Those Dangerous Emotions

Fuel for Faith and Vision

Emotions have gotten a bad rap. 

In late antiquity, church fathers like Augustine saw them as passions needing to be governed by the mind.

Faith emotions 47769175 l 2015aIn the Middle Ages, theologians like Thomas Aquinas likewise subordinated them to reason.

In the Reformation, Luther and Calvin acknowledged their value but also recognized their dangers as contradictions to scripture.

In modernity, Christians have generally affirmed them as gifts from God but made them the “caboose” that follows all our other faculties.

No Christian thinker, as far as I know, has rejected emotions. Nearly all have made them peripheral. They are secondary to the other aspects of our soul. 

Emotions and Faith

I’m well aware of the risks of letting emotions take the lead in our lives, but they are still an extremely important part of our relationship with God. (They are actually important in all close relationships. Marriage, for example, even if it doesn’t depend on them, better include them somewhere in the package from time to time.)

And even though faith doesn’t depend on emotions—truth is truth, regardless of how we feel about it—it’s going to affect our feelings.

Think about it: If you are praying in faith for God to do something he has already said is his will—to break through in a certain area of your life, to provide what you need, to open doors to your calling—aren’t you going to attach some feelings to his upcoming answer?

If you really believe he is going to answer, shouldn’t you go ahead and feel happy about that? And if you don’t feel happy about it—if you live in discouragement or worry—then are you really believing he is going to answer?

We all live in a contradiction at times. We “believe” God without expectation of his goodness. We claim to have faith in his answers and get discouraged about the lack of them. Our minds envision one thing while our feelings envision another.

Faith is not based on emotions, of course. But emotions are part of the process of believing.

Resolving the Contradiction

Paul said to be anxious for nothing but instead to make our requests known to God with thanksgiving in our hearts. Then the peace of God would come (Phil. 4:6-7). 

In other words, pray and be thankful—not only for what God has already done but what he is going to do. Get happy about the answer, however it might look. 

If feelings are integral to faith, cultivate them. Go ahead and worship God now. Fill your mouth with gratitude and praise ahead of time. 

You may be astonished at how your mind changes and your faith grows. Worship and gratitude feed faith, and faith generates feelings that reinforce it. The downward cycle of discouragement changes direction, becoming an upward cycle of expectation.

No wonder feelings have gotten such a bad rap over the centuries. Yes, they can be dangerous for souls not anchored in truth. But they can be even more dangerous to the kingdom of darkness when they fuel our vision and faith.

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Betsy Beck 28.08.2019 18:23  
Yes No   I have been using one of the devotional s you have written. I have related to it very well and God is using it in my life. Thank you, Chris.  
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