Saturday, January 27, 2007

being led by God

The topic of guidance for the Christian from God, can be confusing. I've heard contradictory thoughts that seem related to it. For example, one professor, whom I much appreciate stated that almost everytime he's done according to his feelings or sense on something, along with the other things in place for God's will, he has been wrong. Then I heard a pastor, whom I also much appreciate say that we're too hard on feelings. That God uses our emotions to guide us (as I understood him).

I think it is most healthy and wise to distrust our emotions, even as children of God. I recently heard Lauren Winner mention that in regard to her own experience, and I think her point is well taken. I think it is wise to be careful not to act on emotion alone. We need to stop and consider everything prayerfully. Not be in a hurry to draw conclusions or act according to the emotion. It may be strong, and even persistent. And it may be wrong.

On the other hand, it is surely also wise to take emotions into consideration. If I have peace and joy about something, this may be an indication that God is at work in it, and I am to accept something as good and from his hand. God promises (for us today in Jesus, I believe) his guidance as we move along, or on our journey in this world. If, along with strong emotions to do something, we also have a sense of doubt or some troubling emotion, then we ought to stop, and reconsider. Of course this should include prayer. And especially if we can't get away from this issue, then we should seek another (or others) whom we can trust and look to for good counsel.

The bottom line for us is that in all things we are seeking to follow Christ and do the will of God. This should be the goal in all we do. Most of what we do will surely be clear enough, so that we don't have to give it a second thought, as we seek to live our lives in the Lord and in the community of his people in mission to the world. But other things can be challenging.

Wait. Slow down. Keep praying. And proceed, as the way is made clear. And keep doing what is God's will for us in Christ Jesus, through all of it.

What would you add from your own experience or thinking on this subject?

8 comments:

Mike Musselman said...

Ted,

I think emotions tell us one thing: How we feel. So they shouldn't be allowed to make our decisions for us.

The problem with many Christians of the evngelical persuasion (the one's I've known, anyway) has not been maing decisions based on emotions, but rahter a distrust of emotions that went so far as to deny their existence.

An example: Your'e talking ot someone and, when they seem angry or upset about something (you can hear it in the voice, see the blood rise to his or her face, so you commnent, "You sem angry about that." And hear, "No I'm not."

We have the tendency to deny the emotions we're actually having, I think. Christians (evangelicals, especially) think they have to be in control of all that. So we suppress something God intended for us to pay attantion to. We're afraid of our emotions, so we stuff them.

Its when we stuff them that the real trouble begins. It's the emotions we dont acknowledge and examine that get us into trouble.

Ted Gossard said...

Mike, I think you have a great point. Emotions are an indicator from God to us. That something may be wrong. Or good and right.

At the same time, I believe, we must be careful not to think our interpretation of our emotion or experience is correct. That must always be dependent on God and the Spirit's help (with the Word), in directing us, surely.

I do think part of what you're talking about may be related to the nonChristian stoicism that it seems many Christians in this country seem to think is good. This is denying and burying emotions, based on the idea that I won't let them rule over me. But then, in that process, like you say, "the real trouble begins". As when we don't work through them like the psalmists did, etc.

Thanks!

Susan said...

Hi Ted,

I tend not to want to single out emotions as "untrustworthy." Is that to say that our thoughts are any less affected by sin? What makes a process of reasoning infallable, but an emotion suspect? When we begin segmenting ourselves, and trying to determine which "part" is more reliable, it gets sort of crazy. It places the human being at the focal point. MY emotions, MY thoughts, MY prayers, MY peace, MY joy...

A God-centered means of deciding how to act focuses us on God's Word,the logos which He offers freely to us in a variety of communicative ways, often in the context of the community of saints. He delights to be the initiator and show us His will....most of the time, we're just not patient enough to wait and listen.

Ted Gossard said...

Hi Susan,

I'd prefer to say that all of us, including our reasoning, is impacted by the Fall, so that we should not put our weight completely on anything of us, like our emotions, thoughts, etc.

In the post, I think I was making the point that feelings (and thoughts would be included, from which those feelings derive) can be misleading. In the case of the lady I cite, Lauren Winner, she said that after she became a Christian her emotions did not lead her to quit her promiscuous lifetstyle.

Yes. I agree that God and being God-centered is key. What is more important in the Story than God himself? And I would say that Scripture does not set emotions aside. But simply that we can't rely on them alone. This is all a part of the already/not reality, I believe that we live in.

Ted Gossard said...

Susan, Maybe you're saying that we shouldn't rely on emotions at all. "Rely" may not be a good word to use here.

I do think emotions can be an indicator to help us. But since we're cracked eikons, we can't trust in ourselves as to think we can't be deceived, which would surely be possibly including our emotions.

Thanks for the challenge. I love for thoughts to be challenged and improved. And I still could be missing that help here, I'm sure.

Keep it up; keep it coming. (ha)

Ted Gossard said...

One other thing here, Susan. I do like your thought on God's leading coming through community. Very good. And very much so often missed by us, I'm afraid.

Linea said...

I think that understanding our emotions and feelings help us to know who we really are and what God is telling us. So, I don’t think that we should be so suspect of them that we fail to let God speak to us through them.

In the discernment of God’s will, a lot of things may need to be taken into consideration - our emotional reaction, the reaction of trusted friends, the fit with God given gifts and opportunities, plus the realization that God desires our wholeness. I guess this is where a community fits in. We make better decisions if we are part of a supportive community.

If this pastor found that all the decisions he has made taking into consideration his emotions and feelings and his sense of God’s will were wrong, I would say he needs to find someone to consult with that can help him sort things out – as you said, “then we should seek another (or others) whom we can trust and look to for good counsel.” Our feelings shouldn’t always be wrong.

Ted Gossard said...

Linea, Good point. I much agree. Emotions can certainly indicate God's moving. As for example, when we have joy and peace about something, as from and of God. Thanks!