One thing I’ve discovered about God: he’s offering a great deal more “good feelings” – more joy, peace, serenity, and even enthusiasm – than most of us are experiencing.
The explanation for the disconnect is this: we are not receiving it.
Why not? Possibly because we’re never told it’s available.
Discernment bloggers love to tell us that good theology isn’t about good feelings. I appreciate their vigilance. Good feelings can come from bad sources – promises of earthly wealth, skewed talk of miracles, or even just an unhealthy focus on good feelings – and we must be aware of such deer trails. It’s a cross, not a bed of roses.
But what about Philippians 4, which promises “a peace that transcends all understanding”? Or the repeated command to “rejoice” in our sufferings? Or God’s offers of inner healing (Psalm 34, Isaiah 61)? Or, oh, I don’t know, the promise of heaven? David seemed stoked out of his mind by, of all things, God’s commands. That’s almost weird. My generation prides itself on being more drawn towards God’s compassion and love than his commands. Yet Psalms 119 shows a man absolutely head over heels in love with God, giddy, intoxicated, elated.
There’s more to this “Christianity” thing than some of us know, methinks.
God does offer good feelings. The only catch is, they have to come his way.
And really, that’s a desirable thing. The person who doesn’t know any way to find good feelings except by indulging in some sin, or by retreating to thoughts of some earthly goal or reward, isn’t just Scripturally misguided; he’s impoverished.
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis
Good theology tells us we’ve been forgiven, secured for eternal life. I cannot imagine that God begrudges anyone deriving good feelings over that (in fact, he commands it). What person can’t do that? Possibly, I suppose, the person who hasn’t made a habit of contemplating it regularly, whose eyes remain fixed on mud pies.
I was guilty of that. Given salvation, not a bit excited about it. That’s another reason we surrender the good feelings God offers: we don’t give God credit for being bigger than our pain. I talked last Monday about being a black hole.
Emotional struggles often do that. We try hard to smile over salvation, but it’s a long ways off and our present pain is a suffocating blanket. We just don’t have the strength to smile. And this is not just those suffering from legitimate depression, but seemingly everyone
in this society.
And that leads to another reason: pride. We don’t want to rejoice in sufferings. Maybe it’s our way of avoiding surrender. Maybe it’s a subtle fear that if we rejoice in trial, he’ll give us more. I don’t know.
But perhaps we should start acknowledging God as bigger than our pain.
Once I did this, guess what? My heart started to lift on a daily basis. God’s peace took up residence in my life.
My goodness, we really have bought into the postmodern myth that our feelings are completely beyond our control. Let’s junk that. True, the Christian life will involve tears. I’m not suggesting all pain can be avoided. But let’s keep a balance. The necessary darkness might be much less than we’re allowing. Despair doesn’t belong in the Christian life. Hate doesn’t. Fear doesn’t. God is bigger than all these.
These aren’t just words. If you knew me, you’d know that I’ve had to hit the front lines and battle hard against my emotions. But it’s worked. It’s worked. God has delivered me from much, and is continuing to do so.
Even in surrender, there is that grace. When God has called me to difficult missions, there’s been a peace behind the calling. When he points out an unholy place in my heart, there’s a grace mixed with the unpleasant conviction. Much better than simple shame.
Good feelings are part of the package. They must come God’s way, through the path prescribed by Scripture, a path marked by surrender, valuing what God values, and, yes, some tears. Jesus had his Gethsemane. But why?
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2, Berean Study Bible
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. – Psalm 30:5