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Have you ever felt your feelings were misaligned with you? Have you spent time trying to convince your heart of something only to have it not listen? Perhaps you have exhausted yourself with fact after fact, only to find your heart isn't buying it? There's an old saying, "the heart has a mind of it's own". Sometimes though this is more than just a nice oldie to listen to on the radio but rather a very present and upsetting reality.


Feelings can be great, but what happens when they turn on you. When your heart condemns you, when your heart rebukes joy, when your heart refuses to trust, when your heart embraces fear, when your heart won't let you feel love yet you're starving for it? What happens when your heart veto's your faith and won't let you believe what your brain reasons is true? Well, if any of this resonates with you, you're not alone:


Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. - Psalm 42:11 (cf. 42:5 and 43:5)


The psalmist wrestled with his heart too. He was perplexed at his heart's condition. He knew God and knew the goodness and faithfulness of God, and this left him perplexed and when he looked within and considered his despairing and disturbed heart, he wondered why. The psalmist repeats this cry several times (Psa. 42:5, 43:5). Then he has a side bar with his heart telling himself to yet again "hope in God", but the state of despair and disturbance he's in tell us that his heart currently is not complying.


Our hearts are often in the same dire condition. Our hope, even our hope in God we no longer feel. It's not that we no longer want too, and the psalmist acknowledged his same disturbed soul was longing for God:


As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God? - Psalms 42:1-2


The psalmist wanted God at a heart level and yet twice in this same psalm we see him wrestling with despair instead. He knew intellectually that God would deliver him, but his heart isn't feeling it. His heart has a mind of it's own and that heart's "mind" is focused on something else.


My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” - Psalms 42:3


That's what the writer's heart is focused on. Notice he links his time of unending tears with the event of those mocking him. He knows God's presence, but right now his heart has locked onto their hurtful words. Have you ever felt this duality? Your mind knows better but your heart won't change it's focus. This is where we feel beside ourselves. Our minds concur with God, our hearts though desire something else. This is the reality of having two natures. Paul writes similarly:


22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. - Romans 7:22


The "members" he speaks of that are waging war against the law of his mind isn't a desire originating in his arm, nor his leg, but that which is in his heart, represented here as his "flesh" (Rom. 7:18). Our heart often wants something other than what we want. Thank God for this! As it testifies of His separating us from our "body of this death" (Rom. 7:24). Your heart is not your ruler any longer, unfortunately though it still runs the emotional center of the body.


Satan who is the father of lies (John 8:44) knows to go for the heart with his lies, he knows that's a viable tactic, well, it's a viable tactic against everyone but Jesus (John 14:30). For Satan knows the flesh is still fleshly, for even when we come to God our flesh profits nothing (Eph. 4:22, John 6:63). Christ didn't come to fix our flesh, but rather to set us free from the "body of this death" altogether (Rom. 7:24-25) The flesh is never regenerated which is why we continually war with it (Gal. 5:17). Satan knows all of this well and I believe many of his schemes are set to create emotional damage rendering the person unable to feel what they so desperately want to feel. It's not that we lose the longing to love, to trust, to fellowship, but rather it's vetoed by the hurts, fears, and anxieties that have sprung up from past experiences.


For example, Satan promotes believing in all kinds of lies and even the world embraces it as a whole. Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and many others are all figures children in their developmental years are taught to believe in, and children are so trusting.. at first, so they do. Then you watch a child learn Santa is not real and you will see their heart break, they weep over this, their hopes...crushed. Then when it comes time to tell them that Christ is real with riches far out weighing that of Santa..they hesitate. They've been hurt by this before and now their hearts put up walls...


But this doesn't just happen in children, it happens in adults. The disciples knew this all too well. Jesus came through many miracles and while they were with Him day and night He performed many miracles. Having someone like that leading them, well they begin to hope in Him. The closer they got to Him the more their hearts were invested in Him. Their hopes literally begin to rest entirely on Jesus, but they believed a lie yet. Some believed Jesus was going to set up His kingdom on earth (John 6:15), and even though Jesus warned them of His coming death (Mark 8:31), they didn't heed those words. So when it came to pass, they were crushed and all scattered.


