It’s been a gloomy January here in Illinois. I can count the number of times I’ve seen the sun on one hand. Everything is wet and muddy and chilly. Pretty much it’s been the worst weather, in my opinion. This gloom has been mirrored in my heart this January too. I don’t mean seasonal depression so much as an inward battle with my feelings muddying the truth I know to be true.
I haven’t written in a while as I haven’t felt like it. In fact, I don’t really feel like it right now either. Rather, in recent conversations, I’ve been reminded that “nothing is new under the sun.” Similar struggles are met by others, not solely me. Therefore, I’m writing not just for me but for others and you that also may be waging war between fleshly feelings and the truth from God.
I’m not proud to admit that most of the time my spiritual life is dictated by my feelings. Hence, it has often ebbed and flowed according to the fickleness of my emotions. However, as of late, my feelings have become such that are incompatible with my faith in God. This time, I can’t just ride them out. I am required to take deliberate action against my emotions and “take every thought captive.” When you’ve been accustomed to being guided by your feelings like I have, this is no fun thing nor is it easy.
If you’ve experienced unexpected loss or a jarring halt in life plans, you may relate to the feeling I’ve been living under this month, and that is of betrayal. Betrayal by God that is. Even in typing those words, I know them to be false! However, that sense is so powerful and destructive. It’s easy to look at circumstances in life and assess that God is not acting like the good father who gives his child bread when she asks but rather the one who gives a stone. This is where another lie is propagated as well. It is the lie that I can discern truth by observation of my life. While there may be times this has some merit, it is by no means the norm. We are but seeing “through a glass darkly” right now.
In my head, I know that God does not betray. I know that he is the Good Father. I know that he sacrificed so much for us sinners. Thus, I speak these truths to myself when the feeling of betrayal mounts within my heart. I still pray, practicing my faith even thought I don’t sense its power. This is good, but I want more. I want my feelings to change!
Looking to Scripture
I have found turning to examples in the Bible to be the greatest corrective balm to my divergent emotions. Thank you, God, for including the life stories of so many who have gone before us! The story that immediately comes to mind is that of Joseph—Old Testament Joseph. This is the boy who had the dreams—dreams from God! This is the boy who was sold into slavery and separated from his father and family. This is the young man falsely accused of rape and thrown into jail. This is the young man who sat in that dark jail in a foreign land for years! Years of isolation. Years of silence from God. Years promising a hopeless future. Then, when he illustrated his faithfulness to God in interpreting the baker’s and cupbearer’s dreams, he was once again forgotten and left in jail for a couple more years.
I expect Joseph must have felt the feeling of betrayal not just from his brothers, not just from Potiphar’s wife, but also from God. If he had interpreted the merit of his life solely upon his present circumstances, he could have easily assumed God did not have his good in mind. As the story unfolds, we see how God had not forgotten Joseph nor had he forgotten the dreams he gave Joseph. God was waiting until the timing was right for Joseph to save his family and all of Egypt from famine. God exalted Joseph from the humble jail to the glorious palace. God knew the greater plan at work. No matter what he may have felt, Joseph remained faithful in the dark and was able to see God’s plan unfold later in the light.
The next account I turn to in Scripture is in the New Testament, and for me in combating my feelings, this story is even more powerful than Joseph’s. This account centers on Jesus. Jesus, God’s Son, the perfect one, experienced the feeling of betrayal too. He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, betrayed by his people who had only days earlier exalted his entry into Jerusalem, and forsaken by God. In the garden before his arrest, Jesus prayed for his cup to pass. He did not want to suffer on the cross, and he begged his Father for another way. However, there was no other way.
Jesus’ human will did not want to suffer, but he submitted it to his divine will which required the impending suffering. Despite being God and being obedient, Jesus still felt the human feelings. He still experienced the pain, the anguish, the sorrow, the betrayal, the isolation. We see this on the cross when he exclaims, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” In the end, God exalted him from the humble death on the cross to the glorious resurrection and return to the heavenly throne. God had a greater plan at work. Jesus did not let his feelings prevent him from accomplishing the saving work on the cross for all those sinners who believe in his name.
Back to 2017
In our times of feeling betrayed by God, we need to remember we do not see the whole picture. We do not know how God is working in the world around us. I don’t have a dream like Joseph, nor a promise like Sarah, nor a prophecy like John the Baptist for anything temporal, but I do have an eternal promise. I have the promise that God which “began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” and I have the promise that God is with me always. This, together with the reminder that so many before me felt similar feelings and yet remained faithful to see God’s plan unfold in their lives, gives me the ammo to fight my deceptive emotions. Ultimately, these lies come from the devil. In James and I Peter, the Word of God promises us that when we resist the devil, he will flee from us. God is the victor, and to him be all the glory as we do battle.