May 3, 2018

5 Things We Sometimes Have To Do Before We Feel


My sweet daughter has someone she needs to forgive.

She knows she has to do it, but hurt is digging in deep.

The other day, she asked me, "If I forgive, but I don't want to and I don't feel it, does it count?"

I told her it absolutely counted, if she was doing it because she wanted to be obedient to God. I told her that sometimes—maybe most of the time
you do forgiveness first and feel it later. Sometimes a lot later.

When we're walking in faith and trying to become more like Jesus, we have to do what we don't want to do. We can't count on our feelings to motivate or guide us, because they can't always be trusted. Jeremiah 17:9 (CSB) is mince-no-words clear about the dependability of the source of our feelings: "The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it?" 


Ouch.

Does this mean our feelings are always wrong? Does this mean we should always deny or disregard them? Of course not. God, the perfect Creator Who makes no mistakes, designed us with feelings in all their complexity.

But there is some truth to the advice, "Fake it till you feel it." Sometimes, we have to act in right ways before our emotions catch up.

I struggle with finding a balance here, because I never want my children to think they have to put on a certain persona in order to be loved by God. But I also try to teach them what I'm still learning myself: obedience to God cannot 
be based on what I feel, which changes. It has to be based on Who He is, which does not.

Here are five areas of our lives that sometimes call for the doing before the feeling kicks in.


Love. First on the list because everything else worth doing or feeling grows out of it. God is big on love in action: "Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions" (1 John 3:18 NLT).

Real love is a choice we have to make every day, many times throughout the day. Love often does before or in spite of how it feels. 


Forgive. If we love at all, sooner or later (usually sooner), we're going to have to forgive. Anytime we're close enough to someone to love them, we're also close enough to hurt them and to be hurt by them. And this hurt requires forgiveness. 

God minces no words in His Word about the priority of forgiving: "if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15). But because feelings of hurt and betrayal are so often tied to what needs forgiving—and because these are such powerful, lingering emotionsthey're often what we feel. Forgiveness, then, has to be done in spite of these and in the midst of them. 

When my daughter asked me about this, I told her, "Forgiveness has to look like something. Sometimes, you do it first and feel it later." I encouraged her to pray and ask God what forgiveness would look like in the particular situation she was facing. Would it look like praying God's blessing on this person? Would it look like being willing to talk to this person? Would it look like getting a mental grip on negative thoughts about this person and deliberately rerouting her mind away from those thoughts? Whatever forgiveness might look like, I counseled her to do it without waiting for her feelings to prompt it. (I know...easy for me to say.)

Worship. I went through a season in my life when I did not want to worship God in the assembly; I did not want to worship Him in the gathered body of Christ at my longtime local church home. I'd been part of the worship leading team for a long time, but some changes beyond my control left me feeling hurt and resentful. I carried that hurt and resentment into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings and clutched it to me. I withheld from God the praise and honor He was still entirely worthy of. Finally, I sensed Him gently but firmly asking me, "Elizabeth. Will you worship me no matter what?" 

Once I decided the answer was "yes," I still had to fight emotion that did not miraculously go away overnight. Praise was still a sacrifice. I had to set aside my self-centered feelings (which I knew God still cared very much about) and reorient my thoughts and actions toward the Object and Subject of my worship.

Pray. Prayer is simply talking to God...which is great, except that sometimes, I don't particularly want to talk to Him. Those "sometimes" include but are not limited to: when I don't like what I think He's trying to tell me; when I'm angry at Him (yes, I'm that kind of Christian); when I'm just worn out. If you're thinking these look suspiciously like ALL THE TIMES, you're right. All the more reason I have to force myself to pray anyway. This is where the prayer P.A.T.H. I follow (praise God, admit my sin, thank God, and ask for help) is so useful; it shows me a way to go to God that isn't dependent on my feelings. Often, I start in rote ritual along this path
saying the words and thinking the thoughts in robotic or resigned fashionbut find that my heart and emotions have joined the journey by about the halfway point.

Rejoice with those who rejoice. I really hope I'm not the only person in the world who struggles here. There's no way for this not to be ugly, so I'll just say it: a lot of times when something good happens to someone else
especially when it's a "something good" I wish would happen to meI don't feel particularly happy for that person, and I most definitely don't feel like celebrating with them. (I told you this was ugly.) Jealousy and envy are what I feel, but what I need to do is say, "I'm so happy for you!!!" and send congratulatory messages and balloon emojis. Not to put on some fake act, but to live beyond myself, to do right for right's sake, to put others first.