There's a verse that is often overlooked but it's application here is huge. The disciples were so heart broken, their hearts so hurt by Jesus's crucifixion that when Jesus was raised from the dead and even stood before them showing them His hands and His feet it says of them:


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


The very reason they could not believe it was "because of their joy and amazement". The disciples had just been greatly hurt, similarly to a child who believed in Santa and being crushed thereafter, they, on a much greater scale and heart's investment, having staked their lives on Jesus, were utterly crushed by His crucifixion. Though Jesus warned them, they didn't heed it, and therefore their hearts hope in Him had come to an end. Now, the very figure, the very person, the very God and Lord that was the center of all their hope stands before them and their hearts are being stirred up with "joy and amazement" tempted to once again feel these feelings but then the hurt slams them back down because last time they felt that kind of joy and amazement they were hurt greatly. And now, even though Jesus is literally standing in front of them raised from the dead, that previous hurt is vetoing their present joy. Their minds are seeing it but their hearts aren't believing it. Their hands are feeling it, but their hearts are still reeling from the last time their hopes in Christ were crushed. And as their "joy and amazement" kicks up, their hearts are saying "nope, not again".


I believe this is where the psalmist is at. Like the disciples, he has plenty of evidence to believe yet his heart isn't going there. So desperately he wants to return to feeling the joy of the Lord, he even reminisces on when he once did:


These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. - Psalms 42:4


"I used to" but not any longer he notices. His soul is poured out within him. He longs to return to feelings of "joy and thanksgiving" but his heart isn't having it.


This is why God hates the schemes of the devil, this is why God hates sin. It hurts us. Proverbs 6:16-19 state 6 things, yet 7 which are an abomination to the Lord, only one is repeated (which may be why the writer says 6 and yet 7). "a lying tongue" and a "false witness who utters lies". The writer of Proverbs knows such damage can occur in our heart and therefore he writes:


Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life. - Proverbs 4:23


To late. That's how I feel. I wonder if that's how the psalmist felt or how the disciples felt. I wish I had known better before I was hurt. But what now. I often feel beside myself, I've actually gone to sleep for the purpose of not putting up with me for a few hours.. sounds crazy right? Not if you know what I'm talking about. This psalmist knows. Therefore he has a sidebar with his heart:


Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence. - Psalms 42:5


The psalmist, not understanding what's going on within, asks of himself "why". He is frustrated with his own heart. Unfortunately this self inquiry gets him nowhere so he directs his inquiry to God.


O my God, my soul is in despair within me; - Psalm 42:6a


This is a cry from one who can't fix himself. His sidebar failed, his heart won't listen. Jeremiah 17:9 says of the heart:


“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it? - Jeremiah 17:9


Many think what is going on in their heart is spiritual but I would argue it is not. Why? Because I see the same battles happening in animals who are only fleshly (2 Pet. 2:12, Jude 1:10). Here is a video of this sweet dog "buddy". Buddy had smashed into the sliding glass door before thinking it was open. Buddy is clearly a sweet and sensitive dog who was hurt by this, not merely physically on his outside that came into contact with the door, but emotionally he was hurt, previously he believed the door to be open when it was not, and in a walk that once had no doubt in his freedom to pass through this area is now riddles with doubts. Take a look.


Could you relate with that poor pup? I sure could. But what does that tell you about this type of heart damage? That it's in the flesh. Fish are trainable too. There was a man who tried an experiment with his fish. An evil experiment, but one that will help us see that this type of damage is definitely of the flesh. This man had fish in his fish tank. Every day around the same hour he would feed his fish the small flaky food they loved so much. One day he decided he would feed them something else to see what they would do. So instead of feeding them the small flaky food he crumbled up pencil shavings and sprinkled them across the top of the water. The fish, unhindered, swam excitedly to the top taking in huge bites like they always have and only after they munched on them for a bit did they realize it's not food and spit it back out. An easy mistake. Unhindered they swam right back to the top to grab another flake only to realize it too wasn't food. They investigated a few more pieces before realizing there was no food and gave up. The next day the man did the same thing. The fish swam up, some munched on the pencil shavings, but this time a little more cautiously, and they spit them back out. Now two days without food they would look around just double checking for food, seeing none they'd return to their depths. The third day the owner did the same thing. This time they swam up to the top, but only got close, and didn't bite onto any pieces, realizing it wasn't food they just lingered. The next day he sprinkled pencil shavings, and even though the fish had gone 4 days without food, this time they hardly moved when the flakes hit the water. By day 5 the owner decided to stop being sadistic and this time returned to sprinkling their actual food atop the water. The problem is, the fish wouldn't believe it. 5 days without food so surely they are hungry but they've lost hope that the movement on the water is food. They wouldn't even go up to investigate.


