How Do “Feelings” Mix With Faith?
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So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” (Isa 6:5, NKJV)
The Bible offers some very interesting context for the opening text above. We are told, in Isa 6:1 that at a time when the prophet was mourning the loss of King Uzziah; that he “saw The Lord…” In fact, verse 4 (Isa 6:4) tells us that the very posts of the door in the Temple where Isa “saw The Lord” were shaken. Evidently, Isaiah was also very shaken too. Isa 6:5 informs us that Isa said “…woe is me,” when He saw The Lord.
BUT, how can this be? How can anyone feel like that after literally seeing God?
As the prophet Isaiah beheld the glory of the Lord, he was amazed, and, overwhelmed with a sense of his own weakness and unworthiness, he cried, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.
In his role of “prophet,” Isaiah had denounced the sin of others; but now he sees himself as exposed to the very same condemnation he had pronounced upon other people. Isaiah had become somewhat conceited and self-satisfied because of “his” ministry; and he had been satisfied with a cold, lifeless formal ceremony in his worship of God.
Isaiah had not known this until the vision was given him of the Lord. How little now appeared his wisdom and talents as he looked upon the sacredness and majesty of the Lord, in His heavenly sanctuary. How unworthy he was! how unfitted for sacred service! His view of himself might also be expressed in the language of the apostle Paul: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24, KJV).
At his point of greatest despair; relief was sent to Isaiah in his distress:
“There was a fire on the altar. One of the Seraph angels used a pair of tongs to take a hot coal from the fire. Then the angel flew to me with it in his hand. Then he touched my mouth with the hot coal and said, “When this hot coal touched your lips, your guilt was taken away, and your sins were erased.” (Isa 6:6-7, ERV).
There are times when “life” just gets to us. Our feelings and emotions can be over-powering, and make it seem as though we are completely lost, or “undone” as the prophet said. In one book I have been reading the author stated the following:
“I coveted death as a release from the responsibilities that were crowding upon me. At length the sweet peace I had so long enjoyed left me, and despair again pressed upon my soul. My prayers all seemed vain, and my faith was gone. Words of comfort, reproof, or encouragement were alike to me; for it seemed that no one could understand me but God, and He had forsaken me.” 1T.063.003
Have you ever been so tired, so over-whelmed, that even words of encouragement seemed to just sting the same as words of condemnation? I think it would be safe to assume, that it does happen, and more than we might care to think. It is common to be told that our feelings have no place in the Christian life and experience in the life of “modern” believers, enlightened, supposedly so much more than people from the past. But it also seems like most of the Bible characters also struggled with their feelings and emotions too. It seems to me that these thoughts and feelings all give us some very negative feed back and state as “truth” things that are really just in our minds. Whats in God’s mind is different.
Is there a difference between Bible principles and feelings? How far can we trust our feelings? It would seem that a “feeling” is something in our mind; and a Bible principle is something in God’s mind. So, based on that initial premise: Yes. There is a difference between the two. But the Bible doesn’t really condemn anyone for their feelings and emotions; rather, it seems to be the opposite of that.
It is certainly not wrong to have “feelings” about something; even about “Bible Principles.” But, the Bible principles are there to tell us what to do with those “feelings.” The feelings being our mind, and the Bible being God’s mind.
The following poem illustrates this fact very well. I copied this out of the back of an old man’s Bible whom I used to look after during my nursing career. My faith was quite shaken one evening when I had gone into the nursing home for a night shift. I had strong feelings of bitterness over some supposed wrongs, and was despairing of my life ever getting sorted out again.
As I stood at the bedside of this dying man, trying to concentrate on the conversation at hand, the very tired-looking old fellow started talking to me in a very animated way about some verse in the Bible. It was amazing the way he lit up and started talking to me about it; and he even made me get his Bible from the bed side table to read the text for him, (and for me too I imagine), and the text was Eph.3:19:
“Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with everything God has for you.” (Eph 3:19, ERV).
When I opened his very old, very worn-looking Bible to look up this verse, my eye also caught the following poem scribbled onto the inside, front cover:
“Three men were walking on a wall:
When Feeling had an awful fall
and Faith was taken back
But Fact remained
and pulled Faith back
and Faith brought Feeling too!”
“To know the love of Christ,” (Eph.3:19), was the FACT in my case, that brought back my FAITH, and in it’s train came feelings of joy in the Lord once again. In this way; feelings can be followed. Most of the time; I think, that when we refer to feelings versus the Bible, we refer to negative feelings, but even these we need to pay close attention to. They can be indicators of something we need; and there is a place where we can draw a line of sorts when it comes to these negative feelings:
“It is not wise to look to ourselves, and to study our emotions. If we do this, the enemy will present difficulties and temptations that weaken faith and destroy courage. Closely to study our emotions, and give way to our feelings, is to entertain doubt, and entangle ourselves in perplexity.” (MH 249).
Many of the Bible characters were in the habit of expressing very strong feelings – even suicidal ideations. (like Elijah).
“Then he sat down under a bush and asked to die. He said, “I have had enough, LORD! Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors.””(1 Kings 19:4, ERV).
What could this mean for the Christian today?
Well, as I found out that night in the nursing home, from a dying man, (who had more life in him than me), there is hope for everyone. No matter who you are, or what your feelings may be; you can “know the love of Christ:”
“None need abandon themselves to discouragement and despair. Satan may come to you with the cruel suggestion: ‘Your’s is a hopeless case. You are irredeemable.’ But there is hope for you in Christ. God does not bid us overcome in our own strength. He asks us to come close to His side. Whatever difficulties we labor under; which weigh down soul and body, He waits to make us free!” (MH 249).
The vision given to Isaiah represents the condition of God’s people in the last days. They are privileged to see by faith the work that is going forward in the heavenly sanctuary. “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament.” As they look by faith into the holy of holies, and see the work of Christ; and Him crucified in the heavenly sanctuary, they perceive that they are a people of unclean lips,–a people whose lips have often spoken vanity, lies, and false-hoods, and whose talents have not been sanctified and employed to the glory of God.
Like isaiah, like Elijah, like me, maybe like you, we may very well despair as we “see The Lord,” and contrast our own weakness and unworthiness with the purity and loveliness of the glorious character of Christ. But if we, like Isaiah, will receive the impression the Lord designs shall be made upon our heart, if we will humble our souls before God, there is hope for us too! The bow of promise is above the throne, and the work done for Isaiah will be performed in us, even today. Especially today. God will respond to the petitions coming from the contrite heart:
However courageous and successful we might happen to be; in the performance of a special work that God has given to us, unless we look constantly to God when circumstances arise to test our faith we will lose our courage. Even after God has given us marked tokens of His power, after we have been strengthened to do God’s work, we will fail unless we trust in God and allow all those feelings to go to God in prayer.
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isa 57:15, KJV).