Reframed: Faith vs. Feelings
Updated: 6 days ago
I remember sitting in my therapist’s office, my eyes filling with tears, as I struggled to understand God’s faithfulness amidst a series of unfortunate events that had discouraged my heart.
There I sat, questioning God’s good and gracious character. Never before had I doubted God’s love for me as I did in that season. I was, like many, crushed by the weight of disillusionment.
Now looking back a few years later, I see so clearly how my struggle in that season was directly connected to a distorted perspective of God’s promises. Throughout my Christian upbringing, I had learned about the many promises of God. Yet without even realizing it, I had somehow replaced God’s truth with my faulty perspective.
Consequently, the expectations I held lacked substance when my reality seemed to reflect the absence of God’s presence rather than His promises.
We believe God promises comfort, yet we mourn.
We believe God promises peace, yet we worry.
We believe God promises hope, yet we feel hopeless.
We believe God promises love, yet we experience loss.
What have we missed?
How do we reconcile the glaring disparity between the truth of God’s good intentions given throughout all of scripture and the state of our weary and struggles souls?
Ultimately, this question challenges me to choose between my feelings or my faith. Is God still good when my wants are unmet?
Is God still still faithful if He fails to answer my prayers the way I believe He should?
From a cognitive framework (presented in the first week of this study), we can identify several thinking patterns which negatively impact our perspective of God’s character and therefore orient our emotions in powerful ways.
Here are two common examples of how our feeling-driven perspectives impact our view of God's promises.
All or Nothing Thinking
This pattern of thinking categorizes in two extremes; black or white, yes or no, good or bad. In doing so, our perspective leaves little room for alternative thought.
When we apply this filter of thinking to our view of God, placing all our spiritual experiences in life in one of two categories, we can develop an unhealthy view of God. With this limited frame, we begin to place a condition of IF-THEN onto our faith.
If God answers my prayers (in the way I ask), then He is faithful.
If God relieves my distress, then He is loving.
In creating this distorted equation, we set ourselves up for discouragement.
When we experience loss, we may find ourselves questioning God’s goodness. When we are faced with trial after trial, we may become bitter in God’s perceived lack of protection or provision.
When we place this filter onto passages of scripture we become frustrated when we do not experience our perceived message of the text. .
Take the well-known verse in Psalm 37,
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (v.4)."
This verse seem straight forward: Delight in the God (IF) and receive your heart's desires (THEN).
Believe me, I have struggled with this passage myself because as we have experienced, delighting ourselves in the Lord does not equal getting what we want.
This passage and many others like it have such deeper theological principles yet we read them at face value and apply unrealistic and frankly unbiblical perspectives to them which devastatingly impact our view of God.
In addition to the all-or-nothing pattern of thinking, we can easily fall prey to the distortion of emotional reasoning which interprets situations by our feelings.
Whatever distress we may experience suddenly filters our circumstances and thus our perspectives. When we allow our feelings to dictate our perspective of God’s faithfulness and His fatherly affection, we will certainly experience dysregulation in our faith.
God cares about our feelings but as any loving Father would, He cares more about the state of our souls.
We would easily agree that good parents withhold things from their children either to protect them, direct them, or provide something better for them. Yet why is it so difficult for us at times to believe God is doing the same for us when He closes doors or redirects our steps?
We read passages like Matthew 7, where Jesus says, "...how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"
Emotionally speaking, I love this passage. Yet my reality rarely reflects what I perceive to be "good things" as I again and again go before the Lord, praying for specific "good things" in my life to be given. My emotions challenge me to doubt God's goodness when I "FEEL" he has not given me the "good things" I desire.
Here is where my faith and feelings collide and I must decide which to follow.
As you can see, these default thinking patterns tend to feed off one another in many ways. Consequently, our faith becomes fragile as our feelings project a distorted frame of God’s faithfulness.
I have sat with many who have experienced a sense of confusion and crisis of faith when functioning from these patterns of thinking. Although there is substantial study needed to grasp the many theological concepts found within this conversation, I want to simply provide my process in reframing my perspective to pursue a healthier view of God’s promises.
| Reframing with Faith |
If you ever explore the progression of God’s promises, you will learn many theological views on God’s covenants in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Although these are important aspects in defining our spiritual beliefs, my current perspective leans towards the understanding that ALL of God’s promises throughout scripture point to the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ.
With this new frame, our previous perspectives suddenly come crashing down with the simplicity of God’s promise to each of us as His child.
We are promised, Christ. Nothing more, nothing less.
Looking back to scripture, we see how this truth of Christ’s fulfillment of all that God promises us is referenced over and over again.
2 Corinthians 1:20-22
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
1 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Each one of these passages points to the work and worth of Christ Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer. It is through Him we have the greatest promise, eternal life!
Jerry Bridges, in his book, Trusting God, writes, “If God’s love was sufficient for my greatest need, my eternal salvation, surely it is sufficient for my lesser needs, the adversities I encounter in life (p.149).”
God does not promise us an easy life .
God does not promise us our dreams & desires.
God does not promise us comforts of this world.
He does promise us Himself.
He does promise us His Son.
He does promise us His Spirit.
Faith is not afraid of feelings nor is it swayed by them.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). And it is with this frame of faith we, through the Spirit, eagerly await the righteousness for which we hope (Galatians 5:5).
This promise, given by God and fulfilled by Christ, empowers us to wait patiently for the eternal promise of everlasting life.
So, it is in this space between our feelings and faith, we daily learn to press into the truths of God's Word and place our perspectives in the hope of heaven.