In Now What? - Part 3, I said that I have a problem with the current church/Christian culture because of its instruction to ignore feelings. The Fact Faith Feeling train illustration is the graphic equivalent. What I think the church culture is trying to convey with the Fact Faith Feeling train is that we mustn't allow our feelings to shape or shake our faith. The feelings brought about by our circumstances are trumped by the fact of God's sovereignty and His Word.
I really have a hard time with this train of thought (pun intended). It is counterproductive and dismissive of a whole area of our lives that is so important to our spiritual walk. This type of thinking is what hinders so many Christians from moving forward in their relationship with Christ, with others, and with themselves. Yes, I can robotically say to myself, "I will not pay any attention to my feelings" and will "choose to run to the cross" and "believe by faith in God's word" or I can try to examine why I'm feeling what I'm feeling and get to the root of my doubts and fears and CHANGE to become the person that God wants me to be.
If you lump all feelings together and dismiss them, then what do you do with positive feelings? You can't dismiss the negative ones and embrace the positive ones. Can't every one of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 be considered an emotion or feeling? God made us to feel and all of our feelings, positive and negative, give us an indication of where we're at in relation to God.
I recently heard a pastor tell his Believing congregation that their hearts were "wicked, deceitful and not to be trusted." If my Believing heart feels and shares love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is it wicked, deceitful and not to be trusted?
We get in trouble when we just "pretend" we don't feel the way we do. The church culture would tell us that we have little control over feelings that circumstances bring about, as though we cannot exhibit self-control (a fruit of the Spirit) over our own feelings. Some say "what we feel is not who we are." This is dismissive of our feelings. The same people also say "our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life." It's counterproductive to disconnect our feelings and emotions from our spiritual state. Our feelings/emotions are a good, reliable gauge as to where we are spiritually. We should not dismiss them. Ken Nair, author, lecturer and marriage counselor says that "emotions are the voice of the human spirit." Scripture says that "God is Spirit" and those who would worship Him must worship Him "in spirit and in truth."
On a day-to-day basis, then, we have to overcome our fear of feelings, to embrace them as an indication of where we are in relationship to God, others and ourselves. If we find ourselves in a bad place, our feelings will let us know that we need to move from there. If we have "fruit of the Spirit" feelings, then we know we're in a good place and can stay. Ken Nair says that if we become more aware of our own spirits, then we can ask ourselves if Jesus ever felt what we are feeling (and thereby connect with Him in a remarkable way). We can empathize with others when they tell us how they are feeling. We can ask if we've ever made another person feel what we're feeling. More to come...