In the last few days I have had several conversations that remind me that our feelings can be tricky. We have feelings for a reason. They help us express joy and enjoy life. They can be exhilirating. They often can alert us to something big going on in our heart and relationships. Feelings are not bad in themselves. The danger comes when we elevate feelings and experience to god status.
Think about relationships…in the beginning the feeling is like flying. Studies even find that chemicals are released in the brain that are euphoric at the beginning of relationships. So fun. But then, what happens when they go away? Some panic thinking their love is not true. Some try to recreate that same feeling and when it fails they are despondent. Some move on to the next relationship to capture that feeling again. Some get married and fight a new battle of feelings. Those who push through and learn see that love deepens and matures over time. They may not experience euphoria, but they enjoy the person and trust is built and friendship is deepened and they are fully known, scars and all. There is a peace and reward to that kind of commitment.
A marriage, over time, has peaks and valleys, but with the goal in mind, much growth can occur. Endurance through those highs and lows and commitment and focus bring maturity and intimacy. This can be likened to our relationship with God.
At first, when our hearts are made new, it is so exhilirating. We are new creatures learning a new life and so full of love. We see God so many places. We want others to know Him. We hear Him. Like a child, we grow quickly because there is so much to learn. We long for more…and then something happens and we may lose that “feeling.”
I remember as a teenager and a newer Christian looking at adults and thinking they didn’t get it. Mind you, some of them really did not know Jesus, but some did and did not have the same “passionate” response as me. I made a judgement on them. I discounted their faith. Now, I am on the other side of that (twice the age I was then). I understand a little more.
Think about adulthood. Once you hit a certain age, your growth changes from outward to inward (at least we hope). The early and mid twenties are about finding out who you are and asserting that relationally in the world. I work with young women everyday who have hit the wall of adulthood and say “is this what all this is about?” They easily get depressed. It is hard. They feel lost. I remember those exact feelings. There’s the F word–feelings.
Part of my purpose is to point them to truth and to bring them to bring their feelings underneath the truth. As a person, if you do not learn to do this, you will continually be seeking the next thing that will create good feelings within you. This could be a new spouse or relationship, a new job, a new city, another kid, new friends, walking away from faith, walking to a new faith, self-help, drugs, status, material things, vacations. I could go on and on.
In our relationship with God, He wants us to know Him despite our circumstances, in and even despite of our feelings. Many think when they lose that first feeling and passion of the early days in their walk with God that they have lost Him. He may be teaching us not to trust or rely on feeling but Him. He may want us to seek Him and find that He is true even in sadness. We all have seen people who are so driven by experience that they are always chasing the next new thing in Christianity because that’s where people are really “knowing” God. A lot of times that can be mysticism without God at all. We can make our religious or spiritual experiences an idol. He will not stand for that.
God is so much wiser than we make Him to be. His word says that those who endure to the end will be saved. This life is not a sprint but a marathon. Ask runners if the whole marathon is a high–they will tell you there are definite highs but there are moments that they want to quit and do not think they can make it.
God, in His word, calls us to trust in Him and not our own understanding (feelings), and He will direct our path. He calls us to mature in Him, to grow in intimacy just like a marriage. As we mature, change comes in long and often painful periods of trust. To become more like Him, it involves the shedding of and dying to our sin. This does not feel good because we have come to trust it (sin) and treasure it more than Him. If we cannot process our feelings and bring them under His truth and choose to trust His truth even when we do not feel it, we will run away to try to get a better feeling somewhere else (in marriage, we call this adultery). We will miss some of the richest parts of knowing who He really is–not what we’ve made Him to be.
The biggest places God has refined me to know Him despite and even in my feelings are marriage and the struggle with infertility. In His grace, He continually called me to make a decision to study and meditate on His word. Was this easy? No. I wanted to run…and at times I did run to get a “high” somewhere else. However, in His grace and love, I submitted to His truth and chose to trust His sovereignty. Oh what a deeper joy…even such that I am thankful for the time of infertility for I would never have known Him in such a way. Faith is submission even when we are sad or angry or all over the place with our feelings. Faith is the submission and believing in His truth when we do not feel Him. We make this decision everyday. I pray that you not give up or run to something that seems easier or makes you “feel” better for the moment. Intimacy and maturity in Him do not rely on the circumstance of the moment but continually meditating on His truth and who He is and choosing to place your trust there for the long haul. I would not trade the long marriage for the false beginning high, and I pray that I continue to remember that.