It’s pretty cool to read and drive at the same time; even better enjoying the scenery around you while you enter another world. That’s what I did on my recent trip to California. I read a couple audio books and it was marvelous. I made it through two, despite some shocking language and interesting theology. I kept listening because I heard in both memoirs the aching need to find God and be at peace with who they were. And I desperately wanted to see them get there.

A common thread in both books, and one that seems to keep popping up since I’ve returned, is our tendency to put faith in feelings. I’ve learned, and keep learning, that emotions come and go. They’re affected by many things. Scrooge didn’t immediately believe the ghost before him was his friend Marley in A Christmas Carol because, as he said, “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.”

Our feelings change according to what we’ve eaten, the amount of rest and exercise we’ve had, our insecurities, our life experiences, and what we’ve been plugging in to our brains. So if we base our relationship with God on how we feel, we’re going to be all over the place.

One scene in Father Joe pointed this out beautifully. The author came to know the Lord as a young man and had spent every moment since preparing to enter the monastery. He read theological works voraciously, delighted in Gregorian chant, and recited scripture and prayers with enthusiasm. Then just as suddenly as his joy in Christ had come, it left him during his evening prayers as if sucked out of him like a vacuum.

He struggled and prayed far into the night and when he woke, he was kneeling by his bed in a crumpled heap. After school he took the train to his beloved mentor, plagued by doubts and arguments disproving the faith he had held so dear. Father Joe welcomed him with love and warmth, and listened as he poured out his deepest fears.

He comforted the boy and sent him off for some much needed sleep. In the morning, they were able to talk rationally about the difference between faith and feelings.

“You fell in love with God, you see, and now the romantic part is over. It happens to us all, I’m afraid.”

“I’ll never have that feeling of light and certainty again?”

“Someday you’ll experience a much greater light and certainty than just feelings.”

“Feelings are not good?”

“Feelings are a great gift, but they’re treacherous if that’s what we live for. They drive us back into our selves, you see. What I want. What I feel. What I need.”*

This Father, who had become like his own father, took time to explain how our relationship with God is like a marriage. When we first fall in love we’re high on emotion; that energy drives and motivates us. But after a while, that high fades and we have to move from emotion to something much better. Whether we feel like it or not—when we’re sick, when money is tight, when we disagree on how to discipline the kids, and life gets choppy—commitment is what makes love last. Then the feelings swell once again, only deeper. Faith is like that.  

Maybe you’re at this point in your relationship with Christ, or in your recovery, or marriage, or job. Emotions can’t be trusted to carry us the distance. They come and they go—including how we feel about ourselves.

Trust in the timeless Word of God to find out who He is, who you are, and how to keep from blowing apart in this world of cultural fads and shifting philosophies. Pour out your doubts and fears to God like this young boy did, and let Him, your Father God, calm the storm within you and set you back on course.

*from Father Joe by Tony Hendra (read with caution; lots of language)
#don’ttrustemotions #factbasedfaith #ourFatherlistens #runtoGodwithdoubts #whenemotionsrunfaith