Fish, dogs, like our hearts, can be trained too, for good or for bad. Some of you have endured far more than hitting a sliding glass door or not being fed for a few days. Some of you have had your hearts trained far beyond this; you've been what's called battle hardened. You've been attacked so much that your heart, in self defense, has gone numb. The bigger your heart, the more sensitive a person you are, and the more these negative events have trained your heart to guard, to protect, to avoid being hurt.


Sometimes you look at what a person guards the most and you can see where they've been hurt the most. A woman who works out not to look good but to be strong enough to not be a victim again. Someone who avoids all relationships because they've been hurt by them. Someone who adamantly refuses to go to church because under the guise of "church" were taken advantage of. A man who spends his life in isolation and loneliness not because he's tough but because he's sensitive to those who've made him feel unworthy of respect, unappreciated of his character, and loneliness is preferred over being devalued.


What's disheartening for me is you see someone who is battle hardened because of what has happened to them, and not only are they battle hardened, but they look inwardly at that hardening, and they even condemn themselves, they look inwardly and conclude their own worthlessness as if they concur with some accusation from somewhere else. It's not that they are actually worthless nor an unloving person, but they may act unloving because of the hurts they've endured and by that conclude they are not a loving person. Satan knows these tactics work. Satan, who's name means adversary also dons the names 'father of lies' (John 8:44) and 'accuser of the brethren' (Rev. 12:10). While Satan CANNOT affect your position in God he can affect your walk with Him.


So many Christians relate to scripture intellectually but acknowledge that it's difficult to get that in their heart. They feel they have an intellectual relationship with God but have a hard time feeling it. My response, that's ok!


God isn't affected by yours nor the psalmist's current condition. God's faithfulness isn't swayed by our hearts failure to follow. Notice Jesus response to the disciples failure to believe in Him in Luke 24:41. Jesus having just finished His work on the cross (John 19:30), having been raised from the dead, now showing His hands and His feet to the disciples whom He spent many days, nights, weeks, months, and years with, responds to their doubt by asking “Have you anything here to eat?”.


Hold on Jesus! You spent your life trying to teach these men of the reality of what you're doing, and now they won't believe, and you're not stopping everything to address this? Nope. He doesn't need to. Their heart doesn't get the final say. Christ does. I believe this is what John is speaking of in 1 John 3:20:


20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. - 1 John 3:20


Even when our hearts work against us, even condemning us, God is not bound by our hearts verdict, He is not constrained by the courts of our flesh. God transcends our flesh and takes us with Him. God knows exactly what He is doing. Your heart's broken condition, though it can affect your walk with God does not affect your position in God. God is greater than our heart. If our heart could affect our position than our hearts would be greater, but this is not the case (1 John 3:20). Remember Christ set us free from this body of death, our heart has been rendered without any authority in His courts. This damage, it's only damage in the flesh.


By Christ's doing, you are no longer your flesh. Yes you have the old self, but you that is the real you is a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17).


But what about now, what about in our courts? First, understand as the psalmist did in the 2nd part of his sidebar. "for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence." (Psa. 42:5). God is greater than your heart. It's only dire from our viewpoint but it is not this way from God's viewpoint. God loves you more than you love yourself. So even if this is an ongoing battle, God's victory for you is won. Your position in Him cannot/is not altered by your inability to feel it. The bible often speaks of our "new self" and "old self" it's important you realize you have both or you may error in assuming the you that is the real you is what you see in the old self. That is no longer the real you and as Paul argued at the end of Romans 7, it's ok to call it out as not being you, just as he did. Why? Because that's the truth!


Next, know that God empathizes with you. He knows your weakness. It's in that knowledge He included in His plan to separate you from it. We pray and we pray for God to fix us whereas God replies "done". Yet we continue to look at the old self and in concluding it's the real us we pray, God set me free! God says "I did". We reply, but God, what about this sin? Whereas He could reply "that's not your sin any longer" (2 Cor. 5:21). This isn't wishful thinking, it's the reality of what Christ has done for you and it was done unconditionally (Rom. 5:8,11).


Therefore, understand you are in the safety net of God's love ALWAYS, and let not Satan tell you otherwise. Neither listen to your heart and it's counsel for as we covered it is wicked, damaged by a world ruled by Satan (John 12:31), and therefore not to be trusted.


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


It's important that our walk is governed by wisdom not our feelings. You can't trust in your own heart because you often cannot sway it, it has a mind of it's own and that mind was shaped by experiences. This is why your own heart can condemn you even though you don't want that. This is why your heart can love bad things even though that's not your will for it.


