impressionable young adult, with a father who was going through end-stage cancer, I was working full-time during the day and attending college at night to finish up my degree in education. I would drive down to the University of Chicago hospital to visit my dad every day all through his treatments too. I was acting alright. I was denying my feelings entirely to just DO what was right.
Feelings were not important. They were an annoyance. A hindrance to what God promised. Did He promise, “By his stripes we are healed?” Didn’t He promise, “He wishes above all things that we be prosperous and in good health even as our soul prospers?” Wasn’t it true that, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen?”
Yes. Of course. Those were the promises I clung to in times of trouble. Ignore the feelings and trust the promises.
But one has to wonder, after my father passed, if this is really how God wants us to live. Is that the example that Jesus displayed for us? That in all things we are more than conquerors?
If Jesus was immune to negative emotions then why did He struggle so much in the Garden of Gesthemene? Why was He often frustrated with the disciples when they didn’t understand His teachings and asked dumb questions? Why was he angry in the temple? Couldn’t He have just ignored the emotions and believe that it would all work out just fine in the end.
Why not go out to the Garden and celebrate your victory before it happens? Demonstrate to the Father that you know it’s all going to be just fine. Raise your hands Jesus and give the Father a virtual high-five, “We’ve got this! Hallelujah!”
This is not how life works. Pain comes. Suffering comes. Emotional breakdowns come. Life happens and in those moments of inner conflict where your emotions are stirring inside, your gut is in knots and you don’t know if you CAN trust the Father. This is when you ACT. You act on the feelings of trust and reliance and you also accept that the feelings are there. Faith and feelings of turmoil can reside simultaneously in the same place.
In this space is where the Father can pour out His love and reach into your heart. He is not looking for emotional denial. He wants you to love Him with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. That love is sometimes painful. It is sometimes an act of obedience to do what He is instructing you to do even though every fiber inside of you doesn’t want to do it.
Why? Because faith can override feelings when we trust that LOVE is the way. God knows what we need, He also knows that His mission is carried out through the actions of us humans here on earth. We can choose to listen, connect and obey or we can choose to ignore, disconnect and go our own way.
Lasting joy comes from one of those paths and not the other.
My new book, coming soon, The Ultimate Love Affair explores these core realities of walking through the pains of life and coming out stronger. It’s about finding that balance between feelings and faith and it’s also about the times when walking away from God brought pain and suffering and how He was always there, ready to take me back. I was the one who had to turn.
Maybe this is a bit of a disconnected blog today? It’s my own way to process this “OBEY” vs “FEEL” space and try to ask myself, “How did Jesus do it? Did He act on feelings? Yes. Did He obey the Father’s instructions? Yes. Is it possible to live with the raging fires of emotions burning inside and still live a life that is committed to God? Yes.”
God wants all of you. Including your highs and your lows. He does not expect you to live as a robot, always smiling, always positive. He knows that suffering is part of this life and it is the ability to feel the warmth from the fires that makes life worth living. You don’t have to act on every emotion and get yourself burned, but hand them over to God in prayer and see what He would have you to do with them.
This human experience is full of emotions. And if you’re feeling them that’s good. You’re alive.