• Matthew Thornton

Faith over feelings

Matthew explores how we can live a life of faith, following God's truth in spite of our changing feelings and emotions. Living a life of faith anchors our self worth and allows us to find communion with God even in times when He seems silent.

It seems apparent to me as if the world we live in encourages us to be led by emotion and feelings.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the advice “follow your heart”. Whilst, this advice is well-intentioned, I don’t think it is the way we should be living as Christians.

As Christians, we don’t follow our hearts, we follow Jesus. What this means is that our lives are directed by God’s truth and not by our feelings which are prone to wandering and fluctuation. It means that each emotion we feel is evaluated in light of His word.

Concerning self-worth

How comforting to know that our self-worth and self-esteem is beyond our present feelings about ourselves. We aren’t defined by how we feel about ourselves, rather we are defined by who Jesus says we are.

What I’ve come to realise is that, sometimes, the greatest enemy of God’s truth is our own feelings.

There is a popular psychological model known as the ‘iceberg model’. It theorises that our emotions are largely influenced by core beliefs we have about ourselves and the world.

Therefore, as Christians, we should ponder on what core beliefs our feelings are founded on. At times, it may reveal that we are believing falsehoods about ourselves or God. It is then that we should re-orient ourselves with His truth, affirming what He says about us instead of believing what our feelings may be convincing us.

When we feel worthless, we remind ourselves that He says we are made worthy (1 Corinthians chapter 6, verse 11).

When we feel hopeless, we remind ourselves of the hope He gives (1 Peter chapter 1, verse 3 to 5).

When we feel like a failure, we remind ourselves that He has already won (John chapter 16, verse 33).

Lauren Daigle captures this beautifully in the chorus of her song ‘You Say’:

“You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing You say I am strong when I think I am weak You say I am held when I am falling short When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours And I believe (I), oh I believe (I) What You say of me (I) I believe”

Or, as spoken word artist Joseph Solomon puts it: “faith over feelings”.

God in the Silence

How comforting to know also that our relationship with God is more than our feelings of connectedness with Him. There are times when I feel ‘on fire for Jesus’ but there are also times that I feel distant from Him.

Following God in seasons of spiritual barrenness or ‘dryness’ can be the toughest. They are tough because it feels as if we have fallen out of favour with God.

As Christians, we don’t follow our hearts, we follow Jesus. What this means is that our lives are directed by God’s truth and not by our feelings which are prone to wandering and fluctuation. It means that each emotion we feel is evaluated in light of His word.

But, communion with God is more than just the words He speaks to us. God can move in the silence too. For, if words can communicate meaning, so can the lack of them. It is in these times of silence that we need to rely on faith, not feelings believing that the never-changing God hasn’t abandoned us.

For there seems to be profound power in periods of silence throughout the Bible. It takes 38 chapters in Job before God speaks, the Psalms often cry out that God is silent and let’s not forget the silence of Easter Saturday where Jesus lay dead for a whole day.

But you see, if we seek God and continue to obey His commandments, His Spirit will never leave us (John chapter 14, verse 15 to 17). So, if we are doing these things, yet the Spirit still seems to remain silent, well then, we need to have faith that God is still working in that.

As the old saying goes: “you only know what you have when it is gone”. Sometimes this can be true with God as Frederick Beuchner points out: “I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through His silence, His absence, so that we know him best through our missing him”. It often takes His perceived absence in one season of our life to remind us of His undeniable presence in others.

Yet, periods of silence can also prompt us to rest, reflect and can sometimes allow us to grieve and lament. To be honest, I haven’t figured out exactly why we experience these seasons, but I suppose a large part of it has to do with the fact that we aren’t home yet. We are still wandering in a foreign land waiting to return to home.

What is important is that during these times we continue to pursue God and continue to seek after him. But knowing that I have nothing to fear in this time, and that my relationship with God is more than these feelings of connectedness, gives me strength to persevere, a willingness to be obedient and patience to endure it until I hear His gentle and tender whisper once again.

I thank God

I thank God for His truth that allows us to live a life by faith. I thank God that I am more than the sum of my emotions and feelings – both regarding my self-esteem and my relationship with Him.

I thank God that who He says I am is what matters and I thank God that He can still work in periods of silence.

It is my encouragement that we continue to seek His word and continue to seek Him. Let us get to know His truth deeply so that it can lead us through life and keep us steady.

“Faith over feelings”.

Matthew Thornton is studying at the University of Auckland, Matthew finds that writing is one of the prime ways he connects with and grows closer to God. He loves seeing the way in which God has wired everyone uniquely and finds immense fulfilment in seeing others discover who God is to them. He would love to hear from you: matthewcthornton13@gmail.com // Photo: Kirstyn Paynter

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