The Problem with Feeling-based Faith

I remember having a conversation with a friend. I was 18 and wondering about how I would know what God wanted me to do with my life.

She told me that God knew that I was an emotional creature and would show my heart where to go and what to do.

That I could trust my feelings.

We’ve talked before about what the Bible has to say about trusting your heart and your feelings.

Your heart, your emotions are part of your flesh swayed by the sinful nature as a result of the curse.

The problem is that feelings lie to you!

We like to say that we’ve given our hearts to Jesus, but that’s not in scripture anywhere.

We should be giving all of ourselves to Jesus, not just our emotions.

When the Bible talks about matters of faith what does it talk about?

The heart and emotions?

Or the mind?

“You were taught to put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new self…” Ephesians 4:22-24 (emphasis mine)

We have a whole bunch of Christians walking around out there whose faith is based solely on how they feel. 

It’s not surprising because that’s how we treat all relationships even marriage: I’m here as long as I feel love or as long as I’m “in love.”

If you only follow Jesus as long as you feel in love with Him, you’re going to abandon Him.

This is why I cringe when people say they are in love with Jesus.

I guarantee that you will not feel “in love with Jesus” when persecution comes.

When the Lord’s discipline comes.

When trials come.

You’ll feel abandoned and alone.

That’s why it’s so very, incredibly, immensely, and entirely important to know the facts of scripture with your mind before the trials come and the feelings run out.

This is why theology –the logical study of God and His word– matter so much!

You need to have a solid understanding of scripture. You need concrete belief based on knowledge of the Bible and God’s character for when the feeling go away.

I remember going to summer camp in high school. I would get this awesome, excited, on-fire-for-God feeling.

And then I would go home.

And my sister was still annoying. The boy I liked still didn’t like me. I still had a temper. I still dealt with depression. I was still bad at math.

Everything went back to normal.

Why didn’t I feel God anymore?

I felt Him at camp.

Why didn’t I feel Him now?

Truth: it wasn’t God that I felt at camp. It wasn’t a spiritual high. It was an emotional high.

I had based my faith on how I felt instead of what I knew.

I had an American view of my relationship with God just like I had an American view of every other relationship in my life: it was based on how I felt.

If I felt loved, I was loved. If I felt unloved, then I wasn’t loved.

Everything was based on my emotions, and my emotions were part of my sinful flesh.

It wasn’t until I got older into my thirties and got very sick that I started searching the scripture for comfort and understanding.

That’s when I learned that God was always there –even when I couldn’t see Him. That’s when I went looking to understand more than feel.

That’s when I began to actually grasp the verses I had learned so long ago. Verses like this:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, theevidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (emphasis mine)

Faith was believing in God –in His goodness, His faithfulness, His love– even when I couldn’t see it or feel it, even when it didn’t seem like I was loved.

Emotion-based faith causes all kinds of problems. It leads us to wishy-washy faith that’s tossed about by every wind of doctrine based on how we feel.

It leads us toward emotionalism, mystic faith and spiritualism (trying to spiritual for the sake of being spiritual). It leads to problems like Romantic Panentheism or Lectio Divina which teaches that the Bible says whatever you feel like it says. 

This is shifting sand for our faith.

We need the Solid Rock underneath us when the waves of strive, trials, and temptations beat against us.

Emotion-based faith will not provide that stability.

Just like I did after summer camp, we will feel abandoned by God because what we feel changes but a solid understanding of the word of God leaves us with an unshakable confidence in God –a confidence based both on His nature and His track record.

It is against His nature to break His promises, and He has proven Himself faithful through history. Some of the most wonderful examples of His faithfulness can be viewed within the pages of our bibles.

We can take comfort in the legacies of the saints who went before us and now stand as our cloud of witness cheering us on to faithful service to the One who will never abandon us.

Don’t trust your heart.

Don’t trust your feelings.

Trust your logic when your mind is fully stayed in Him and His word.

No matter how your circumstances make you feel.

Use your logical understanding of God word to calm your emotions when you feel like your life is out of control.

Trust Him.

He has always and will always be faithful.

He, who is our unchanging, steadfast, and faithful God.

Know Him: you’ll never regret it.

Knowledge is the only thing that will comfort you when the feels fail.


Sarah Forbes


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