Feelings, Emotions and Truth

Greg Strand – August 8, 2014 6 Comments

I recently had a discussion with another about feelings and emotions, what they are and how they ought to be understood and processed. I confess that attempting to understand and process feelings and emotions is an interesting phenomenon in that pondering them as separate from us to be dissected by us is precisely what feelings and emotions are not! Nonetheless, it is still important to consider because though they influence and affect us, they ought not to control us.

 

The essence of my discussion was that though feelings and emotions may be real and true, they may not be accurate. They cannot be treated as truth or trusted as reliable. They may be, but not necessarily so. They must align with the truth of God’s Word. Stated constructively, as we grow spiritually our feelings and emotions ought to align ever-more increasingly to the truth as we are progressively conformed into the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18).

 

This is the conclusion stated by Mark Altrogge: Feelings Are Real. But Are They Always The Truth? He writes,

 

I don’t have anything against feelings. They are a gift from God. But I’m grateful that early on in my Christian life I heard a truth that helped me immensely:

 

Feelings are real but they are not necessarily the truth.

 

Feelings are real – we truly experience them. We don’t imagine them. They are real. But they are not necessarily the truth. They may be the truth but they aren’t always the truth. If we believe in Jesus Christ and feel like God loves us and accepts us that is the truth. If we feel condemned or that God has abandoned us that is not the truth.

 

How do you process feelings and emotions? How do you help others to process them?

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA’s Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

6 responses to Feelings, Emotions and Truth

  1. This truth is particularly helpful for Christians who suffer from mental illness. Two recent White Horse Inn broadcasts (7/6/14 and 7/13/14) addressed the topic of mental illness in Christians. Because I know a Christian who is suffering in this way, I was particularly interested in these broadcasts. How does the church perceive mental illness and how can pastors help? The broadcasts and the associated resources were helpful to me and to my friend. And I appreciated Altrogge’s insights.

    • Thank you for your comment, Steve. Though that was not the direct focus of this post, it is, nonetheless, an important aspect of it. And, of course, though it does not change the truth of what I, or Altrogee, wrote, it does require that one must with pastoral wisdom and sensitivity apply it to the lives of others.

      The church has not often done well with brothers and sisters who struggle with mental illness. Michael Horton, a theologian, has written a helpful piece on this: Faith and Mental Illness. Another one who has helpfully and insightfully written on this recently is Heath Lambert, a biblical counselor: Can Jesus Heal Mental Illness?

  2. I’m afraid that too many of the favorite songs sung in church these days are selected for the feelings they evoke rather than the doctrinal truths they teach.

    All too often, the lyrics of those songs are not vetted adequately for their doctrinal truth.

    • Thank you, Bob. I think what you write does often happen. I would say, however, that a good number of younger music/worship pastors are desirous of both faithful lyrics and beauty in melody which supports the beauty of the truth.

      I want both faithful lyrics and good music/melody that supports the beauty of the truth of the words sung. Just as when I preach, I desire to be faithful to the text of Scripture and that hearts would be moved by the Holy Spirit. There is an appropriate “religious affections.”

      How do you ensure this?

  3. I don’t have answers to this, but I look to others for help!

    I have found a very helpful article by Philip Percival in Matthias Media’s eBriefing 340 (pp 20-23). (Don’t neglect his footnotes!) Percival also makes some similar points in a later blog posting:
    The early church got a bit too hung up on the liturgy continuing the course of OT temple practice. By the medieval period this had developed into full-blown mysticism—mysticism being about experiencing God through the sights, sounds, smells and sacrifices of ‘worship’. This was (partially!) dealt with by the Reformation, but it still exists today in much of Christianity. For some churches and movements, music is now at the heart of one’s experience of God through worship.

  4. Here is a free version of Percival’s article in eBriefing (on Facebook).

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