Our Feelings and Thoughts Are Not A Guarantee
In Part 1 of 2: Doubt, Fear, and Uncertainty, I emphasized a key point:
Just because a problem deals with a spiritual issue doesn’t mean it must be exclusively a spiritual problem, addressed through exclusively spiritual means.
Let me add one:
Just because I feel or think something strongly doesn’t mean that’s what God is saying.
But doesn’t the Bible say the Holy Spirit is placed as a “seal” or “guarantee” (1 Corinthians 1:22)? Yes!!! And it’s such a beautiful guarantee. But this doesn’t mean our feelings and thoughts are necessarily how God speaks (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Knowing What God Is Saying Should Be Easy?
Those who tell you that discerning God’s voice should always be easy, or just “listen to your heart,” have bought into cultural marketing tactics that are better left to the world of social media (here’s to the many “cures” of what ails you). The Bible presents a different picture of the remedy for our doubt and fear and uncertainty:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, ESV, emphasis mine).
What?! By testing? You mean we don’t always just know God’s will? Yep.
It also makes reference to a sacrificial stance: “present your bodies” that involves an ongoing relationship with God, not a one time, convenient, “give me the answer.”
God does give us direct clarity on His will with some things (think, “do not murder”- Exodus 20:13), but even then, we are required to face some discomfort when we raise topics like war, self-protection of family, etc. I’m not trying to over-simply 2,000+ years of Christian teaching; I’m saying that living in some uncertainty is a necessary reality for us all, and anyone who tells you it’s always simple is either selling you a product or service, lying, lacking insight, etc..
15 Biblical Ways God Speaks
- Prayer (Romans 8:26-27)
- Peace specifically after prayer, which comes from God, not ourselves (Philippians 4:6-7)
- Through His Word (1 Timothy 3:16)
- Through the person of Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2)
- Nature (Romans 1:20)
- Other Believers (James 3:17)
- Music (2 Chronicles 20:21)
- Circumstances (2 Corinthians 12:6-7)
- His Spirit (John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 3:16)
- Not through fear– for followers of Him (1 John 4:18), see the article “Fear Not”
- A mature conscience (1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Peter 3:16)
- Trials, suffering, and events (James 1:2-5; Hebrews 5:12-11; 1 Peter 1:6-7)
- God’s kindness– which is a motivator for admitting our wrongs (Romans 2:4)
- Through testing and spiritual growth (Romans 12:1-2)
- Audibly, directly, on very special occasions (see Exodus 3 as one example). Many people just assume- incorrectly- that the Bible is just full of stories of God just talking to everyone. Not true. Special circumstances led to God making Himself known audibly and/or in some overtly tangible way. He may do that still today, but requiring it is setting up an unrealistic expectation- or worse, telling God what to do.
Learning to Listen
As in relationships, just like in therapy, learning to listen is crucial for success. I hope you will learn to listen to the Spirit of God. I am just one man, and I am filled with weaknesses. Never look to one man- except Christ who became man- for truth and answers and hope.
I hope you won’t persistently make the mistake of equating your feelings and thoughts with what God is saying. There is so much freedom in this!!! Countless clients who have walked the road of therapy and integrating their faith with it know the difference between relying on feelings and relying on the object of their faith.
I will share a prayer of Paul as my prayer for you today:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-7