Emotional Reasoning - When the Heart Drowns Out the Mind
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You know what my hardest task is when speaking with fellow OCD/anxiety sufferers? Having what I say be considered...at all. You know why? Because their heart is their authority. What they feel is what is true to them and whatever I share is either confirmed or denied by their heart (not their mind). Interestingly, if I share God hates them (which I never have) they'd easily believe me. Why do I know this, because they come to me with every book, scripture, or sermon which alludes to them being lost and they believe it...and come to me in fear. I likewise have many times tried to combat their skewed theology but the fear keep's shouting over what I'm saying. Perhaps for a moment I get through, but when we part it won't be long until what they feel becomes their authority once again. How can you know you're doing this? Because right now, even now, you wrestle between what's logical, and what you feel is true. No matter how much sound reason you have for the gospel you still irrationally doubt it, at least the grace in it. I remember in the thick of my battle thinking, "I have enough evidence for God to convert an atheist yet why can't I convince myself?", and also thinking "I struggle with doubt so much that if Jesus appeared right in front of me at this moment and did miracles nobody else could do, I would doubt it". Why? Because I was doing what's called "emotional reasoning".

Emotional reasoning is plaguing our country right now. Emotional reasoning is when what you feel is what is true to you and it's a problem in the flesh. I know this because animals do the same thing. In fact with animals it's all they have, they are 100% driven by what they feel. Your struggle with believing you're safe in God can be likened to this dog believing it's safe for him to go through the doorway of this sliding glass door after having run into it when it was closed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-KhOAgPlQ4

Buddy (in the video above) only ran into the door once and that was all it took to train his heart to fear. Many things shape our hearts and for us sensitive sufferers, it doesn't take much. One thing I found consistent among ALL OCD sufferers is a battle with legalism often stemming from authoritarian parents or others who had influence over their life. We're trained at a heart level that our acceptance is tied into our performance. We're trained and we look at others through this training and we feel we are also judged according to this training as well. We know at a head level that with God acceptance is free and given apart from merit, but we don't feel that because of the way our hearts have been trained. And you know what is quite difficult? Retraining the heart. You teach the brain, you reason with the mind, but the heart cannot be reasoned with, it can only be trained and this takes time. Much like training a dog or a child, it takes time and consistency to train them, specifically their heart in obedience to you.

Ever try and train a rescue dog? Oh man, you may go that dog's whole life trying to retrain it from what it's hardship had previously instilled. Ever try and train a child that has come in from the foster system (My wife and I are foster parents), it is perhaps the most difficult thing to not only undue the programming that child came with, but to retrain that child in a way that that child can believe he/she is loved, to retrain that child that it's ok to make attachments, that my wife and I will never leave them nor forsake them. So what does this mean for you?

Many OCD sufferers come to me and say "I want to believe but I just can't". What they are really saying but they don't know it is, "I want to believe, but I can't get my heart to feel it".

Well first you need to realize your heart is messed up for whatever the reason may be. In that understanding you need to know you can't reason with the heart as if to change how it feels. If it were possible to reason with the heart in order to manipulate it's feelings we'd all tell our hearts to be happy and joyful all the time and everyone would be doing this. You've heard it said that the heart has a mind of it's own? I believe that is true. Before I go on, take time to really understand this, the magnitude of this is huge. YOU CANNOT REASON WITH THE HEART, AND I CAN'T REASON WITH YOUR HEART EITHER. If you come to me hoping I can do for you what you've been unable to do thus far, that is, change your feels, I can't. Not only that, but until a person is willing to recognize that their heart is their utmost authority (emotional reasoning) I'm unlikely to get through...anyone/anything is unlikely to get through. All your research you've done, all the studying, none of that is going to prevail as long as your heart is your authority. As long as what you feel is what is true to you, what you think won't have much effect in this area and all the good bible verses you read, grace filled messages I send, all the sound logic and reasoning won't do you much good. You first must dethrone your heart as the authority of what's true in your life.


He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered. - Proverbs 28:26

As long as your heart is your authority and not God's word, or even sound logic, there's not much encouragement that's going to be found for you because when you're alone, when you're by yourself, it will be your feelings that will be continually feeding you it's propaganda and your feelings are broken and your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9).

Not everyone who emotionally reasons lives a life of fear, some live a life of ignorant bliss. Ever try and pull someone's head out of the clouds? This person is likely emotionally reasoning too but they aren't damaged like we are, they haven't gone through the experiences we have. We wait for the other foot to fall because our stupid hearts make us continually feel that's coming. These blissfully ignorant ones don't even know about the other foot. These people make attachments to God no problem and I'm jealous. That is...until I see their emotional reasoning get hurt because what they felt was true and what their circumstances are telling them don't line up. Then the switch flips. Now their heads are not only out of the clouds, but it's continually looking at everything that's bad. They are questioning God, His existence, His goodness, His love, the decency of humanity, and now their foundation is shaken. It's then that I realize that they were just me...just not as far along as I in this battle. Think we have the market on OCD/anxiety? Think again. Watch any person go through something traumatic and watch how their heart dictates their life, constantly they try and secure themselves, constantly trying to protect themselves from being a victim again. A woman who was a rape victim spends her whole life on guard, a person who's had their house burn down fears turning the heater up, a person who's lost a loved one constantly obsessing about losing other loved ones, and a person who's been trained about the "other foot that falls" feels it coming in every good thing that happens in their life. The moment they feel joy it's accompanied by fear.

