We have enormous confidence in “feelings.” We often determine danger on the basis of how we feel—“Something just does not feel right.” We often encourage people to follow intuition on the basis of feeling—“Go with your gut feeling!” We often encourage a person to search for truth on the basis of feeling—“How do you feel about it?” We often use feelings as a guide to past experiences—“How does that memory make you feel?”

At least within our society, we adopt a way to measure life’s experiences. It is a simple, subjective way to measure: Good things feel good, and bad things feel bad. Thus, if something feels good, it cannot be bad; and if something feels bad, it cannot be good.

Most hasten to add that there are numerous exceptions: Discipline rarely “feels” good. Chemotherapy rarely “feels” good. Yet, both are administered and endured because an eventual improvement is sought, but not guaranteed.

My point is NOT that one’s feelings have no value in determining wise and unwise, good and bad, or right and wrong. My point: the Christian who uses only his or her feelings as a primary means to determine (1) the meaning of a scripture, (2) right or wrong, or (3) correct behavior makes himself or herself an inviting target for Satan’s deception.

Before Jesus raised Lazarus, he told Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha thought only of the final resurrection. When Jesus’ affirmed he was the power of life and resurrection, Martha did not “feel” an immediate solution to her grief for her brother. (See John 11:23,24.)

When Jesus was in Gethsemane less than 24 hours before his death (Matthew 26:38-44), or Paul was frustrated by his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), or Peter was afraid of the Judaizing teachers (Galatians 2:11, 12), or Barnabas was deceived by hypocritical forces (Galatians 2:13), “feelings” either threatened to mask or did mask God at work. Jesus’ feelings said, “Death is unacceptable.” Paul’s feelings said, “You can be more effective for God without this thorn.” Peter’s feelings said, “I do not want to experience that again.” Barnabas’ feelings said, “They cannot be wrong about this.”

Thank God Jesus did not surrender to his feelings! Thank God Paul listened to Christ when He explained! May we be warned by Peter’s fear and Barnabas’ deception! Yes, always consider your feelings, but never let your feelings become God’s voice. (If we do not consider our feelings, we will have no conscience.)

Jesus knew God was at work in his death. He saw beyond how he felt and felt grieved for those who caused his death (Luke 23:34). Stephen even saw God at work in his death (Acts 7:59, 60). That is the key for the Christian—to see God working when we experience the distasteful. God often works through human pain and injustice.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 28 September 2006

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