A few minutes ago I wanted to shut down the blog. Quit writing entirely. A minute or so later I thought of something slightly encouraging and decided it was worth it.
And if I tracked back across the last month, I’d find a wild rollercoaster of emotions ranging from touching the sky (when women didn’t actually hate me for writing Five Ways to Make Your Wife Happy – WOMEN DON’T READ) to packing a bag and heading for the quickest train to Dubai for a lifetime of mountain-monk reflection and obscurity. If I paid attention to my emotions, I’d be in serious trouble. Jumping off a bridge. Not jumping off a bridge. Proclaiming the wonders of the universe. Jumping off a bridge. Wonders. Bridge. That was five seconds.
God wants us to find stability in his Word.
Campus Crusade for Christ teaches a simple model for responding to feelings called the fact-faith-feeling train. My Dad taught me this principle growing up.
- Fact — The facts are what God says in his Word. These drive the train. They’re not your experiences, moods, perceptions, or thermometer gauge on the weather outside. They are the facts from God’s Word and what he says about your problem.
- Faith — This is what you choose to believe and act on. Put your faith in the facts, what God’s Word says. Your faith follows the facts. Simple.
- Feeling — Your feelings are the caboose. Most people follow their feelings, the opposite way, as though it’s the engine. So they end up going the wrong way down the track. But if your faith — what you believe and act on — follows the facts from God’s Word, no matter how much your feelings may wobble and bump around, eventually they will follow. But regardless, you will be going the right direction, even if they don’t.
——— SCRATCH ———
Whoa, whoa, whoa, what? Who cares if I believe the facts if I don’t feel different? I want to feel better or it doesn’t count. It didn’t fix anything.
That’s where I was for a long time. I’m still tempted to think that way. And it’s pretty shallow. Many of us care more about how we feel than what we believe and do, and if we still feel awful, what’s the point? But God doesn’t see it that way. He’s trying to build mature faith in us.
Rocks and Sand
I love sand dunes. Michigan has some famous ones — they were voted the most beautiful place in America last year — and my family has been visiting and climbing them since I was a child, since my Mom was a child really (technically outside my area of expertise). I love climbing those huge, sloping mountains of sand.
And the most thrilling part for me is the day-long trek to Lake Michigan across them and back. A day trip that, although incredibly taxing, spans only 1.5 miles. I could run it in fifteen minutes on concrete. But on sand the walk takes half a day.
Building your life on sand is the same way.
Basing your life on your emotions is like walking across sand dunes to Lake Michigan.
Jesus said whoever hears his Word and acts on it is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall. Everyone who hears his Word and doesn’t act on it is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matt. 7:24-27)
If your faith stands on the Rock, what God’s Word says about your life, you’ll stand secure. If it stands on the sands of your emotions, you will fall. Every time.
The fact-faith-feeling train is the same way. If you follow your feelings, you’ll end up going the wrong direction every time. If you line up your faith behind the facts, and trust them, they’ll guide you home.
But how I feel is a fact.
No, how you feel is a feeling. The facts are what God says. This is a hard, but essential biblical truth to grasp. And when you master it, you’ve become mature.
If we follow our feelings, we’ll never end up doing anything.
But what about when things genuinely seem like they’re going wrong?
My Dad tells me when he’s having a rough emotional day he tells himself, “Hey, I’m having a crazy day,” and excuses it as just feelings. He doesn’t freak out and believe he’ll always be that way. He brushes it off and moves on, giving his emotions an excuse to have a crazy day, because feelings are unreliable. He focuses on the facts. And as his train moves forward, the cars fall in line behind it.
No train at rest will ever correct itself. Only in motion down the tracks will the cars straighten and follow.
Sometimes in our marriage my wife has responded to the fact-faith-feeling train (imagine telling your wife about the fact-faith-feeling train during a conflict) by saying, “But [our marraige, our communication, a family relationship] is bad. That’s a fact.” And that would give her a reason to be depressed.
That is not the fact. That’s the need for faith.
The facts are Jesus says he will never leave you nor forsake you. The facts are love covers over a multitude of sins. The facts are God has a hope and a future for our family, if we acknowledge him in all our ways he will make our paths straight, when a [family’s] ways are pleasing to the Lord even [their] enemies will be at peace with [them]. That God is our shelter in times of trouble.
The facts are God is sovereign, and He is perfecting us into the Beauty of Christ and the church. Each of us, like you, one conflict and problem at a time.
The facts are a host of Bible truths that, if we turn to them, give us faith that helps us overcome our feelings in the midst of it.
Not the other way around. Feelings aren’t supposed to help us overcome the facts. See those feelings –>. Take that, facts. That isn’t faith. And it won’t get us anywhere but derailed. Faith follows the next inch of track before us to take us home.
And it’s a choice.
Our feelings can do whatever they want. Let ’em. So long as they stay hitched to our faith, they’ll end up at the right place eventually. But more importantly, and what really matters, is we will.