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The Family Of Feelings

A sunflower with a smiley face in a sunflower field. Farm, agriculture, countryside

The family of feelings could and would be an amusing subject if it were not for the trouble it causes some young converts. Many of us know from experience how dreadful and painfully real feelings can become. There is Mr. Feeling, his wife, Mrs. Miserable Feeling, their children, Depressing Feeling, Accused Feeling, Envious Feeling, Impatient Feeling, Imitation Carnal Feeling, Oppressed Feeling, Discouraged Feeling, Hopeless Feeling, Despaired Feeling, Forsaken Feeling, Hypocritical Feeling, and maybe some others whose names I have forgotten. I know, for I used to be very well acquainted with the whole family. But since I moved out of the Vale of Doubts and moved up on the Mountains of Hope and Faith, I very rarely meet with any of them.

The whole trouble with feelings is caused by supposing that salvation is a matter of feelings. When this is done, feelings become the standard. No greater mistake could be made by the young convert. This mistake has caused as much or more sorrow, pain, discouragement, and backsliding than any other thing that Christians have to meet. 

Generally speaking, the trouble with feelings begins about the time that the first good and joyful feelings that attended our conversion begin to subside, or when they disappear entirely. Then doubts begin to come. Attention is called to our state of feeling, which admittedly at times, is very unsatisfactory. Sometimes the whole transaction of having been converted seems so unreal that it makes one feel as though he were a hypocrite to say it was real or that there was or is anything to our experience.

We might say, allegorically, that just at this stage, the Feeling Family is very busy. Mrs. Miserable Feeling takes quite a hand in talking to our souls. Then the whole family comes in: Depressed, Accused, Hypocritical, Hopeless, and all the rest. If one tries to pray, these feelings keep up such a chatter that one cannot make any progress. If a little faith does come in, the feelings seem to be determined to hold the fort. Under these terrible, painful feelings, some young Christians have felt as though God had utterly cast them off, that they were hopelessly lost. If God did forgive, they had doubted until they had lost it all. Despair then settles down until the mental faculties were almost unable to bear the strain these agitations brought upon them. Under the power of these bad feelings, all seems perfectly black, and the future is full of dark forebodings. All such souls have our profoundest sympathy because, from experience, we know how dreadful the condition is.

But there is a way out, and that way is FAITH. At the very outset learn this one grand truth: that salvation is by faith, not by feelings. We are commanded to “believe” on the Lord Jesus Christ—not “feel” on Him. We overcome the world by “faith.” Not by feelings. Christ will stay in our hearts “by faith,” not by feelings. Thus, all the way through the Bible, it is always “faith,” “have faith,” and “believe in God.”

Romans 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Chronicles 20:20, “…Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established….” Ephesians 3:17, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith….” 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” 1 John 5:4, “…This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 

Faith is simply believing. You have asked God for something He has said He would give. You have met the conditions upon which the promise was made. Faith rests upon God’s Word. Faith that He has done, is doing, or will do in His own good time, what we have asked Him to do. That is faith.

The difficulty with feelings is that they are taken as indicating our real state, whereas in reality, our feelings may be wholly deceptive. After a person repents and believes unto salvation, when the first joys of it subside or cease, then often bad feelings take their place. These bad feelings are taken as an indication that we are really bad ourselves. We feel bad, and consequently we are bad, is the logic of feelings. But really, we may be as good, as near God, as holy, when our feelings of joy cease as when they were flowing full and strong. On arising in the morning one may “feel” as though he were no Christian at all, and if feelings were really indicative of the state of the heart, then he should conclude he is not a Christian.

Depending on feelings leads inevitably to discouragement. Feelings go up and down despite all one can do. He who depends on his feelings is encouraged and has faith when he is feeling good and is discouraged and has doubts when he is feeling bad. Instead of having faith in God, he has faith in his feelings. If he feels good and joyful, he has faith in his feelings and believes he is all right; if he feels bad, he has faith in his bad feelings and believes he is partly or wholly wrong. This is the sum and substance of the whole matter. We have put it plainly so that none can fail to understand. We are not commanded to have any faith in our feelings, but to have faith in God.

