“Follow your heart.”
“Do what feels good.”
“Do what makes you happy.”
These are all statements that I have heard my entire life. They are tossed around by well-meaning individuals, but often result in heartache and disappointment.
I have a love/hate relationship with emotions. As women, especially, we battle the tug of emotions on a constant basis! Our hormones can be all over the map and our emotions tend to follow suit. Not all emotion is bad, but it can quickly become bad when we base our judgment on how we are feeling at the time. Our emotions change from week to week, day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour! There is no consistency on which to base any rational decision!
Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I don’t feel like tending to a cranky toddler. Sometimes I don’t feel like loving my neighbor. Sometimes I don’t feel like honoring and loving my husband. Some days I don’t feel like being patient and kind. Some days I’m just not feelin’ it.
Sometimes I feel it. Sometimes it comes easy to be patient and kind. Some days I feel butterflies when my husband holds my hand. Sometimes I feel like loving my neighbor and some days I feel more prepared to deal with a cranky toddler. Some days I’m feelin’ it.
Do you see what I mean? Our emotions can be swayed by situations, physical changes, the weather, how people treat us, and so on.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
But if we cannot trust our feelings and emotions, then what are we to trust?
Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.”
When we are followers of Christ, we are no longer under rule of our emotions or feelings. We are to be ruled by the Holy Spirit! Paul discusses the battle between our sinful nature and the Spirit(of God) extensively in the book of Romans. Here are a few things that stand out to me (although, there is so much to be said, you should definitely read the entire chapters of 7 & 8!):
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Rom. 7:18)
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom. 8:5-11)
“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:12-14)
He(Paul) writes more in Galatians 5:16-17, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” He goes on to list what the sinful nature looks like and even says that it is obvious(Gal. 5:19-21): sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and like things. Wow. When I examine that list, I see a LOT in there that is largely based on emotion and feelings! What we think is right for ourselves. We are not just given a list of things not to do, but we are also given a list of things that we can replace sin with! Life by the Spirit looks like this(Gal. 5:22-23): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control. How interesting that controlling our selves is part of living by the Spirit. It doesn’t say to free ourselves or to do what our heart desires, but instead we are to control our selves! How quickly our selves can cave to the sinful nature if we allow it.
We have a choice. We can follow our hearts and be emotion-led, or we can follow our Lord and be Spirit-led. It is a choice.
It is a choice for me to tend to a cranky toddler. It is a choice for me to love my neighbor. It is a choice for me to love, honor and respect my husband. It is a choice for me to be patient and kind. It is a choice, not based on feeling or emotion, but based on the Word of God and His call on my life.
Am I perfect? No way. Do I make mistakes? Do I cave to emotion and feelings at times? Yes! It is not always easy to make choices that go against what we are feeling. We have been engrained by our culture from a young age to do what feels right to us and to follow our hearts, because our hearts know best. We live in a society where the divorce rate is over 50%, even in our churches! We live in a culture that breeds heartache after heartache(just look around!). We live in a world that is fallen and broken, but we still continue to trust their advice over God’s Word, simply because it feels better. When we look to scripture, we see a vastly different point of view. If you have experienced heartache as a result of trusting your heart(haven’t we all?), please know that God is our healer! He knows that we are imperfect, which is what draws us to Him to begin with…we NEED Him! It is never too late to begin trusting Him with our hearts and lives, but remember that it is a choice.
When I am just not feelin’ it, I am called to choose Christ, regardless of where my heart stands. It may not be easy, but I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to put emotion and feeling aside when it comes to decisions and living our lives for Christ. We are created for more than trusting ourselves. Will you join me in trusting the God of the universe with your heart, asking him to guard it from worldly emotions and instincts?