One of the teachings I really struggled with over the years is the one about not being lead by our feelings. I must admit to having heard a lot of teaching on this subject and for a long time I never quite got to grips with it. I remember hearing people say, “We’re not lead by our feelings”, but I often wondered whether others really understood the idea either.
When I was introduced to this subject for the first time, it seemed that I was being taught that our choices in life and our responsiveness to the world around us should come only from the intellect and not involve any measure of sensibility at all. It was as though we were told that we should strive to be like Mr. Spock of Star Trek.
The reason this bothered me was because I didn’t see this in the Bible and was struggling getting the balance on this. Elijah knew grief when Jezebel was pursuing him. Job went through distress when God tested him and of course Jesus knew the anguish of what was ahead of him in the garden of Gethsemane.
David, of course, was an emotive person. He really wore his heart on his sleeve. The relationship he had with God involved a lot of expressing how he was feeling at times when he believed his life to be in danger. You can hear it in a lot of the Psalms he wrote. Below are just two examples
Psalm 130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
This describes a time when David was calling to God from the very heart of his being. He also had no trouble telling God how he felt.
Psalm 142: I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.
So where is the balance?
I believe it is in the area of control. We are commanded to be self-controlled. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. Anything that controls us has power over us, and so if our feelings are running our life we will always be at the mercy of them. God has created us as people who are able to express emotion, but not get carried away every time things are not how we want them to be.
When we are angry with someone, we can choose to calm down and not fly off the handle. If someone has wronged us, we can forgive and not let it eat away at us. Even something as simple as wanting to give in to an impulse buy when we know we can’t afford it, or responding graciously when we lose a game and not allow our competitiveness to get the better of us.
Think of emotions as a roller coaster. We can choose to get on the roller coaster and let it control our ups and downs, or we can choose not to get on in the first place!
We are made to express emotion, without letting it run our lives