Stop Having Faith in Your Feelings
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The question I get asked the most is how can I know I'm in the faith. That in itself isn't a bad question and can even be a scripturally encouraged pursuit (2 Cor. 13:5). But it's not what people are actually asking me. In fact, hardly are they ever asking me that though they think they are. Many conversations that I have are disguised as something else but all come back to the exact same question and it's NOT "how can I know I'm in the faith", though they think that's what they are asking. Nope, rather if you drill down to the bottom the question is ALWAYS some form of "how can I feel that I am saved". Yet nobody ever puts it in those words. Why? Because they don't even know that's what they are looking for.


The surface level conversation usually revolves around a "trigger" of which there are many. Such as a person wrote me recently and said "I was reading Philippians 3 regarding running the race but I'm having trouble figuring out if I'm even on the team". The first drill down from that surface level conversation will take you to the question "How do I know I am saved". This revelation though is no mystery to them, you, or well anyone. They know this is what they are asking. What they don't realize is, if you drill down once more, what they are actually in pursuit of are the FEELINGS of being saved.


Perhaps a long time ago they felt saved... perhaps a time before their hearts were riddled with anxiety, a distant memory when the weight of fear didn't come upon them seconds after they wake up and now such good feelings are almost forgotten though the good feels come on for moments which seem only to remind them of what they are missing. And they come to me hoping I can fix that... which I can't. Why? Because you can teach the brain but you train the heart. You have heard it said that the heart has a mind of it's own, well this is true (Jer. 17:9). If the Psalmist in Psalm 42 and 43 can't convince his own heart to feel the good feelings, than what hope do I have in convincing another person's heart to do the same? Yet they come to me hoping I can help them get saved but getting saved is not the issue, what they really want is the feelings of salvation and will hardly consider themselves saved until they get that. They have lost the joy of their salvation and equate that to having lost their actual salvation (or they fear they never got it in the first place).


The ultimate authority for them on what is true is not logic, it's not even scripture, it's their feelings. They have more faith in their heart than they do in the word of God. They trust what their heart says more than what the Word of God says. They trust what their feelings indicate more than what logic indicates. If something is going to be listened to, it first has to get clearance from their heart. If their heart won't let it's not getting through (period). It's not that they can't feel things written in scripture, but their self-condemning heart is only allowing feelings that relate with it's self-condemning position. Because of that these people lock onto scary verses because such verses coincide with their feelings. Verse that mention the unpardonable sin, or have phrases like "fallen from grace" and "I never knew you" they take to heart no problem. Those kinds of verses they can feel. But verses that speak of God's love for them, the free gift of salvation, God's desire to give them His kingdom... these verses their hearts are hostile towards. And since their hearts won't feel it, they are convinced they don't believe it.


This person who holds to the authority of scripture for their condemnation won't equally hold to the authority of scripture for their salvation. They have no problem with the wages of sin being death (Rom. 6:23a), but tell them John 1:12 "but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name," or Acts 2:21 "And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." and they won't take that to heart. It's not that they don't believe the truth of these verses, it's that their hearts won't allow them to feel such verses apply to them. Their hearts speak of loopholes that exclude them or technicalities that disqualify them. They read condemning verses and their heart agrees therefore no doubts about those verses are prompted. But verses that speak good news, verses that speak of the beautiful grace of God and His love for them are contrary to their hearts position and because their heart is the authority on truth... these verses don't prevail.


It's not that these people don't believe the word of God (or else how could they condemn themselves by that same word). It's that they also trust in their feelings. They trust in their heart. Through their life their feelings have become a trusted source. Many things in their life has proven to be something that can't be trusted but feelings have been a strong comrade their whole life. These people often put a lot of stock in "gut feelings" and love phrases like "let peace be your guide" and such feelings govern their lives. If they don't feel their hands are clean, than they aren't clean to them. If they don't feel the door is locked, than the door isn't locked to them. And if they don't feel they are saved, than to them they simply aren't saved. Even though their hands are clean, the door is locked, and they are saved... if their heart won't feel it, they aren't having it. Thus births compulsions in order to manipulate those feelings, unfortunately such compulsions only validate the heart and thereby strengthen it's position as the authority on what is truth in our lives. The problem isn't that the hands aren't clean, it's getting the feelings to feel they are. The problem isn't that the door isn't locked, it's getting the feelings to feel it is. The problem isn't getting the person saved, it's getting the feelings to feel they are. So the person, in their pursuits, starts their rituals (compulsions) in an attempt not to get their hands clean, doors locked, or soul saved, but to convince their heart of these truths but their hearts aren't buying it. Before long we've asked for every prayer, bought every book, read every one of Ryan's articles, and we still feel defeated. Not because we are actually defeated, but because our focus is on our feelings and our hearts simply will not cooperate. How many times I've heard people cry out for salvation and then conclude because the feelings didn't arrive that neither did salvation. But salvation isn't a feeling.


