Recently I was talking with a small group of women at my church, and one woman confessed some doubts she was having about her salvation. It’s a stressful time in her life, and she was struggling to believe that she was really saved. As she shared, I began to recognize lies from the Enemy that she was believing:
“I’m messing up too much, so how can I truly be saved.”
“I’ve lost the fervor that I had as a younger believer, so does that mean my conversion wasn’t real?”
“I don’t feel joyful or hopeful, so do I really have faith in Christ?”
I began to feel a holy fury rising up within me to fight for my dear sister against these lies, because I too once believed them. Shortly after getting married, in a time of great transition in a new town, working a new job, with a new husband, I began to question my salvation because I didn’t feel saved. I was wrecked by guilt, embarrassed to confess my faith struggles before my newlywed husband. I couldn’t even bring myself to come to God, fearing that he too would condemn me. Satan had me putting the emphasis on myself and my feelings, instead of God’s truth and faith in Christ.
What did my friend and I have in common? We followed our feelings instead of faith in God.
Don’t follow your heart
And why should we be surprised by that? Especially as women, we were taught early as girls through fairytales to “follow our hearts.” Whatever our hearts felt must be true. Yet God’s word negates this cultural teaching in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Our hearts cannot be trusted because sin has corrupted them. Instead of feeling emotions like love, anger, happiness, and sadness in their proper place, sin has tainted the way our emotions work.
In a recent Daily Grace podcast, “Can we trust our emotions?,” they remind us, “Our emotions don’t always reveal what is true and valuable, but they do reveal what we believe to be true and valuable.”
Our feelings show us what is going on within us. When we feel angry or sad or happy, that is an indicator of what is going on in our heart at that moment, but it does not mean that what is in our heart is true or reliable.
We were created with emotions
I want to clarify that I am not championing a lack of emotions. A complete lack of emotions is no better than an overabundance of emotions. God created us as his image bearers with emotions. In the Bible, we see God experience love and anger. We see Jesus cry over the death of his friend and rejoice at a wedding banquet. Emotions are a good gift from our Creator, but as sinful humans, we take his good gifts and use them for our own glory. So instead of aligning our emotions under his Word, we use them to build up ourselves through bitter jealousy, self-serving happiness, and unrighteous anger.
Emotions are a good gift of God. He did not just make us mind and body, but mind, body, and spirit. And he calls us to love him with all our heart, soul, and mind (Deuteronomy 6:5). So how do we believe or do something when we don’t feel like it.
Fight feelings with faith
David shows us over and over in the Psalms what it looks like to remind ourselves of truth even when we don’t feel those truths. We can choose faith over our heart’s emotions by speaking God’s Word over the lies that we believe.
Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
David doesn’t ignore his emotions; he digs deeper into them, asking himself why he is feeling those emotions. Then he reminds himself to hope in God not in himself, because he knows that while he may not feel like praising God now, he knows that one day he will again praise God.
This wasn’t a one-time battle. Over and over David had to get to the root of his emotions then choose faith over feeling. “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7). “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
One way that I practice this when I am overwhelmed by my emotions, is I first write down what I am feeling. I write out the lies that I am believing about myself, about God, and about my situation. Just by writing them down physically, I feel relieved to not have them pent up inside me. Then I draw a line down the middle of the paper, and to the right of each twisted emotion, I write down the truth of God’s Word. The emotions I was feeling were not necessarily bad, they just were an indicator that I was believing something contrary to God’s Word. I might still feel jealous or angry or sad later, so I keep the list nearby to remind myself of the truths of God. I fight my feelings with faith.
So as my friend finished sharing her feelings, I encouraged her to know that there was no shame in having those feelings and that it took courage just to share them. Then I spoke truth over her, reminding her that salvation is not based on our work or emotions, but on the perfect righteousness of Christ. Having struggled with a similar emotion, I shared Scripture that helped me fight those feelings when they arise (because I still struggle with the same lies today!).
You, too, can choose not to believe your emotions but to use them as an indicator of what’s in your heart. You can choose to live your life based on faith in God’s truth and not in your momentary feelings. You can choose to submit your emotions to the One who created them, trusting that he knows your heart and he alone can change it.