What should I do about all the feelings I feel? I know that’s a loaded question. Trust them? Ignore them? Try to control them?
The first question you need to answer is this one: where are these feelings coming from and why am I feeling them?
Emotions are a God-given gift, they allow us to feel and cope with all the things we go through as humans. You want to see a person that felt a whole lot? Just flip through the Psalms and you’ll see king David dealing with joy, fear, gratitude, anxiety, regret and repentance. Even as Christ walked on this earth, He felt many of the emotions we often feel. Sadness at Lazarus’s death, contentedness while breaking bread with His disciples at the last supper, anger at turning the temple into a den of thieves, anxiety in the garden of Gethsemane at the prospect of His suffering, and happiness with every sinner he encountered who repented.
More than a year ago I wrote a blog post titled “Feel Your Feelings.” Which talked about not escaping the hard feelings you might be dealing with. Even if those feelings are negative, don’t run away from them or cover them up (I’ve come to learn that there’s a term for that - toxic positivity, but that's a whole other topic). And today I want to challenge you a step further: don’t just stop at feeling your feelings, but evaluate them before you act on them. Remember that while your feelings may be real, they are not always reliable!
While you’re entitled to feel and react to different circumstances in your life as they come, it might not be wise to always act on them. St. Paul reminds us, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). You can feel anger, but do not let it lead you to sinning.
Here are a few other feelings I’d like you to think about:
Feeling sad? Don’t let that sadness chain you in silence and isolation. Talk to someone about it and seek help.
Feeling angry with a friend or family member? Instead of bottling it up inside and letting it fester into a grudge, go lovingly confront that person in order to resolve it. Speaking negatively about them behind their back, or venting to anyone who will listen isn't the health way to resolve conflict. For more on this read "Growing Through Reconciliation."
Dealing with feelings of shame and guilt? Guilt can be healthy up to a certain point, shame, not so much. Theres a fine line between letting guilt awaken your conscious and leading you to repentance, and letting guilt eat you alive (which is exactly what Satan wants). More on this in the upcoming blog post.
Not feeling like going to church anymore, reading your bible, or praying? Push through that and don’t let your relationship with God be based on feelings. Our feelings fluctuate. One day I can feel fiery and full of zeal, and one day I might feel distant and apathetic towards God. Let your relationship with Him be built on solid ground, not swaying emotions.
Having romantic feelings for someone who isn’t right for you? I’ve coached many people who say something along the lines of, “I know this person isn’t right for me, and it’s not going to work out, but I can’t help how I feel for them.” I think many of us have been there, whether we want to admit it or not. The key here is to lean on your logical reasoning and don’t let your emotions steer the ship. Sometimes our heart takes a while to catch up with our sound brain, but if you’re constantly seeking God’s will, it will eventually get there. I’ve also heard people say, “Over time, somehow, someway, I no longer felt those strong feelings for them, and it was so liberating.” That’s the grace of God, my friends.
This is one I hope you never experience: not feeling like you “love” your spouse anymore? Love is not just a feeling. Love is sacrifice, love suffers, and love is kind. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Bears, believes, hopes, endures - those are all action words, conscious ways we express our love, it is not just based on feelings.
So how do I know if I should trust my feelings or not?
Check them against God’s word. Are they God-fearing and leading you towards Him, or away from Him? The only way I would fully trust my feelings is if I’m 100% in union with God at all times, but I don’t know too many people who are constantly in that state. We are all sinners (forgiven sinners, might I add). We are constantly being tempted to say and do the wrong thing. But our goal is to get there. To be fully encompassed by God’s love that all our feelings, acts, and even desires are all leading to Him.
One of my favorite verses, that is often misunderstood, is “Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). We’ve used this verse to wish others a blessed birthday, captioned it under a picture of our significant other on a social media post, and read it to assure ourselves that God promises to give us our desires. Yet we completely skip over the first half of the verse - to delight in Him. Can we try to dwell on that for a second? To be delighted, captivated, gratified, and excited to be with Him. If I’m fully engulfed in Him, then of course my desires would be lined up with His desires. The two would not be in conflict with one another!
Same with our feelings, if I am constantly delighting myself in Him, then what I feel would not contradict His commands.