C.S. Lewis in his book "Mere Christianity" writes "Faith is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods and circumstances."


Billy Graham, in a sermon given in Apple Valley, CA. USA in 1963 states this: "It is because we have confused faith and feelings that many of us experience difficulty, the uncertainty which is so common amongst professing Christians today. Faith always implies an object, that is when we believe we must believe something. That something we call "fact". Let me give you three words, three words that must always be kept in the same order and never rearranged. Let me give you these three words which will point you out of uncertainty into a confident Christian life. These three words are fact, faith and feeling. They come in this order and the order is essential. If you confuse them, eliminate, or add one you will end up in the mire of despair, to continue to grope about in a semi-darkness without the joy and confidence of one who can say "I know in Whom I have believed""


I remember many times through this struggle thinking "I have enough evidence (fact) to convince a staunch atheist of God and God's goodness yet why can't I get myself to believe". But really what I was saying is I believe the fact of God but my feelings won't follow. Thus having mixed up the order Billy Graham mentioned above of Fact > Faith > Feeling, I erred in concluding that I must not believe. For my order, though I didn't know it, was Fact > Feeling > Faith. If my feelings didn't cling to the facts then I felt my faith was made void as well. How freeing it was when I discovered I could choose take God at His word despite what I felt. My feelings may follow...or they may not, and either way it's okay.


C.S. Lewis in His book painted the picture like a train with fact being near the front, faith hitched onto that, and feelings hitched on the back of faith. What's interesting is God has given us the facts (Rom. 1:20, 10:17, John 20:31), and He's gifted us with the ability to have faith unto salvation (Eph. 2:8-9), for everyone has faith in something. But feelings are a different beast entirely. The rail cars of fact and faith have been secured by Christ, feelings however are something that originate from our heart (Prov. 4:23). In their original design they were meant to be a good thing but sin entered into the world and have marred them significantly, to a greater extent for some than others. For some of us, the rail car of feelings is on fire... All the more reason to not trust it.


The fact is our feelings may come into this Christian relationship with God marred by various things. For example, marred by our upbringing as I've found consistent in every OCD sufferer a measure of legalism and perfectionism and a lack of a father/parental figures who were able to instill in them (specifically at a heart level) unconditional acceptance and love. Our feelings may even be marred by our poor choices and sin in general. This however does not in the least disqualify us from salvation. It may contend with our feelings of salvation but it does not contend with our actual salvation.


Did you know even the apostles struggled with this? Luke 24:36-43 records the account. After Jesus was crucified in front of the disciples and they scattered and felt defeated, now the risen Lord literally appears in front of them in His resurrected state (Luke 24:36) and they didn't believe it (much like the struggle of my own I mentioned above). And why couldn't they believe it? Because they hitched faith onto their feelings as indicated by verse 38 which states that doubts arose in their hearts. And now, even faced with the fact of Christ standing right in front of them resurrected does their faith cooperate? No. For their faith was hitched to their feelings and not to the Fact. So what did Jesus do? He gave them more facts, "see My hands and My feet, that it is Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." (Luke 24:39). Should that have worked? Yep. Did it work? Nope. For Luke 24:41 states "while they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement..."


Their hearts were marred. Though Jesus told them the plan before it took place, their hearts did not heed Him. Then when He was crucified, it hurt a lot. Now with Jesus standing in front of them they are literally having the feeling that it was "to good to be true", likely guarded because of the pain from last time. But having the marred heart wasn't the bigger issue, but rather hitching their faith NOT on the facts Jesus was presenting as He was showing them his resurrected body, but rather on their feelings. They couldn't believe specifically because of the emotions they were feeling.


