Have you ever experienced a disconnect between what you knew to be true and how you felt? Somewhere in the distance between the head and the heart, something went wrong. If there’s a gap between our faith and our feelings, why is that? What keeps us from getting what we know about our faith to go from our head to our hearts? This week, we will be looking at four reasons for this disconnect.
We have a wrong view of God.
Have you ever seen an adult seethe with anger? They might not be yelling or screaming - just sitting there, but you can feel the rage emanating from them? Last summer, I had a conversation with a college-aged girl, and I have never before seen such ire in someone. It wasn’t directed at me, though. It was directed at God.
Struggling with depression, dealing with guilt and shame over past sin, and indulging in secret sin, it became clear as we talked and peeled back the layers that she primarily viewed God as oppressive and wrathful. Oppressive because if He loved me He would take away my suffering, and He would let me give into my sin without feeling guilty for it. Wrathful because she thought He was rejecting her - that He loved and forgave everyone but her. Her view of God affected how she framed and understood her situation.
In Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer states, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Why? Because we move towards our mental image of God. How you feel and how you act demonstrates what you think about God. So when you notice a strong emotion in yourself, ask what that emotion expresses about your view of God.
Would you be anxious right now if you truly believed in God’s care for you? His plan for your life? That He is sovereign over your current situation?
Would you be bitter or angry right now if you truly grasped God’s forgiveness and how what someone else has done to you can never compare to what you did to God (see Matt. 18)?
If we recognize that we have misconceptions about God’s character and power, we should spend time studying what the Bible says about Who God is, and even if you can spout off Grudem’s Systematic Theology chapter about the character of God, you still need the reminder, maybe even more so. Why? Because we sin everyday and because “all sin is rooted in the suspicion that God is not really good” (Oswald Chambers).
Our view of God can be a reason for a disconnect between our feelings and our faith, but a second reason is...
We blame our biology or our environment for our sin instead of owning that we are sinners.
Deficiencies, diseases, and disorders exist because of sin’s presence in the world. However, our biology or genetics cannot make us sin. You might have a propensity towards depression or anxiety because of your biology, and this might make life very difficult. But that propensity doesn’t give you a pass or an excuse to give into sin.
Our emotional problems or biology acts like a truth serum. It exposes what is truly in our hearts - what’s been there all along. So while our biology does influence us, it doesn’t make us sin.
The same goes for our environment. Many of the girls in my first college small group grew up in dysfunctional families - parents who controlled, manipulated, had affairs, got divorced, were abusive, constantly criticized, etc., and it didn’t take long to see how their families had affected and shaped them. But while we might try to root our problems in our past, our parents, or our pain, we have to take responsibility for how we have responded to the things that have happened in our lives. Our environment - our families - do not force us to sin.
You might have been greatly hurt by others - been sinned against, but being a victim does not excuse you from sinning in response. You don’t get to live like you want and blame your past for all of your problems. Your past doesn’t make you sin. Your parents do not make you sin. And your own pain and woundedness does not make you sin. You choose to sin.
As James 1:14-15 states, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
What James is saying is that our own desires are why we sin, so what we worship - what we love most, fear most, and desire most - that’s why we sin. We are worshiping beings, and we will either worship God or someone/something else. So what is it that you’re worshiping?
Also, if you have unconfessed sin or sin that you are habitually giving into, that will also prevent what you about God from going from your head to your heart. Or it might also be that you are not being obedient in serving, evangelism, etc. – things that God has commanded His followers to do that you’re not doing.
So if you how you feel is not lining up with what you know about God and the Christian life, take some time for self-examination. Look at your life. Is there sin you need to confess and turn away from? Are there things that God has instructed you to do that you’re not being obedient in (like Jonah)? Are there people or things that you’re blaming when, in reality, you are responsible for your own decisions and responses?
Know that whatever the reason for the disconnect, there is hope. You can turn to God, and as James 4 talks about, He gives “more grace.” We can turn to Him for the power to trust Him and to obey Him despite how we feel.
To read the remaining two reasons for the discrepancy, check back on the blog this Thursday for part two of “When Our Feelings Do Not Match Our Beliefs.”