by Gayle D. Erwin

At the close of a recent teaching session, I stated that if for some reason we feel separated from God then our feelings are lying to us and we need to call those feelings liars. This prompted a letter from a very fine young lady who had suffered much pain in her life. I quote part of it here.

"l don't think our feelings lie. I don't believe they are good or bad. I believe they just are and are responses to what's going on around and within us. ... When I feel defective and unworthy, the feelings aren't lying to me--that's how I feel. I believe feelings are a fact. The truth upon which that fact is based is what I need to change."

Anyone who has bothered to observe the paradoxes of life knows that feelings and facts are strange bedfellows. At times they seem to be friends who cannot exist without each other and, at other times, mortal enemies.

From my own observations, I have decided that feelings are fickle critters that can't seem to decide where to give loyalty. If a huge truck is bearing down on me, the feeling of fear is a direct result of true and imminent danger; but when I detect no true and immediate danger and yet have feelings of fear, what does that say about the truth of the feeling?

Or, one can experience the opposite circumstance--a true and present danger without any feeling of fear. Here again, I must ask about the truth of the feeling.

Compounding this struggle further, feelings, fickle as they are, become terrible tyrants when they are the rulers of our lives rather than mere providers of information. For this reason, we must somehow rule them in order to establish their role in a healthy way. The whole subject is a morsel larger than this column can chew so let's narrow the confines to our opening subject.

To what degree can we trust our feelings about God and things spiritual? Perhaps I should deliver some further definitions according to Erwin before we continue. I believe that feelings are the results of many things, but truth may or may not have anything to do with them. Truth, to me, is Jesus himself as the living Word and the Bible as the written Word. I would imagine that definition to be acceptable to most who read this. Facts are merely supposedly accurate bits of information about the world. Feelings are our emotional responses to information, truth and experiences.

With those definitions, let us propose some situations. What if my friends are planning a surprise birthday party for me, and, as I notice what seems to be strange behavior, I become angry and think they are doing something bad. Regardless of my observations, the truth of the matter is different from the reactions of my emotions. Consequently, I must call my feelings liars.

Suppose I feel that God doesn't love me or that he is getting even with me. The truth is that God is love and that he is forgiving, thus my feelings do not represent the truth and are lying to me.

Does this mean that feelings are not real. No. Feelings, though real, are neutral (neither good or bad) but they are not always accurate. When they do not reflect what we know to be true, i.e., Jesus and the Bible, then we must be brave enough to call our feelings liars and act out of what we know to be the truth rather than our feelings.

God is Compassionate, Merciful, Slow to Anger, Abounding in Love and Faithfulness, Forgiving of Wickedness, Rebellion and Sin. Regardless of how I "feel," I choose to believe those truths about God. Consequently, I will demand that my feelings conform to that Truth.