Do you ever have moments where your heart sort of just “crashes?” You hit a wall spiritually. Suddenly, you don’t feel like going to church. You don’t feel like reading God’s word. You don’t feel like caring. You don’t feel like exercising. The list goes on.
What do you do in that moment? Do feelings win? Or do you overcome feelings with facts? How many millions of people in human history have made life-altering decisions in moments of emotional fog, only to later regret their rash and irreversible reactions.
If you’d like to avoid that eventual regret, take a moment and consider seven ways to deal with times that “you don’t feel like doing what is right…”
1. Accept that You are Normal—everybody wrestles with destructive emotions and lying feelings. Not everybody is ruled by them. When we allow feelings to rule, we live unpredictable, unreliable, undependable lives and generally lead our families down emotionally unpredictable paths. Yes, it’s normal to deal with emotions that attempt to run you off track in life.
2. Separate Feelings from Facts—it’s vital to be able to look objectively and consider your internal world. When feelings conflict with what you know is true, right, and valuable, those feelings are always deceptive and hurtful. They need to be marked as such. By God’s grace, His Spirit can coach your heart. You can have a Spirit-led conversation with your own spirit. Jesus can remind you that the way you feel is deceiving you and does not represent true reality.
3. Consider the Spiritual War for Your Mind—God clearly tells us that these battles are for our mind and heart, and they impact every other aspect of life. This is a real spiritual battle, bit by bit, day by day, for the seemingly incremental aspects of your spiritual journey. A spiritual battle lost in small increments one week at a time can add up to a life gone destructively off course over many years, and leading other lives that same direction.
4. Address the Need that Your Emotions Reveal—Lethargic or deceptive emotions are like warning lights on a dashboard, or flashing lights in a construction zone—they indicate to you that there’s something amiss in your soul that needs immediate attention. You may need physical rest or time alone with Jesus in spiritual renewal. You may need relational time with family and friends to restore your heart. You may need to turn from sin that is killing your spiritual hunger. Whatever the need, the cure is repentance and renewal—which is God’s specialty. Let the gospel of grace wash over your soul again, and let God recalibrate errant emotions.
5. Refuse to be Ruled by Emotions—Every Christian needs a tenacity that despises lying emotions. Every mature Christian must develop a repudiation for out of line emotions, and a maturity that distrusts those emotions. There must come a moment when you stare down your own emotions like an unruly toddler and simply say, “You will not rule my heart!”
6. Set an Example of Moderation—Somebody is watching you! Little eyes are seeing how you respond to your feelings. They are learning what is important, what is valuable, what matters. They are learning who really “rules” you. They are discovering what to do when errant emotions “don’t feel like doing the right thing.” Others coming behind you are learning from the patterns that you are putting forth as “normal.” Is your example one of being ruled by random ups and downs, or one of doing the right thing even when feelings demand otherwise. Every time you do what is right, in spite of how you feel, you are teaching and leading others to do the same—to be led by truth rather than whim.
7. Enjoy Better Outcomes—The destination of a truth-led life over an emotion-led life is one of far fewer regrets and far greater rewards. The blessing of doing right things over and over for a very long time is incomprehensible. Take for instance the man who firmly plants himself in faithful local church attendance, versus the man who occasionally attends “when he feels like it.” These two roads lead to very different places over five or ten years. Planting the right seeds now, and planting more seeds tomorrow, and the next day will have a very big reaping season of good fruit when harvest time comes!
I love how Oswald Chambers addressed the power of our emotions and how to discern their value. He wrote: “Much of our distress as Christians comes not because of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature. For instance, the only test as to whether we ought to allow an emotion to have its way is to see what the outcome of the emotion will be. Push it to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something God would condemn, allow it no more way. But if it be an emotion kindled by the Spirit of God and you do not let that emotion have its right issue in your life, it will react on a lower level. That is the way sentimentalists are made. The higher the emotion is, the deeper the degradation will be if it is not worked out on its proper level. If the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many things inevitable as possible, let the consequences be what they will.”
Emotions can compel you the right direction, but they can also depress you into a wrong direction. Rule them but don’t trust them. When feelings don’t line up with truth, go with truth and without a doubt—feeling will eventually follow!
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 10:5)