A Word About Feelings

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Looking to feelings has caused much misery to people who did not look away from themselves to the finished work of Christ; because they did not feel that they were saved, they therefore concluded that they were not. This has been a great mistake. Feelings are no guarantee of anything; feelings and emotions have been aroused in people by music, by stories dramatically told, both good and bad. Religious feelings can be very deceptive; they may mean no more than those displayed when the women of Jerusalem wept as Jesus went forth carrying His cross. Much may be said against any reliance on feelings, however deep they may seem to be.
But there is plenty of scriptural proof that tender feeling is produced by the Spirit of God, and should not be suppressed, even as in many instances it cannot be. The prophets were sometimes so overcome by the extraordinary nature of the revelations made to them that they could not hide their emotions. Elisha wept as he foresaw the havoc which Hazael's sword was to work in Israel. The revelations made to Daniel filled him with trouble before he could make them known to the king. Jeremiah tells us his experiences in a most touching way, and his abundant tears showed how compassionately he shared the sorrows of the city and people, whose sins he denounced and whose judgments he declared. The 9th chapters of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel prove the soul-stirring sense of the sins of Israel possessed by those holy men.
When we turn to the New Testament we are at once struck with the tender feelings of Christ, the record of which is to be found on almost every page. It was not without reason that popular opinion identified Him with the weeping prophet (Jeremiah) rather than with Isaiah or Ezekiel. We might recommend a studious examination of the gospels in connection with the subject of the emotions of Christ. It will be found how sympathetic they were with human need and sorrow, and at the same time how pure and holy they were for God. He was deeply moved with His own messages, sometimes speaking out in burning denunciations, or melting compassions, in His matchless words and loving entreaties. But the frankincense of the meal offering was never absent, whether in moments of sorrow or of joy.
The tears of the great Apostle to the Gentiles flowed freely as a libation over his own self-sacrificing services, for such a heart must needs enter keenly into all that he was so truly a part of. We hear him saying, "By the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." Acts 20:3131Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:31). Was the letter to the Corinthians a merely official rebuke and a dispassionate exhortation? No. "Out of much affliction and anguish of heart," he says, "I wrote unto you with many tears." 2 Cor. 2:44For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. (2 Corinthians 2:4). And his letter to the Philippians was bedewed with grief as he thought of professors who were in truth enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:1818(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: (Philippians 3:18)).
Such tenderness of heart is not the weakness of nature, still less is it the sham and pretense which could cover "the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out" (Mal. 2:1313And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. (Malachi 2:13)); and it is as far removed from the burning lips that hide a wicked heart, fitly compared by the wise man to "a potsherd covered with silver dross" (Pro. 26:2323Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross. (Proverbs 26:23)). True feeling is inwrought by the Spirit of God, and can no more be imitated or artificially produced than can the morning dewdrops.
Some have been blamed for an excessive exhibition of emotion, and we agree that there should be self-control; all the same, it is true that he who never feels too much never feels enough. But it is the absence of appropriate feeling which is most frequently to be regretted.
Service without sympathy and solicitude is like the rainless clouds that pass over the thirsty plains and leave no blessing behind them. The excitement of the flesh is indeed to be deprecated, but the stir of ardent feeling in the soul produced by the Spirit of God leads to action, and the best things ever done for God have been effected under its impulse. The liquid, glowing metal may be poured into the mold and take the shape the workman designs, but if he waits till the iron is cold his work is a failure.
It is not meant for a moment that emotions should be cultivated for their own sake, but the inquiry may be suggested why brotherly love ever has so limp a hand shake, and so chilling a demeanor, why compassions are so cold, why preaching and lecturing may become so frigid and so formal, and why joy runs so low in places where gladness should possess the heart and light up the countenance. With reference to this last remark, it may be remembered that grief and sorrow belong not to the house of God. There all is happy and joyous. We leave our own things behind when entering there, and our depression and gloom among them. Then in His presence we share, and by His Spirit feel too, the gladness proper to His house. Self-occupation, with the heaviness it may induce, will certainly bar the way into the place where all is of God.
If emotion is always lacking in our experience and service, let us seek in the presence of God for those sympathies of the Spirit and affections of Christ which certainly must, in their very nature, make us feel what we speak of and stir us to earnest action where action is called for.