Emotional Futility

After years of going through countless feelings and emotions, I have come to the conclusion that feelings are something we can’t really change. All we can do is yield them to God and ask him to do something with them. Sure, we don’t have to act on our feelings. We don’t have to be ruled by them. But we can’t really change how we feel.

Consider these words by Henri Nouwen in The Road to Daybreak, “Oh, I am so little in control of my feelings and emotions! Often I have to just let them pass through me and trust that they won’t hang around too long.”

I am also reminded of what C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him…They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feelings in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did…Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.”

Both of these famous thinkers touch on the fact that I can’t really change my emotions. Sure, I can mask them or ignore them for a while when distracted by something. But once I think about the thing, person or situation that I don’t like, the negative feelings tend to come back. My emotions seem impervious to my will or desire. They have a mind of their own. All I can do is disregard them and do what I know God wants me to do. Then, God changes my heart as I take a leap of faith and act in the proper way regardless of my feelings.

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