Amy Carmichael, m
issionary to India, said, "My feelings do not affect God's facts." I'm so thankful for this. I need God to be steady and unchanging and sure and constant. And the fact is that God tells us to love, forgive, worship, pray, and rejoice with others whether we always feel like it or not. 

The beauty, though, is that when we sacrifice our desires
or lack thereofto Him and choose to do obedience, we usually find the truest feeling of all: the joy of Abba's favor.




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I'm so honored and grateful that this post was featured by Aimee Imbeau on the Grace & Truth link party. This post may also have been shared at some of these link parties.

Grace and Truth Link-up https://aimeeimbeau.com

18 comments:

  1. Oh, Elizabeth, this is such a wonderful post! You have such a gift for taking a difficult subject like this and making sure we all feel safe enough to feel all the feels, including all of those that are so real, but not necessarily the ones we want to advertise for all the world to see! <3

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    1. Oh my goodness, my precious friend, thank you for this loveliest of comments. Truly, you have encouraged my heart and mind more than I have words to tell you. Thank you so, so much.

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  2. I love this gritty wisdom, and appreciate your sharing that Amy Carmichael quote. It's so true that the universe does not hang on the thread of our feelings.

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    1. Thank you so much for that feedback, Michele! As a "feeler" (too much sometimes), that quote is something I need to remember every day. Lovely to hear from you today!

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  3. I have to say that I'm currently dealing with number one - not feeling love for someone, but knowing I need to show it, in spite of my feelings. I definitely need the Holy Spirit's help to overcome what my flesh feels in the situation!! Thanks for reminding me that I need to obey God's command to love others. I know the reward will be great in the long run!

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    1. Oh my goodness...it's so hard, isn't it Tracey? SO not a one-time deal, but an over-and-over choice. Thanks so much for taking time to stop by today! It's always lovely to hear from you!

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  4. Your title drew me in. I thought it would be about how we as women don't listen to our feelings. Or how we deny our true feelings. And then I start reading. Wrong. But this is what I needed to hear. To choose to do the right things whether my feelings are there or not. To choose to act and let the feelings follow. To step out in faith and expect God to let those actions turn to feelings of desire to continue. Thank you. This is so well said.

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    1. Oh my goodness, Theresa, thank you so much for taking time to read this post and to leave your lovely and thoughtful feedback! I'm so grateful this came across in this way, which was what I longed for. Your words and perspective have blessed me so greatly. Thank YOU for this gift today!

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  5. Well said, Elizabeth! I love ao much of this. The part about love, forgiveness...it was all so good. And I love me some Amy Charmichael! Thank you for being so transparent. I believe your thoughts represent us all. Your daughter is one blessed child. Blessings!

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    1. Tiffiney! Girl, you need a job as a professional spiritual cheerleader! Oh, right: you have one...as a mom and wife and blogger! (Although I do understand the pay scale on those can be a little, ahem, lean.) You're like vitamin T for my soul. T as in "terrific." xoxo

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  6. So much wisdom here. So hard, but so true. Visiting you today from syncopated mama's link up. laurensparks.net

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    1. Thank you so much for that kind feedback! And thank you for taking time to hop over from #FridayFrivolity! :)

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  7. Thanks for this post, Elizabeth. Yes, we can forgive before we 'feel' it. Forgiveness is a choice. I love how you taught this truth to your daughter. I want my kids to have a heart of forgiveness - and I've learned that that begins with me. I must be quick to forgive. And that's not always easy. And, sometimes, that choice to forgive has to be made several times - not because we didn't forgive before - but because what happened mattered and it hurt. Continuing to forgive is a sign of healing. Thanks for linking up with Grace & Truth. I've chosen your post as my feature this week. Stop by tomorrow and get the "I was featured" button for your post.

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    1. Oh my goodness, Aimee...thank you so, so much! Not only for the lovely honor of being chosen as your feature this week at Grace & Truth, but also for your thoughtful feedback on this post and the time you took to leave it. You are so right about "forgive" being a present-participle verb: an ongoing action, not a one-time deal. I look forward to this week's party and will be so delighted to add that treasured "decoration" to my post! Bless you, Aimee!

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  8. super practical and you are right on, my friend. (: will share.

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    1. Sue!!! Thank you so much, both for that encouraging affirmation and for that share! You've boosted my spirits today. Bless you for that!

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  10. mba for working professionals
    I adore this abrasive insight, and value your sharing that Amy Carmichael quote. It's true to the point that the universe does not hold tight the string of our emotions.

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!