In one congregation where I pastored, a certain brother had not learned the secret of keeping the victory by faith. At some services a dark, blue look would spread over his countenance, and almost anyone could see that he was discouraged. At other times, he would come in with his broad face wreathed in smiles, a bright, joyful look in his eyes, and with a cheery voice, he would tell of how precious Jesus was to him. “I am on the mountaintop,” he would say. By and by, he overcame the discouragements and became known as “Mountaintop Richardson.”

When a young convert turns from faith to feelings, the enemy of souls takes advantage of it and makes that soul a dumping ground for all kinds of ugly feelings. One will feel envious, angry, impatient, petulant, hard and ill toward man and God, unloving, and unsympathetic. In fact, experience proves that there is scarcely any ugly feeling but what Satan can throw it over the poor Christian who has allowed feelings to be his guide. To such an extent can these things go that one may feel unnatural for a good portion of his time. When others rejoice, he feels bad; when others weep, he feels no sympathy. And thus, a person is doomed to live his life in spiritual misery if he does not, by faith, cut short the career of bad feelings.

There is no other way but the way of faith. You can struggle and pray and try to reason your way out and just get more agitated. Nothing works better than faith. Years ago, the writer experienced the full misery of all kinds of bad and ugly feelings. It seemed perfectly impossible ever to win. Hours were spent daily wrestling in agony with doubts, bad feelings, and all kinds of evil suggestions. He was shown most clearly by the direct voice of God in his soul that faith, simple faith, was the only remedy. And he was compelled, under divine influence, to renounce feelings of every sort and be determined not to pay any attention to them. He was not to care, even if he did feel bad, and to trust God wholly, absolutely, and without a waver. Right out of the midst of discouragement and doubt, he cast himself on God absolutely. That was a good many years ago, but it has never been forgotten. After that, when he was filled with bad feelings and doubts surged through his soul, he calmly declared that he was God’s child and that he did not care how he felt. Of course, this sounded much like a lie, for his feelings did care. But once having resolved to pay no more attention to his feelings and counting on God to preserve him, he held fast and was soon rewarded by feeling better. Despite all the inner clamor of the old doubts and feelings for a discussion, he pushed them all aside, declaring he was God’s child and that God was keeping him just as he wanted to. To the suggestion that he would be deceived if he did not pray, he declared that he would not pray a moment about it and that he was all right. To the suggestion to investigate the feeling, he declared there was nothing to investigate and that he was saved. To the suggestion that he felt very bad, he declared that the way he felt was God’s business. If he felt bad, evidently, God allowed or wanted him to have such feelings for some good and beneficent purpose, unseen at the present time but which would be revealed at the right moment. Such a course brought him out more than a conqueror over all bad feelings.

Do thou likewise, young convert, if you have allowed feelings to be your guide. If you have not met this temptation yet, take a lesson from the lives of other Christians and do not go by feelings but by faith. Feelings will vary all through life, but faith will hold us steady, like the ship’s anchor—safe through every storm. Between the life of faith and the life of feeling, you will have to choose every day. Doubly happy will you be, young convert, if you have once and for all made the wise choice, and every morning renew that choice, not to seek or listen for good feelings, but to walk by faith, according to God’s Word. 

He who seeks for good feelings in the Christian way will not find them, but he who cares not how he feels but believes in God will have all the good feelings he will need. Good feelings are a result, not something to be sought for directly. Faith in God unto salvation causes one to feel more or less good, but doubts will bring in many a bad feeling. There is something a little selfish about wanting good feelings. Babies are given “sugar treats” to keep them quiet, but the Lord desires that we serve Him, not for good feelings but from principle and love.