Are You Confusing Feelings and Faith?

Are You Confusing Feelings and Faith? | Christian Mom ThoughtsI have somehow managed to be blessed with three kids who are generally happy to clean up after themselves. They don’t make a big deal of putting their things away, so usually this isn’t one of those mind-numbing parenting issues we are constantly battling in our house.

But not always.

The other night, I made my post-dinner “time to clean!” announcement and Kenna planted her bottom on the ground. She shrugged her shoulder to her ear, puckered her lips, looked at me with defiant eyes and pronounced, “Noooo. I’m not going to. I don’t FEEL like it tonight.”

Hmph! With an air of indignation, I informed her, “I didn’t feel like making you dinner tonight, but your stomach is full. Clean up.” I wish I could say it ended there, but it turned into a nasty battle over whether her feelings on the issue mattered.

Not 24 hours after this little event, I sat across from Bryan at the dinner table bemoaning the fact that it is so hard to feel God.

When I pray, I mostly feel like I’m talking to the walls. When I read the Bible, I usually don’t feel God’s illumination. When I worship at church, I often don’t feel any kind of supernatural connection.

My interpretation of these experiences: My faith has a problem. It’s broken. I’m doing something wrong. God set this whole thing up to be too difficult. It leaves me confused, frustrated, and if I’m very honest, a bit angry.

To feel this way means I have become confident that my feelings are a guide to reality. If I don’t feel God is there, He must not be.

Our culture places a high priority on feelings-based confidence. “What is true is what is true for you” is the relativistic anthem of our society. It’s the idea that we all have different experiences, leading to different feelings, therefore there must be different truths. In a self-focused world, it’s almost natural that such a value system emerges – even my 4-year-old resorts to it.

If you believe in the truth of the Gospel, however, truth lies outside of our feelings. Consider how many ways our feelings can steer us away from God’s true desires for our lives:

  • If we don’t feel that God hears our prayers, does that mean he doesn’t? No, the Bible tells us when we seek, we will find (Matthew 7:7).
  • If we don’t feel like worshiping God, should we stay home from church? No, the Bible tells us to always seek God first (Matthew 6:33). God deserves our worship each week.
  • If we don’t feel like loving our enemies, should we treat them as they treated us? No, the Bible commands us to love them without qualification of how we feel; clearly no one feels like loving their enemies by nature (Matthew 5:44).
  • If we don’t feel like making time in our busy schedule to serve others, should we continue living for only ourselves? No, the Bible tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

Feelings are subjective responses to people, things or situations. Feelings are real and should be acknowledged, but our confidence in faith and how we should live must rest on what is given to us by the Bible as objectively true. Confidence not based on truth is simply proud foolishness.

As a conversation starter, ask your kids how important feelings are. Help them understand the difference between caring for people’s feelings (important!) and using their own feelings to determine what is true and how they should live. Give them example scenarios like the ones above (“If you don’t feel like cleaning up, should you still do it? Why?) to help illuminate the point.

Do you relate to often not “feeling” God? Has it caused you concern like it has for me? I’d love to hear your experiences.

11 thoughts on “Are You Confusing Feelings and Faith?”

  1. For years I’ve stood in church worshipping God but never once have I felt so in tune with Him there that I could “see” Him. A few weeks ago I stood in front of a large group of women and gave my testimony, which has been thirteen years of God literally transforming my character and building my faith. I was so nervous to speak. But when the time came I was anointed by the presence of the Holy Spirit and I spoke with confidence and ease. As I looked out at the audience I noticed tears during sad parts, laughter during funny parts, and a true connection being made face to face with these women. Afterward, I was practically mauled with hugs and thanks for sharing my testimony, giving them hope and encouragement in their own walk with The Lord. The next morning as I stood in church with our congregation singing songs of worship and praise I saw Jesus walking around like a bright light, His hand reached out in front if Him caressing the faces of the people in our church, including mine, my husbands, and my daughters. Call me crazy. That has never happened to me before. But for whatever reason, I believe it was more than just a powerful vision in my mind. Maybe it was a gift from Him…I honestly don’t know. I just know it was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever experienced. And somehow I can’t help wondering if it was related to my testimony the day before. I haven’t “seen” Him since.

    1. Wow, Rosann, what an incredible experience (to say the least)!! You have to tell us more. As someone who has never experienced anything visual like that, I’m so interested to hear about it. Did you actually see his form, or was it the light that you saw? How long did it last? You must have been blown away. How did you react right after it happened? This sounds like a great blog topic for you. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing it here!

      1. Thanks for the inspiration Natasha! I actually hadn’t thought to blog about it…cause it kind of sounds crazy, but maybe it’s not. I don’t know! Lol! I know it didn’t seem too strange to me in the moment. I was immediately captivated by what I was seeing, but calm, knowing He was present with us. It was like this bright light with Jesus wearing white standing in the middle of the light. His skin appeared baby soft and his hand reached out to caress faces but it was like it never actually touched them because obviously I couldn’t physically feel the touch. I wanted to see more. Last week at church I tried to force myself to visualize him standing there again but I just couldn’t see him.

      2. I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict of 15 years. My husband is still in and out of alcoholism and worldly activities and music. Yesterday we were coming back from the hospital which is about a four hour drive. We entered a store that had a casino and my husband wanted to go in I did not want to and told him no but he insisted. I told him go head and he told me to go with him. I was a bad gambler in my past so I did not want to stir anything up inside me. But he said he did not want to go in alone. I am a believer and I know it is wrong to go into places like that but I went anyway and ended up playing 20 dollars. Boy did I feel sick in the casino and when I left. I felt as if I did deserve to receive God’s love or mercy. Today I feel different. And used it as a learning tool. It is aweful when you feel distant from God when you know it is from your own actions. Please pray for my husband and I for deliverance and salvation.