If Jesus had walked according to His feelings He would have halted in the garden (Matt. 26:38-39). But we know that Jesus walked by faith (Phil. 2:8, 1 Pet. 2:23). Faith is not a feeling. Billy Graham writes, it's "fact, faith, and feeling. They come in this order, and the order is essential". Faith follows fact. We believe something because it's true, not because we feel it. We don't walk according to what we feel, on the contrary, Paul writes:


for we walk by faith, not by sight— - 2 Corinthians 5:7


Sight denotes experience, sight drives our feelings. Remember Peter after looking at the waves then became frightened (Matt. 14:30). Therefore let our walk be governed by our faith, not by horizontal circumstances nor our hearts response to them.


The bible often calls us to be courageous (1 Cor. 16:13, Deut, 31:6), courage is quite unique from bravery and the two are often confused. Bravery is defined as not being affected by adverse circumstances. Courage is much more impressive, courage is choosing to press on despite being heavily affected by adverse circumstances. Choosing to walk by faith though riddled with self condemnation, anxiety, doubt, fear, hurts and scars is indeed courageous.


What about our heart. We're secure but our heart drags along, is there hope? Of course! While you can't teach your heart you can train it. Just like it was trained poorly, now we need to train it correctly. Scripture says to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2), as one theologian writes, this is why it's important that we preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Remind ourselves of the good news until our hearts are battle softened. Every time the psalmist had a sidebar with his heart he concluded by saying "I shall again praise Him, for the help of His presence." (Psa. 42:5, 11, 43:5). Think about that, did he feel this? No. If he did he wouldn't be having this sidebar trying to convince his soul to not "despair" or be "disturbed", he wouldn't be trying to convince his soul to "hope in God". He didn't feel this but is being deliberate to preach to himself the good news his brain knows is true.


Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life. - Psalm 42:6b-8


Likewise this is what swayed Asaph's heart in Psalms 77. The first 10 verses are Asaph lamenting about seeking God without rest, non-stop seeking God without weariness and yet in his words his "soul refuses to be comforted". Every time Asaph remembered God it disturbed him. He is so troubled by them he cannot speak, he cannot sleep, and thus comes to the (errant) conclusion that God as rejected him and that God's lovingkindness has ceased, that God's promise of good toward him has come to an end, that God in His anger withdrew His compassion from Asaph.


Sounds like us doesn't it?


Yet the second 10 verses NOTHING changes in Asaph's life. NOTHING gets better, God doesn't come in and rescue him but rather you see Asaph, like the writer of this psalm, deliberately and purposefully remembering the good things. Like Philippians 4:8 exhorts us, these Godly men are being deliberate to choose to dwell on the good, they are preaching the gospel to themselves. The first 10 verses Asaph describes his heart's condition and how God must hate him too. The second 10 verses Asaph decides to walk by faith and deliberately remember the goodness and faithfulness of God.


Be deliberate. Like these men, be deliberate to heed Philippians 4:8 and call to memory (don't wait for it to wander in) the good news of the Lord! Your heart won't do this be default. This is why we are not to forsake the gathering together:


23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:23-25


You are secure in Christ. That's established by Him and kept by Him. We now walk by faith and that word "walk" denotes action. Our being made alive and a new creation is entirely by Christ's doing and therefore it cannot be undone. But walking is another point altogether.


25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. - Galatians 5:25


In other words, we do live by the Spirit, that is done. Paul is saying that since that is a fact, a very real and present reality, let us also decide to walk accordingly. This, like this psalmist, like Asaph, is being deliberate. These men choose to press on despite feeling overwhelming feelings of despair. You already have the victory, stop trusting your heart to confirm that and start trusting God's word. You're fighting a fight that's already been won. Now be deliberate to focus daily on the truth of what God says about you. Not what your heart says, nor the accusations of the enemy, but rather decide to preach (not necessarily feel) to yourself what God says about you. This is walking by faith, and in so doing you may find the rest of you is being trained to follow though not immediately and not without being deliberate in your walk.


Be consistent, even worldly people know the "power of positive thinking". Not that they have actual power which comes by way of the Spirit, but like we discussed, damage in the heart is damage in the flesh, therefore this is applicable even to those not born again. It works. God knew it, that's why we have instructions such as Philippians 4:8:


Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. - Philippians 4:8


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Have some feedback, insight, questions, comments, prayer requests, etc? Maybe you just want to share what God is doing in your life (I love praise reports), or maybe you can relate to some of the things here and need an ear. I'd love to hear from you!