Young Leaders in Ministry
To Feel or Not to Feel
We live in a culture that is all about trusting your feelings. Follow your heart. Listen to your gut. Feel all the feelings. But the truth is that we can’t trust our feelings, not all the time.
If I always followed my feelings, I would never work out. I’d eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, regardless of how it made my body or brain feel. I’d quit projects before finishing them. I’d start all sorts of fires of over jealousy and bitterness. I’d hold grudges. I’d fall out of love to fall into love to fall out of love again. I’d live in my bed and binge watch cooking shows all day.
This is pretty much what does happen when I am swayed by my feelings. But that doesn’t mean that some of my feelings aren’t trustworthy and good at times. It doesn’t mean that I don’t observe my feelings and seek to understand them. It doesn’t mean I suppress them or shove them away.
I think feelings matter, but I don’t want to be defined or ruled by them, because they change every two seconds.
Should we trust our feelings?
Over the past two years, I've begun to realize that my feelings – big as they are – are not the best tour guides for my life. They weren’t giving me the most accurate information. They weren’t making my life any better or more free. They were making it harder for me to make solid, wise decisions.
They were not allowing me to thrive, because I was investing so much in them. Most days, I felt that I was a captive to whatever I was feeling in that moment, that hour, that day, and they were hardly good or useful feelings.
I felt like a failure. I felt sad and depressed. I felt the need to perform and to always be impressive. My feelings ping-ponged, sending me in a lot of different directions. I couldn’t see that they didn’t always have my best interests in mind.
Feelings can be beautiful, though, and it would be hopelessly boring to navigate this life without them. They inspire people to write love stories that can shake the world. They can stir you up, make you clench your fists and act when you see an injustice taking place. They are what move you to tears when you read a good book or listen to an incredible song.
We need these things to make life full of beauty and passion. I believe that we have feelings because God intends for us to have them. Yet we are encouraged to follow our hearts, while often told that the heart is fickle and does not know what it wants. So which is it?
Bringing our feelings to God
I think it is both. I think you can live a beautiful life and lead from your heart while also learning to bring the things in your heart to God. I think there is a way to see and acknowledge your feelings, while also being in control of them. I think there’s a power-packed and thriving version of life to live where we can be stronger and better because we trust faith over fleeting feelings.
Jesus felt things. Majorly. And I get so much comfort in that. He wept. He experienced anger. He called out injustice. He felt fear. He loved and he laughed and made the most of his time on this planet.
But throughout the texts, you read that Jesus was alone with God – a lot! More than he preached or taught or performed miracles, he spent time away with God. I imagine that is where he first began to deal with the feelings inside him. And that’s what I want to focus on today.
When we spend time alone with God and bring our feelings to him, we can both honor the things inside us and open up to seeing them from a different perspective – God’s perspective. We can say freely, “I’m tempted to trust this feeling right now, but I want to trust You more. I want to understand why I feel this way.”
There’s always a reason. Something beneath the surface. Something to learn. Something God wants to illuminate through our feeling happiness, loneliness, sadness, jealousy or rejection. God wants to be close to us, and I think God uses our feelings to get closer, to show us more of who we could become if we would just let go of that which doesn’t serve us.
I have immense and big, big feelings. But I have an even more immense and bigger God.
Prema Vas is a third culture kid, born and raised in Kuwait, from Kerala. She studied in Pune, worked in Mumbai and is currently living with her husband in the beautiful city of Bangalore.
She currently works as the Operations Director in Alpha India, a global organization that sparks conversations about faith, life and meaning through the church.
She and her husband are on a mission to bring light and love into every dark, isolated space through their movement Little More Love, a gospel platform Awe and Wonder and a gathering at home called Wednesdays.
This piece was first published on Awe and Wonder.
- Leadership in Times of Change by Robin Hammeal-Urban, Vestry Papers, May 2015
- The God Who Sees Me by Nicole Foster, an ECF Vital Practices blog, December 30, 2020
- A Throne in Your Heart by Linda Buskirk, an ECF Vital Practices blog, December 18, 2018
- Worry.... And Heart by Anna Olson, an ECF Vital Practices blog, August 13, 2014