Emotions…where would we be without them? Our emotions and feelings are an integral part of our existence…life would be totally dull and tasteless without them…kinda like tofu. *I do apologize if you’re a tofu lover. But, can you envision life without feelings?Imagine excitement without the feeling of excitement…falling in love without the feeling of love…exhilaration without the feeling of exhilaration. An alien thought isn’t it? It surely is…and it feels [all pun intended] so because that how exactly we were created…we are wired to feel. Our feelings illuminate life…they make our existence vibrant. Yet, these very feelings seem to an abstract part of our existence. After all, they cannot be quantified. I mean you cannot put happiness in a jar...can you? But our feelings are there…and not as subtle, background elements but powerful forces demanding our attention.
Our feelings illuminate life…they make our existence vibrant.
Feelings are very powerful – both for good and bad. And so, great responsibility is implied with our ability to feel and experience emotions. You see, when channeled properly, our feelings can be likened to powerful rivers that have been channeled into dams in the good they can produce. However, at the same time, our feelings can be also likened to powerful rivers that flood, causing great damage, when mishandled. This means that there is a responsibility required in on our part to properly handle the emotions we feel. Given the precondition of a fallen universe, it should be understood that our emotions are somewhat awry – that they don’t necessarily function as God initially intended. In spiritual terms, our emotions are subject to the influence of our flesh, which is not saved. This is the main reason why it is necessary for us to keep watch over our emotions and handle them properly and soberly. I’ve come to learn that there is especially a great need to exercise wisdom and discernment with the emotions that we tend to associate with God.
I had a very “charismatic” Christian upbringing…and I still consider myself a “charismatic” Christian. I offer the term “charismatic” only because that is what my views would probably be labeled as by society. I grew up in churches where people were emotionally free with God. Singing loud…lifting hands…and expecting to experience God’s presence in a tangible manner were not things that were out of the ordinary. Now, growing up in such an environment, one thing I noticed was how much I associated God with how I felt. For instance, whenever people asked me how I knew God was real…I always caught myself saying something like “because I feel Him”…and I determined God’s presence in my life at a certain moment based on how I felt at that moment.
As years went by and I grew deeper in my relationship with God, I began to realize that there was something seriously flawed with the way I associated Him with my emotions. There would be days at church when the service didn’t feel as good the previous week’s service and I would hear people saying something like “oh…God’s presence wasn’t really strong today“…or I would notice how people’s measure of God’s presence would shift based on how good the worship band sounded from song to song. Such things began to bother me. It seemed as if God had become a feeling. I began to ask exactly how much of what I feel is God. One thing is for certain – our interactions with God do incite emotions in us…just as our interactions with one another do. But which of the emotions we feel are really from God?
Can I be blatantly honest with you? Some of the feelings that you get from listening to a great worship song, you can also get from listening to a song that has nothing to do about God. Does that make you uncomfortable? My intent is for it to do so! I think we have lived for too long simplifying God into a feeling…and using spiritualized feelings to define His presence and even His existence. The truth is that God is not a feeling and our feelings prove neither His existence nor His presence. God is not present because we feel Him; rather we feel God because He is always present. This notion places God above our emotions and feelings…and clarifies that His existence or presence are not subject to how we feel. So whether we feel something or not…the truth of God’s reality and presence remain a constant.
God is not present because we feel Him; rather we feel God because He is present.
You see, truth will be never subject to emotions but emotions can be subject to truth. I say they “can be subject to truth” because they sometimes aren’t. Sometimes, our emotions and feelings are subject to and affected by things that are simply not true. I mean, have you ever felt afraid while going down into your basement in the dark, of something that does not exist? Well, that feeling was based on a lie. Or maybe…you felt like God was more present at church, because you felt goose bumps, when the pastor made powerful statements – well I tell you what…great orators are also known to cause goose bumps in their listeners…and God was present even before you felt goose bumps anyway.
My point is that you can’t always trust what you feel. But you can trust what you know…and pure knowledge is founded upon the word of God. Whereas our feelings may fluctuate, the truth of God’s word will always remain a constant. Therefore, what we feel should always be tamed into subjection to what we know. I’ll leave you with this – the countless moments I’ve seen God do amazing wonders in my life were actually moments when I did not feel God. Yet, in those moments, God proved His presence in my life apart from any feeling. The feelings came after… 😉