I never have a problem convincing OCD sufferers of the truth of scriptures that seem harsh, you know why? Because in those moments I speak the same as their hearts do to them. And because I line up with the authority of their heart and what their heart has been saying this whole time, they accept it. But when I share good news the walls go up, the doubts enter, the obsessing about loopholes that disqualify them begin and the words I say are trumped by what their heart is preaching to them. Sometimes I get through, a part of their heart can still feel joy..once in a while... and therefore the words I speak get through for a season and tug at their hearts in a good way..until the red alert of the heart comes back on, then it all goes out the window. But notice the problem here. They will listen if their heart FEELS joy and they will stop listening to the good message when their HEARTS will no longer listen. So tell me, is it their mind or their heart which has authority over what's true to them? It's the latter. I speak from experience.

So what can you do? We just covered step one and that is acknowledge your defunct heart. Step two then is to know it's ok you have a defunct heart. That's likely not your fault and even if it is, that's irrelevant. Why? Because the gospel doesn't need your heart's approval; God doesn't need your heart's approval, God is greater than your self-condemning heart:


that if our heart condemns us, that God is greater than our heart, and He knows all things. - 1 John 3:20

Step three, thank God. Thank God right now that you are saved by His doing and that even if you don't feel it, He has accomplished it. Step four is quit trusting in the counsel of your own heart as Proverbs 28:26 states. This one is more difficult and requires you to be deliberate about it regularly. Just like you have difficulty training/reprogramming a rescue dog or reprogramming a foster child, it's difficult with us as well, for we are all spiritual foster children, rescued from an abusive situation, hostile land, and marred by sin. Our birth parents only handed down sin and death, God is our Foster Dad and He knows we're going to have a difficult time feeling safe to make attachments to Him and that's ok! He is patient with you, and even if you don't get better, that's ok! But for your sake be deliberate to take Him at His word despite how you feel. Do this consistently and when you fail to do this, or are doing it but have a relapse, know that it's ok!

Step five, know that retraining is possible though it can be quite difficult. Just like it takes years and sometimes a lifetime for a foster child who's been greatly damaged to feel at a heart level that it's safe to trust doesn't negate that we are still that child's parents. Their inability to trust us doesn't mean we're not trustworthy and therefore we have to repeatedly show them (their hearts) that we are. Intellectually I can tell them we are, but their heart, because of the damage done there, tells them otherwise. It takes a long time of showing up trustworthy again and again before maybe, just maybe, their heart will open it's doors (and not close them again right away). It's interesting as OCD sufferers what our hearts want the most is fellowship with God, and yet it's those very same hearts that refuse to enjoy it for fear of it not being solid ground. This is the same traumatic experience the disciples endured.

The disciples believed God was going to restore Israel as the ruling nation and at times they even tried to force Jesus to be King (John 6:15). How distraught they were when He instead was crucified. Their heads were pulled out of the clouds and fear overtook them. Jesus dying on the cross crushed them. Even though Jesus told them the plan, their emotional reasoning didn't heed those words and for a short bit they enjoyed the ignorant bliss I spoke of above. Even though Jesus told them several times His plans it wasn't until Jesus didn't take Himself off the cross that reality hit, and hit hard, and the disciples were scattered (John 16:32), defeated, crushed, in despair, and weeping bitterly (Matt. 26:75).

But then Jesus appeared and everything was alright... right? Or was it? This is a verse that often goes overlooked but one that us OCD sufferers and us emotional reasoners can appreciate.


While they still could not believe it because of their joy and astonishment, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” - Luke 24:41

The disciples were looking at the risen Lord but couldn't believe it, why? BECAUSE OF THEIR EMOTIONS. The verse specifically says they couldn't believe it "because of their joy and astonishment". Previously they believed it and were hurt greatly, so this time, this time when their hearts wanted to feel the same joy they previously felt, their emotional reasoning remembered the previous hurt and shut such feelings down. Even Jesus acknowledged that these doubts were not of the mind but ones that were in their hearts on an emotional level (Luke 24:38). How did Jesus handle it? "Have you anything here to eat?"

Notice these two things from His response. First, He is unfazed by their heart's defunct state. Your present "emergency" is only an emergency from your point of view, not His. God knows He has you even if you aren't convinced, just like He knew He had the disciples as well. Secondly He ate with them. Reasoning wouldn't do it, and as a foster parent I also know reasoning doesn't help a traumatized child, it takes consistency in showing their heart it's safe.  Jesus eating with and in front of the disciples I believe was an attempt at just this. This is why I think Satan has put forward many lies with our children, lies such as the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, etc. because he knows how trusting (undamaged) children are and how much getting them to believe in a counterfeit will damage that part of them when they find out it's a lie, thus making it difficult for them to believe at an emotional reasoning (heart) level in Jesus.

Choose to take God at His word my brothers and sisters despite what is going on with your heart. No longer let it be the authority over your walk. And when you have OCD relapses... know that's ok, because even when your heart rules your flesh, Jesus rules your soul and there's nothing you nor anyone else can do to screw that up.


For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39


If this resonated with you, here are some other articles you may be interested in:

You Can Teach the Brain but You Train the Heart

Stop Having Faith in Your Feelings

Fear That Vetoes Joy

Faith That Vetoes Fear




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