What are you led by? What directs your decisions, actions, words and thoughts?
As believers, we’re called to live by faith. And yet so many of us choose to live by something else—our feelings. Have you ever made a decision because it simply “felt right”? Have you ever said something because it “felt like the perfect moment”? I know I have. Before I became a believer, I lived fully by feeling. My feelings informed my reactions to life and directed my every step. If a pathway wasn’t accompanied by a nice feeling, it wasn’t the one I took.
Shortly after I became a believer, I still lived by my feelings rather than my faith. I doubted my salvation because it didn’t feel real. I struggled to believe that God still loved me when I sinned because I couldn’t feel His love. I often gave into temptation to sin because it felt better than obedience. My worship time was completely regulated by my feelings as well—if I felt near to God, then I had worshiped effectively and rightly.
Do you live by your feelings? Do you live in a similar way that I did? If so, we need to consider what God’s Word has to say about our feelings and what living by faith actually looks like.
Your Feelings Can’t Be Trusted
The Bible is quick to tell us that our feelings (or hearts, more accurately) can’t be trusted.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Prov. 28:26).
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9).
Why are our hearts deemed so untrustworthy? Two reasons: They are constantly changing and affected by sin.
Our feelings are about as certain as the sand on the beach. The sand is always being moved, pushed forward and backward by both wind and water. It’s kicked and thrown by people running across it, children building with it and dogs digging in it. It may appear to be a solid foundation for your sandcastle, but add just a little too much water and the entire building will collapse.
Our feelings are no different than that sand. They’re easily changed by people and circumstances. One moment you could be happily reading a book in your favorite chair, and a few minutes later be angered by the trail of mud your dog just brought in. You may have felt down when you first woke up this morning, but after an invigorating run with your favorite music playlist, your day is looking a lot brighter. See how fickle our feelings are?
Our feelings can also be influenced by others. A speaker could make you feel passionate about a new social justice need. A worship leader could make you feel like God’s presence is all around you. A pastor could make you feel guilty. A friend could make you feel happy again. A salesperson could make you feel anxious that you don’t have the latest product. Our feelings are so easily influenced and changed by words, actions and tones.
This is where we can see the folly of trusting our feelings. How can you rely on something to inform you that is always swaying? We wouldn’t take confidence in a leader if he was always second-guessing and changing the plan of action. Why would we trust your feelings any better? They aren’t certain, and they are poorly informed.
Affected by Sin
Because of the fall, our entire being is affected by sin. Our bodies decay, fail and die, and our hearts are corrupted. Our hearts desire that which is sinful, and we must always be fighting against that. Paul himself writes about this battle we have with the flesh:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me (Rom. 7:15–20).
There’s a battle that we must always be fighting against the flesh, and that battle also resides in our feelings. Our feelings will lead us to do what feels right or good—whether or not it is considered righteous by God. Our feelings will try to persuade us to do things that are disobedient to God. If we are to live a righteous life, they cannot be trusted.