  2. Who won in the end!?!?!?! Its so hard, particularly with three children under four, I often wonder about my wisdom of rewarding tidying up (sometimes with a kiwi or orange…..more often with a chocolate button,). But on Sunday during the children’s sessiin they had to make promises which the teacher wrote down, folded the paper over (put a sweet inside) and sealed with staples. My two year old promised to tidy her room! I was touched.

    Feeling God can be hard, particularly during the day. But, every evening when I gaze at my sleeping babes with my husband, I can feel God blessing my life xxx

    1. Mommy always wins. 🙂 We have a star chart that we use for “occasional” stars. They don’t get something every time they do something well (like clean up), but every other time or so. That way they don’t do it out of expectation, but have some positive reinforcement on occasion. When they have all the stars on the chart, we all go out for ice cream. I wrote a little about it here:

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I’ve can relate to the feelings thing. I went through a very long, dry, confusing spell with the Lord once that made me doubt just about everything I ever thought I knew. Even prayers seemed to not make it past my ceiliing. (I can relate to the older post on prayer, too, about how your prayers always seemed to get a “no”) And at that time, the only thing I could plant my feet on was the Word of God. God’s silence, along with the doubt and confusion swirling all around, presented me with a choice. I could a) follow my feelings and despair and give up on God, or b) cling to the only thing that I could trust as Truth right then, God’s Word. I chose God’s Word because I trusted God too much to turn my back on Him, even if He was silent for so long. And I chose to cling to Him, despite the fact that He withdrew, because it’s scarier to believe that there is not a good, loving, God watching over everything. I agree with you, Natasha. It is so important to not let feelings lead. And feelings go where our thoughts go, so we need to be that much more careful to make sure our thoughts are on things above and on God’s Word, daily. So that when the hard times come, we have something to keep us afloat. Keep up the thought-provoking posts!

    1. Thanks so much, Heather – I know we can all relate to feeling that distance from God many times! What you say is so true…the only thing you can plant your feet on IS the Bible sometimes. When our feelings get in the way of reality, we need to turn to the Bible as our more objective foundation. Loving the Lord with our heart and mind is much more than a feeling! Thank you for all of your great comments!

  4. One of the biggest threats to the Christian walk is a dependance on feelings. This is why the older I get (and I’m thirty-one, so I’m not THAT old…right?), the more I’ve come to veer further away from praise music that relies on feelings and little to no actual spiritual substance. Emotion has to play a part in worship, as love is an emotion, and we worship to show our love for God. But when emotion becomes all it is, that’s where the problem begins.

    I witnessed this first-hand while in college. I attended a private Baptist university that had something called “Monday Night Worship,” during which a praise band would get on stage and run through a slew of songs before whoever the guest was that night went up to speak. Every single time a song would come on, the same people would be raising their hands with their eyes closed, swaying back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Nothing wrong with that, right? Folks worship that way, right? Well, one evening this brimming-with-spiritual-wisdom praise band decided to play a Nickelback song, because you know, it had the word “Heaven” in it, so it had to be appropriate. So I’m standing there watching this, thinking, “Are they seriously playing this right now?” and lo and behold…there go the hands, shooting up to the ceiling. Eyes are closing, people are swaying, and I’m like, “You have GOT to be kidding me.” So yeah. Feelings can lead us down ridiculous lines of thought.

    But the thing is, they aren’t inherently bad. We just take them to such an extreme that they become a sort of drug. If we don’t feel close to God, as you said, we must not be close to God. If music doesn’t make us want to sway back and forth and apparently make out with something (sarcasm), then there’s just something wrong with us, because we’re all supposed to be shiny, happy people. We’re addicted to feeling good about life and about ourselves. Not only is this not correct, it’s a seed for depression the moment we don’t feel like supercharged Apostle Pauls. I can say this about my own life: without exception, the times when I’ve had the most intimate communication with God have been the times when I HAVEN’T been “feeling” it. They’ve been the times when I’ve said, “God, I love You, but You’re pretty much ticking me off right now.” I think God values that honesty. We’re always trying to fake Him out.

    So this may or may not have been a tangent. 🙂 Sorry. I’m a tangenty kind of guy.

    1. Lee, You speak the TRUTH! LOL You are cracking me up about Nickelback. I agree with you over and over and over again. To be fair, everyone comes to God in different ways, and can be moved in different ways, but we have to be careful that our hearts and our minds are in the right place. Otherwise it is a slippery slope. I listen to a lot of Christian music in the car and you are right…there is a lot of stuff that passes for Christian for the wrong reasons. I don’t want to be a pharisee in suggesting we all need to strictly enforce specific rigorous evaluation of our music preferences, but yeah…I do agree there is value in giving mindful and prayerful consideration to what encourages our spiritual life. Thanks for the good laugh AND insightful comment! I whole heartedly agree.

  5. Hi, I don’t know about feeling God, but I know about hearing God. This may have to do with being what people call prophetic, but I often hear his voice in answer to prayer or in other situations. When it first began I was skeptical, but God would so often confirm what he’d said by repeating the message in prayer meetings I’d be in or in Sunday services. Even with this, my faith has certainly been through peaks and valleys like everyone else, but hearing him has given me a very solid sense of Him and his existence – most of the time, lol.

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