Our Pastors have been leading us on Wednesday nights to consider Scripture as the Authority for our lives. It is becoming more difficult in our culture not to invest our feelings — especially if we are not in the Scriptures, with the final authority for life. We plod along counseling with ourselves making decisions based on how we feel about this or that outcome. I find when I counsel with myself the questions I ask are aimed at what is the easiest, most convenient, most comfortable, least demanding course to take.
Beyond that, the trouble with relying on my feelings as the anchor for my life is that they do not hold steady! They are fickle and change in a moment without good reason — or any reason! I can “feel” disciplined and self-controlled in the morning and decide that it is right to make healthy eating choices as a way to honor the temple of the Holy Spirit. That feeling can sustain me for awhile and then come the afternoon hours and my mind begins to bring me new counsel! I begin to “feel” different than I did during the morning. Now, I think it is time to reward myself and indulge my desire for junk food. That “feels right and true” because the decision is based on the change that has occurred from morning to afternoon.
The path of following feelings is like being lost on the back roads of West Virginia–you wind and wind and get nowhere. Counseling with my thoughts and feelings is disappointing because they are not unchanging absolutes as we find in Scripture. The unchanging, sufficient Word of God is authoritative! Soaking and submitting to God’s thoughts make for a straighter more direct path through life.
I was reminded of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ warning regarding making your feelings your god.
“Avoid the mistake of concentrating overmuch upon your feelings. Above all, avoid the terrible error of making them central…for you will be doomed to be unhappy. What we have in the Bible is Truth; it is not an emotional stimulus…and it is as we apprehend and submit ourselves to the truth that the feelings follow. I must never ask myself in the first instance: What do I feel about this? The first question is, Do I believe it?” ((D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965, reprinted 2001), 20.))
May today be the day when rather than asking myself what I feel about this or that–I ask, “Lord, based on your Word–the anchor for my life, what must I believe about this?”
With a wonderful cup of Ethiopian Sudoma coffee and my Bible, I began the morning. I have lingered over Psalm 131 for some time now pondering David’s description of having a still and quiet spirit like that of a weaned child. As I read I thought, “How I long for the still quiet soul that David writes of–my calm comes in fits and starts–I am ruled by the circumstances of my life and feel more like a pinball bouncing in a machine than a weaned child. What do I need to be weaned of that I might enjoy the contented life?” I went searching through the weighty wisdom of past saints to help me think this through!
“The soul is weaned from one thing by giving its attention to another. The task to the mother is trying and troublesome. The infant cries, and seems to sob out his heart. He thinks it very hard in her, and knows not what she means by her seeming cruelty, and the mother’s fondness renders all her firmness necessary to keep her at the process; and sometimes she also weeps at his pleading looks and big tears and outstretched hands…and she pities and perseveres; the child is denied his comfort and therefore frets and worries and flies into tantrums and sinks into sulks.
Yet time brings not only alleviations, but the ending of the conflict; the child now is quite content to find his nourishment at the table with his brothers, and feels no lingering wish to return to those dear fountains from which he once sustained his life. He is no longer angry with his mother, but buries his head in that very bosom after which he pined so grievously: he is weaned on his mother rather than from her. To the weaned child, his mother is his comfort though she has denied him comfort.
It is a blessed mark of growth out of spiritual infancy when we can forego the joys which once appeared essential, and can find our solace in Him who denies them to us. When we think ourselves safely through the weaning, we sadly discover that the old appetites are rather wounded than slain, and we begin crying again for the breasts which we had given up.
Weaning takes the child out of a temporary condition into a state in which he will continue for the rest of his life: to rise above the world to enter upon a heavenly existence which can never end. When we cease to hanker for what the world has to offer we begin hoping in the Lord. O Lord, as a parent weans a child, so do wean me, and then shall I fix all my hope on you alone.”
William Jay (1769-1853), in “Evening Exercises for the Closet.” and Charles Spurgeon, “The Treasury of David“. “Mother and Child” by Joanne Burns
Well, it seems that learning to be content carries with it many lessons of “loss”. When we are weaned as infants, we lose the milk we desire in order to be able to receive the solid food we now need for growth. If I am to be content I must crawl up on the lap of God and be content on Him and not seek it away from Him! My affections need to be weaned from all lesser affections that I seek to substitute for the Greatest One! As my friend Jane reminded me–a weaned child is a contented child!
In Day Four of the study, Jennifer Rothschild is hammering home the point that our feelings are not reliable guides in life. When I think of the many moods of any one my days I know she has hit the nail on the head in this lesson. The principle that I want to hold onto from this lesson is:
“What we hold in high esteem will eventually govern us, but what we hold in low esteem, we will govern.“
The encouragement not to bow to feelings but to enlist God’s grace to have them bow to His Word was faith strengthening this morning. I am reminded once again that feelings are real but they are not always in line with reality! I often say to my kids, “Just because you think a thought does not make it true!”