By Chip Brogden
Faith vs. Feelings
Many Christians wonder why their circumstances are so difficult. They wonder why things never seem to go their way. They wonder why everything seems to rise up and challenge them.
The Cross explains why things seem to get increasingly difficult for us the farther down the Narrow Path we go. Assuming we are not living in sin and our heart is right before God, when we no longer “feel” as we once did, does it mean something is wrong? Many Christians would answer yes, something must be wrong. Should we then ask the Lord to restore our good feelings? Again, many Christians, misled into thinking the Christian life should be one continuous string of mountain-top experiences, would say yes. On the contrary, we should realize that the Lord intends for us to walk by faith, and this is contrary to walking by how we feel.
In order to teach us, the Lord frequently permits us to have a number of spiritual experiences in the beginning of our training. Or, we may hear His voice plainly telling us what to do and where to go. This, of course, is necessary for children who cannot know otherwise. But over time these experiences become less and less frequent. Why? Because He wishes for us to walk with Him without the benefit of a spiritual experience or a good feeling or a clear voice. Now, in order to walk with Him, we must learn to do so based on relationship.
“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Here is the problem with walking by feelings. If I feel spiritual today, then I will pray, sing, read the Scriptures, and witness with great fervor. But if I feel unspiritual today, then I will do nothing. If this is how we live then we should see that it does not matter whether our feelings are good or bad, or if they result in good works or no works. Either way, we are still living based on how we feel and not based on our union with Christ. Even my “good works,” if solely motivated by how I feel, are rooted in Self. They are just as self-centered as my evil works. My feelings, whether they are good, bad, or indifferent, are in the domain of Self, and Self with all its feelings must be delivered over to death. It does not mean a Christian should be totally devoid of feeling, but it means a disciple of the Lord is not ruled by feeling.
The Apostle Paul referred to himself as a “prisoner of the Lord” (Ephesians 4:1). This is the practical application of the Cross. Only prisoners carry the Cross — “free” men do not. Those who love themselves will never take it up, for it means you have the sentence of Death in you. Obviously this does not “feel” good, so those who live by how they feel will find it unbearable. It is intended to bring my life to an end so that I may pass through death and come onto Resurrection ground. This is the purpose of all God’s dealings with us as disciples. The sooner we become the Lord’s prisoner, the sooner we will see His purpose realized in us.