Everyday Christian: drawing on facts to rescue feelings

The law of gravity dictates that anything that goes up must eventually come down, as Isaac Newton proverbially noted.

It’s a truism I have often observed in myself, when after a period of exhilaration, there comes the inevitable slump, when feelings flop and I struggle to find satisfaction with life.

It’s then that the underlying tensions of our imperfect world and our sin-bound selves reassert themselves and sap our energy and motivation.

I went through such a slump recently after returning home to Darwin from seeing my sons and daughters-in-law – and some dear friends – in Sydney.

I came back feeling restored and replenished by having spent precious time with my loved ones. But soon their absence drained me and I just felt spent.

This was when I reminded myself of some truths a godly older woman taught me many years ago, when I was battling depression and anxiety. She gave me a little blue booklet called Have You Made the Wonderful Discovery of the Spirit-Filled Life?  written by Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.

The cover showed a train pulling along two carriages. It makes the point that our feelings come and go, but they do not change the reality of who is in charge. The truth of our identity in Christ is represented by the engine – the facts – which is pulling along the next carriage of our faith, followed by the little caboose of feelings. It doesn’t work when you try to drive the train using your feelings.

Inside the little booklet, Bill writes: “Do not depend on feelings. The promise of God’s word, not our feelings, is our authority. The Christian lives by faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God himself and his word. This train diagram illustrates the relationship between fact (God and his word), faith (our trust in God and his word) and feeling (the result of our faith and obedience) (John 14:21),”

“The train will run with or without the caboose. However, it would be futile to attempt to pull the train by the caboose. In the same way, we, as Christians, do not depend upon feelings or emotions, but we place our faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the promises of his word.”

To walk daily in the Spirit, he says, we need to discover spiritual breathing, where we exhale the impure and inhale the pure. After confessing our sin – in my case, wanting to usurp God’s sovereignty in my life and take charge again – I need to surrender control of my life to Christ, receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit by faith and trust him to direct and empower me. Trust in the truth of his Scriptures and trust that there is no such thing as unanswered prayer.

My mild and momentarily suffering was put into perspective by the much greater testing of this dear friend of mine, who has had to cling very hard to the promises of God recently as she sought in vain for relief for severe nerve pain and night leg spasms that robbed her of sleep for months.

“How has the enemy slapped me in the face every time I pray for relief and don’t seem to get the answer I want? God has abandoned me. He doesn’t hear me. He doesn’t answer prayer,” she wrote.

After a church service at which her husband shared her experience of pain with the congregation, five people approached and offered to pray over her.

“This I happily and gratefully accepted! That night was the worst I had ever experienced. As I tossed and turned in bewilderment, Scriptures regarding God’s honour of prayer from his people came quickly to mind. The enemy (as so often happens) had shown his face too clearly and overstepped the mark. It became a matter of was I prepared to believe God’s word, rather than the way I felt? I told God it would be the former. The next week produced the best undisturbed sleeps I had had in months.

“At times like these, we become acutely aware of the spiritual battle we are in, with the enemy endeavouring to weaken our faith as much as possible. Don’t be cautious about sharing your needs, and invite others to pray for you. Don’t be afraid of the battle that might ensue – remember, faith is not what we feel or see, but persistent, dogged clinging to the promises of God.”