I have somehow managed to be blessed with three kids who are generally happy to clean up after themselves. They don’t make a big deal of putting their things away, so usually this isn’t one of those mind-numbing parenting issues we are constantly battling in our house.
But not always.
The other night, I made my post-dinner “time to clean!” announcement and Kenna planted her bottom on the ground. She shrugged her shoulder to her ear, puckered her lips, looked at me with defiant eyes and pronounced, “Noooo. I’m not going to. I don’t FEEL like it tonight.”
Hmph! With an air of indignation, I informed her, “I didn’t feel like making you dinner tonight, but your stomach is full. Clean up.” I wish I could say it ended there, but it turned into a nasty battle over whether her feelings on the issue mattered.
Not 24 hours after this little event, I sat across from Bryan at the dinner table bemoaning the fact that it is so hard to feel God.
When I pray, I mostly feel like I’m talking to the walls. When I read the Bible, I usually don’t feel God’s illumination. When I worship at church, I often don’t feel any kind of supernatural connection.
My interpretation of these experiences: My faith has a problem. It’s broken. I’m doing something wrong. God set this whole thing up to be too difficult. It leaves me confused, frustrated, and if I’m very honest, a bit angry.
To feel this way means I have become confident that my feelings are a guide to reality. If I don’t feel God is there, He must not be.
Our culture places a high priority on feelings-based confidence. “What is true is what is true for you” is the relativistic anthem of our society. It’s the idea that we all have different experiences, leading to different feelings, therefore there must be different truths. In a self-focused world, it’s almost natural that such a value system emerges – even my 4-year-old resorts to it.
If you believe in the truth of the Gospel, however, truth lies outside of our feelings. Consider how many ways our feelings can steer us away from God’s true desires for our lives:
- If we don’t feel that God hears our prayers, does that mean he doesn’t? No, the Bible tells us when we seek, we will find (Matthew 7:7).
- If we don’t feel like worshiping God, should we stay home from church? No, the Bible tells us to always seek God first (Matthew 6:33). God deserves our worship each week.
- If we don’t feel like loving our enemies, should we treat them as they treated us? No, the Bible commands us to love them without qualification of how we feel; clearly no one feels like loving their enemies by nature (Matthew 5:44).
- If we don’t feel like making time in our busy schedule to serve others, should we continue living for only ourselves? No, the Bible tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
Feelings are subjective responses to people, things or situations. Feelings are real and should be acknowledged, but our confidence in faith and how we should live must rest on what is given to us by the Bible as objectively true. Confidence not based on truth is simply proud foolishness.
As a conversation starter, ask your kids how important feelings are. Help them understand the difference between caring for people’s feelings (important!) and using their own feelings to determine what is true and how they should live. Give them example scenarios like the ones above (“If you don’t feel like cleaning up, should you still do it? Why?) to help illuminate the point.
Do you relate to often not “feeling” God? Has it caused you concern like it has for me? I’d love to hear your experiences.