For some reason, I always rush to conclusions and interpretations about God’s work within me. I glean recently planted fields even though they still need to bear its fruit! With that, take my posts with a grain salt because I know his work is incomplete and far from finished.
As I think about my time here in Clarkston, the word “trust” keeps appearing in the forefront of my consciousness. Its manifestation is not based on a single blanket understanding of the word but instead, different streams of it materialize and flow forth. Right now, I’m only going to focus on one of the streams…
I am an emotional person. A lot of times, I allow my feelings to take me in one direction when my reason might tug in the opposite direction. This stems from my extremist personality where I take an extreme point of view contrary to my previous extreme point of view because of the scars the former leaves. Internally (sometimes reflected externally, as well), my heart wallows in perpetual emotional turmoil as I wrestle to find some type of validation for my new extremist ideal. Because of this, I allow my feelings to dictate my understanding of God’s will for my life, instead of Scripture’s truths. I end up trusting in my own interpretation of some whimsical feeling within me without knowing if the feeling originated in truth.
Since I have been in Georgia, it seems like God has removed this paralyzing emotional aspect from my life…and I’m not sure I like it. I want to feel a penetrating pain deep within my soul for the hurting in Clarkston. I want to experience a love for those I work with and those I serve. I long to be an existential Christian like I have always been! But from what very little I have gleaned from this young harvest, God has shut the door on that.
Why would he do that? Doesn’t God want me to feel and to experience and to long? Of course! but not when those graces take the place of the Father himself. God seems to be challenging me to trust in the truth of his glorious nature. If I my emotions control me here in Clarkston, I will extend love only to those who conjure up some positive emotional feeling within me (And trust me, some of these kids will not always bring out the warm and fuzzies). By stripping away my emotionality, I must apply my knowledge of love (love is not a feeling, but a choice/act of the will) to all that I meet.
When Satan tempts Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4, Satan tries to bend Jesus’ will toward his own:
“After he fasted forty days and forty nights he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread’…Then the devil took him to the holy city, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down’…Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.’”
In each instance, Satan attacks areas in which man’s feelings could cause him to stray – specifically hunger, leadership, and power. Because Jesus was grounded in truth, you know, since he is truth and all, he combated Satan’s emotional attacks with Scripture. Jesus, being fully human, suppressed his natural inclinations to satisfy those desires and turned to the Word.
Jesus represents the perfect example of applying the truth he knows and actualizing it. Instead of relying on inner feelings to dictate his actions, he relies on the only truth we know for sure to be true, Scripture.
Even though my feelings seem to be dormant in this season of life, Scripture is there to replace them. This substitution is exponentially greater — I just need to trust God that it is. Actually, I must trust this because it is all I truly can trust. If I don’t, I end up only trusting my own interpretations of my feelings and up until this point, those interpretations can be pretty jacked up.
(Ironically, and maybe tragically depending on how you look at it, by analyzing the lack emotions in my life, I therefore am doing exactly what I do when emotions control my decision making. God, I pray you give me the desire to seek your truth in prayer and Scripture. Help me find truth in you and you alone, whether I am emotional or not. Thank you for continuing to love me and use me!)
One thought on “Emotions and God’s Will”
This reminds me of a couple passages I've read in Thomas Merton's writing. On the one hand, he says this:\”If we are without human feelings we cannot love God in the way in which we are meant to love him– as men.\”But also:\”The reason why so many people believe they cannot meditate is that they think meditation consists in having religious emotions, thoughts, or feelings of which one is, oneself, acutely aware.\” He goes on to say this is unnecessary, of course.Sure, he's talking about prayer and not specifically the love of others. But there's always this tension in the spiritual life, it seems, of wanting to feel like I'm \”supposed\” to feel. We want to love God and others with feeling, and when we don't have that feeling, we wonder what we're doing wrong. Like you said, it's as if God is saying to us, \”Ok, you're not on an enthusiastic, emotional high today. Will you still be my disciple?\” My immediate reaction is to say \”Sure… now can I have the good feeling back??\”I hope you're keeping up with these Rangers. Man oh man.