Feelings and Emotions

 One characteristic of modern Western Christianity is the focus on feelings and emotions.  Many people gauge their faith by their feelings; they also judge worship based on how it makes them feel.  The former can lead to depression (i.e. if you don’t feel saved maybe you’re not).  The latter can lead to superficial emotionalism divorced from doctrine (i.e. worship becomes a matter of getting a good feeling usually based on ambiguous emotional songs).  Lloyd Jones has a good word on this.

“Avoid the mistake of concentrating overmuch on your feelings.  Above all, avoid the terrible error of making them central.  Now I am never tired of repeating this because I find so frequently that this is a cause of stumbling.  Feelings are never meant to take the first place, they are never meant to be central.  If you put them there you are of necessity doomed to be unhappy, because you are not following the order that God himself has ordained.  Feelings are always the result of something else, and how anyone who has ever read the Bible can fall into that particular error passes my comprehension.”

“The Psalmist has put it in the 34th Psalm.  He says: ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’  You will never see until you have tasted; you will not know it, you will not feel it until you have tried it.  That is something that is constantly emphasized everywhere in Scripture.  After all, what we have in the Bible is truth; it is not an emotional stimulus, it is not something primarily concerned to give us a joyful experience.  It is primarily truth, and truth is addressed to the mind, God’s supreme gift to man; 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?  Do I accept it, has it gripped me?”

“Very well, that is what I regard as perhaps the most important rule of all [in fighting spiritual depression], that we must not concentrate overmuch on our feelings.  Do not spend too much time feeling your own pulse taking your own spiritual temperature, do not spend too much time analyzing your feelings.  That is the high road to morbidity.”

Well said.  Emotions come and go like the tide; feelings wax and wane like the sun.  The truth of the gospel, however, is constant truth.  Jesus died and rose again to save sinners.  This is an objective, historical, unchangeable truth, not an inner subjective feeling.  Once again in the words of Lloyd Jones: “We are never told anywhere in Scripture that we are saved by our feelings; we are told that we are saved by believing.”

The above quote can be found in Spiritual Depression, pp. 114-116.

shane lems

sunnyside wa