The Purpose of Feelings

How do you handle your feelings and the feelings of others? Do you ignore them or live your life chasing them? 

“Feelings should neither be ignored nor placed in charge… own your feelings and be aware of them.” – Boundaries, Cloud & Townsend

For most of my life, I’ve equated feelings with weakness. We’re supposed to work hard and suck it up when things don’t go our way, right? When we’re sad, we’re supposed to push through. When we’re disappointed, we should remind ourselves life goes on and just forget about the things that get us down… and ya know, focus on the things and people that don’t.

But, as much I try, my feelings can’t seem to be ignored. Through reading Scripture and being discipled, I’ve realized feelings can’t be ignored because they shouldn’t be. God created feelings and called them good. But feelings aren’t meant to be something that control us or that we strive to attain. Rather, they are one lens through which we filter life – and allow us to see what is in our heart. This is helpful as we often cannot discern on our own what is the root of some of the issues in our lives.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  -Psalm 139:23

So how can feelings be used for good?

1.) Feelings can make us aware of our need for God. 

In my life, I’ve realized feelings of anxiety, worry or stress can alert me to when I need to stop and spend some time in self-reflection before the Lord.

self-reflection = meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives. (google.com)

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us that we are not to be anxious about anything, but in everything we are supposed to be honest with God about our feelings while still having a thankful heart because we know God hears and cares.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7

I need the peace God offers, I need His guidance, and ultimately, more than anything – I need Him.

2.) Feelings can help us to refocus and live according to Truth. 

Anxiety and worry in my life often mean that I am focusing on making sure my circumstances maximize my joy and my comfort. Recently, I have realized that most of my anxieties are about things I cannot control and ultimately stem from self worship.

self worship = idolatry, the worship of oneself. (princeton.edu)

After realizing the truth of who I am and who He is, I am able to refocus. I am small and God is big. I am but a vapor and God is eternal. I am weak and He is strong.

 “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” -Matthew 6:31-33

3.) Feelings can allow us to see the beauty of the Gospel and worship God in the midst of our circumstances. 

Loss of a job, a loved one, or a disappointment can usher in fear, sadness, worry, and doubt before we even have time to really comprehend what’s happening. It is okay to feel and process and grieve. It is necessary and good. But we also have to bring our mind back to the truth. And the truth is that we have a God who loved us so much that He created us, and after we rebelled against our perfect King, He came to rescue us while we were dead in our sin.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:6-8

Staying in the Word on a consistent basis, being in community, and preaching the Gospel to yourself throughout the day allows us to be comforted and have joy and peace no matter how we feel or what we face.

In this post I mostly referenced negative feelings such as anxiety, worry, and fear. How can positive feelings like care, compassion, happiness and affection also help us to see the beauty of the Gospel and worship God in the midst of our circumstances? 

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” -Proverbs 16:24

Further reading: “The Goodness of God” by Bob Deffinbaugh.

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