Putting Feelings in their Place
April 3, 2009
“The feelings we receive from our devotional life are the
least of its benefits. The invisible and unfelt grace of God is
much greater, and it is beyond our comprehension.” – St.
John of the Cross
We live in a very feeling-oriented culture. We’re supposed
to feel good about ourselves, our bodies, our jobs, our churches,
our government, our entertainment … if we don’t feel
good about something, then something is very wrong!
That belief system, however, is completely incorrect. To be sure,
feelings are an important aspect of life; they are part of how
God made us. But feelings are never to be a barometer of truth
or well-being. They are too volatile for that, and too easily manipulated.
Take the case of our devotional life: we often think that if we “feel
good” after spending time in prayer or Scripture reading,
that we have had a “successful” devotional time with
God. Maybe. But quite frankly, maybe not. I can feel good but not
really have quieted my heart in prayer or been listening to what
the Scripture had to say to me. Likewise, I can feel completely
miserable after baring my soul to God and hearing truth from his
So how do we know if we have had a “successful” quiet
time with God? Well, first, examine your thoughts, your words,
and your actions during your quiet time. They are a much more reliable
gauge than your feelings because they are objective, not subjective.
And second, remind yourself that your goal is not to feel good:
it is to connect and communicate with the Lord of Hosts, and to
receive the outpouring of his love and grace. And that can happen
even if we don’t “feel” anything at all.
- How much
do you rely on your feelings as a barometer of truth or well-being?
- How would you characterize your thoughts during a typical
quiet time? Are you able to focus on God and his Word and your
prayers, or are you easily distracted? If the latter, what distracts
you, and why?
- How would you characterize your words during a typical
quiet time? Do your prayers contain a balance of adoration, confession,
thanksgiving, and supplication? Or do you lean more in one direction
- How would you characterize your actions during your quiet
time? Do you try to multi-task while having your devotional time?
Does your physical posture indicate reverence?
- Do you find it easy or difficult to realize that God’s
grace may be at work even if you feel nothing or actually feel