“Your feelings may lie to you but scripture never will”
“Don’t trust your feelings”
“Your feelings are selfish and come from a deceitful heart; they can’t be trusted”
Have you ever heard any variation of these comments? I have, too many times to count. And even if the comment was not explicitly said, the sentiment was still there: your feelings are trouble and you should watch out for them.
For an emotional guy like me, that’s pretty hard to do. At any given time, I’m pretty aware and in tune with what I’m feeling. And I feel a lot (too much, if you ask me). So when someone like me hears the statement “You can’t trust your feelings”, I’m basically left holding ten grocery bags of emotions and no pantry to put them in.
Are my feelings my enemy? Are they psyche drunk texts of the mind and soul just waiting to ruin our lives as soon as we press send? Or are they something else? What if my feelings aren’t my enemy, but actually just broken? What if it isn’t my feelings that can’t be trusted, but instead what I choose to do with them? If my feelings are the message and I am the recipient, then isn’t it my responsibility on how I respond?
When we call our feelings liars, we do a few unhelpful things. First, we make them an enemy when that is the last thing they are. Feelings help us relate. Those without feelings are called psychopaths, not trusted friends. We are given feelings by God because in His sovereignty they are part of what makes us human. And like all things human post-The Fall, they are broken. But in Jesus, all broken things find their redemption. I believe our feelings are not internal enemies waiting to ruin our lives, but instead parts of creation inside of us that long like Romans 8 for their full redemption one day.
The second thing we do when we call our feelings liars is that we align them with the real Enemy, Satan. Satan is the father of lies. Lies are not of God, they are of Satan. Lying is a sin. When we lie, we are not showing that God is our Father (and for some, He isn’t). Lying is from the Devil for it is the first thing he utters when taking to Adam and Eve. If our feelings are liars, then they can’t be from God.
Lastly, we don’t teach people properly how to deal with emotions when we call our feelings liars. When we assume every feeling we feel is lying to us, we are more likely to condemn them for being bad instead of processing why we feel the way we do. We will then push our feelings down and repress them, instead of bringing them to God asking Him to help us evaluate them. If we just assume that what we feel is a lie, we will never fully evaluate if that is the truth, or not.
Often times, Jeremiah 17:9 gets thrown into the emotional condemnation stew whenever talk of emotions comes up:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
If we look closely at the verses before verse 9, specifically 5 and 7, we see that the Lord is condemning those who only trust in themselves. The Lord is not condemning what we feel, but how we respond to what we feel. Our feelings are not the issue, our flesh is:
“Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”
Jeremiah 17:5 ESV
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.”
Jeremiah 17:7 ESV
Our heart is sick, because our heart is broken. And what flows from it must be redeemed, surely. We shouldn’t just assume something is right because our heart said it; but we can’t assume it’s wrong either. We must combine what we feel with the Word of God and follow what it says. But that doesn’t mean my feelings lie to me; they just aren’t the best places to figure out where to go with my heart.
I read one article that said that our emotions are like gauges. They can’t tell you where to go, just what’s going on with the vessel. When our “Check Engine Light” comes on, we don’t automatically know what is wrong with the car. We know it’s something to do with the engine but most cars won’t be specific with what is happening. And what if the car we have is faulty, known for displaying indicators that aren’t really happening? If we just ignore them always, assuming they are lying to us, we might find ourselves stranded on the side of the road because we didn’t take the time to figure it out.
If your feelings are indicators, our God is the mechanic. The light could mean nothing, or could mean a lot of things. We won’t know until we take our car into the shop and the Mechanic takes a look at it and tell us what is going on.
So now that we know our feelings aren’t our enemy, but they don’t always specifically tell us what to do, what are we to do with them? I think the Psalms provide a great place for how to “feel biblically”. David never hid his emotions. He never ignored them or immediately wrote them off. The pattern we see David go through is one of acknowledgment and submission.
David allows himself to feel the emotion. He acknowledges that he feels alone, that he is being attacked, that he can’t see or feel God’s presence. He questions God, he asks for insight, and begs for an answer. And then, in the middle of it, he submits it to God. He acknowledges what He feels, and then he gives those feelings over to go. His feelings are his two mites he puts in the offering plate, asking God to do something with them.
David’s feelings didn’t lie to him, because he submitted them to God for the response. He didn’t say “Nope. I don’t feel alone. I feel fine”. He acknowledges that he feels alone, and then he tells his soul what to do with that feeling. His feelings are broken, and he takes them to one who can fix them.
Your feelings are not liars, friend. No, they cannot be trusted to always guide you in life. But they were never meant to. Your feelings were never meant to be the sole guiding light in life, pre-Fall or post-Fall. The issue is not our feelings, but how we respond to them and what we expect of them. They were never given to us to replace God. They were given to us because God feels too and we are made in His Image. He is happy, he is grieved, he is angry, he is joyful. God and God alone was always meant to be Who we follow; our feelings are just indicators of where we are in that walk. So no, do not trust them for all things; but do not ignore them. Your feelings are not your enemy. They are awaiting the same redemption as you.