I wonder, has God given you more facts? As with the disciples here has God attempted to answer your prayer of "God I believe, help my unbelief"? I'm willing to bet He has. Could perhaps the problem not be a lack of evidence, but rather that you've hitched your faith not on the evidence but on your feelings. If you have, like I have, then it's time for you to unhitch your faith from your feelings and hitch them to the facts you know so well. I've heard from many of you, I know you know the facts, your doctrinal statements are quite detailed and refined. The problem isn't a lack of facts, it's that you've gotten your train car of feelings plugged in out of order and hitched up between fact and faith. Therefore you're constantly trying to fix the train car of feeling before facts can get through to faith. This will never work.


Some of you believe faith and feelings are one and the same car. They are not. They are independent of each other. Faith is not a feeling. This is why Abraham who has been referred to one who did not waver in faith (Rom. 4:19-20) yet at the same time also fell on his face and laughed "and said in his heart, "Will a child be born to a man a hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, give birth to a child?"" (Gen. 17:17). His faith held to the promise while his heart did not.


From talking with you guys I have found you have faith in the facts. If it were not so you wouldn't come to me worried. You even believe the validity of the word of God for if it were not so you wouldn't condemn yourselves by them. The problem isn't that you lack faith in the word of God, it's that you put to much faith in your own heart which has been marred. Jeremiah 17:9 states "The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Do we really want that to be what speaks truth to us? It's time to unhitch to what our hearts speak to us and hitch to what the word of God speaks to us.


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


Let what God says about you be what is the authority of what is true in your life over your own heart. I have found in fasting my flesh gets weak and at the same time the Spirit becomes more evident. Likewise I would encourage you to fast from your feelings; from them being the authority of your life and be deliberate to make the word of God the authority on your life despite what your feelings feel and you may find the faith that has been there this whole time becomes more evident.


Cease striving and know that I am God; - Psalm 46:10a


One of the blessings that came in my life that brought freedom was when I gave up. With my faith car hitched to my feelings car I warred for years, and I was simply exhausted, resentful, even a bit embittered as my wife and some my friends might say, yet relentless in trying to get my feelings to line up so I could have faith. It wasn't that I ever really chose to give up, I was too fearful to, I was just beaten into utter exhaustion and after many, many years, I lay in the ditch of despair, defeated in getting my feelings to allow me to have faith for I had tried everything, over and over I tried. Unending prayers, head anointed by elders, read all the books, recited all the Christian mantras, and only felt worse than when everything began. Interestingly, when I stopped striving with my feelings from sheer exhaustion it was then my actual faith became evident. I remember thinking "oh wow, I do believe in you Jesus". Apparently faith based on fact was present, I just wasn't looking at it. This is what I also see in you guys. I just can't get your eyes pealed away from your heart.


Jesus prayed for Peter once that Peter's faith would not fail (Luke 22:32). I believe He does the same for us. And though Peter felt defeated and went back to fishing which is what he was doing before Jesus called him, it didn't mean his faith failed (though I bet he thought it did). Otherwise why would Peter jump out of the boat and swim to Jesus if He didn't have faith (John 21:7). I believe Jesus prayer's were answered.


People contact me wanting assurance, guess what, you have it. Christ said all who come to me I will most certainly not cast out (John 6:37). So let that be your authority. Again Christ says "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5) so let that be your authority. Again Christ says "I do not condemn you" (John 3:17, 8:11) so let that be your authority. God says "for whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." so let that be your authority. Christ says "Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father" (John 5:45) so let that be your authority. Your heart may condemn you but God is greater than your heart (1 John 3:20) and therefore God has the final say!


You can have faith while your feelings are raging against you, so if you don't feel saved...that's ok. Even David, though he had faith still prayed that God would restore to him the joy of His salvation (Psa. 51:12). Therefore do not confuse your feelings with your faith, neither allow your faith to rest on your feelings.


You can't make your heart feel what you want it to feel, if you could we'd all be walking around happy all the time. But you can choose to take God at His word, do so starting today. Asaph in the first 10 verses of Psalm 77 in error hitched his faith to his feelings and experiences and because of that came to some pretty gnarly conclusions, the same conclusions you guys (and I)  are often coming to. In the second 10 verses though we see Asaph unhitch his faith from his feelings and be deliberate to hitch them onto the truth of God and His word. His feelings didn't change, but he rearranged his train cars so that his faith rested on fact which was the truth of God and what God has done. I'm willing to bet his feelings didn't change, not for some time, but He was now walking by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) We'd be wise to do the same.


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

Emotional Reasoning - When the Heart Drowns Out the Mind

Fear That Vetoes Joy

Faith That Vetoes Fear


Book Studies

Theological Studies

Study Series

The Gospel of Salvation



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