Feeling Misunderstood


A few years ago, I was interviewed on a Detroit radio program about my book Feeling Like God. It became clear early in the interview that the host had not read my book (understandable) or even a clear summary of it (oops). But then I hadn’t exactly looked up his program to know what he was like or to anticipate what kinds of questions he would ask. As it turns out, his focus was apologetics, and he set out to prove to me that we can’t base our understanding of truth on our feelings because truth is absolute while emotions swing back and forth.

If I had written a book about basing our understanding of truth on feelings, then he would have resoundingly defeated me in this argument, I mean interview. And he would have been right to do so. But that isn’t what my book was about at all. Even so, I still came across sounding a little defeated because I hadn’t expected the conversation to go in that direction and didn’t quite know how to respond.

I expected that the conversation would be what the book is actually about: that even though truth is absolute, relationships grow not by learning facts but by allowing emotions to flourish and reveal each person’s heart. Or, as I like to say, no marriage grows stronger by simply staring at the marriage certificate. (Gentlemen, try telling your wife tonight that you are SO glad your marriage isn’t based on feelings, and see how that goes.) Deep relationships, even with God, involve emotional bonds. Always.

I wish I could repeat that interview and say something coherent like, “Truth is truth, regardless of what we feel. But God created us not just to know his truth and do his works, but to feel his feelings. Our problem isn’t having emotions; it’s having emotions that don’t line up with his. And that’s something we can grow in.”

So even though I encounter a bit of resistance from time to time in my quest to bring emotions back as a vital aspect of Christian discipleship, it’s still worth pursuing. The church has long touched on a truth about emotions (that they are unreliable) and then carried it to an illogical extreme (that they are unimportant). So I repeat, again, mainly because I have to: We don’t need to get rid of our feelings or even tame them; we need to align them with God’s. And that, believe it or not, fuels our growth in every other area of our lives.

Click to tweet: We don’t need to tame our feelings; we need to align them with God’s.

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©2013-present by chris tiegreen