God Feels, So Should You

 
Courtney Reissig | January 23rd 2020

I’ve always had a rocky relationship with my feelings. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life wrestling with these emotions that seem so potent and real, with a perception that to feel too deeply signified a lack of faith. Am I faithless when I ask God “how long”? Can I still say I trust him when the memory of his past faithfulness in my life only makes me moan over his current perceived absence (Psalm 77)? When I feel a rush of joy at the goodness in this life is God in that? Or is it just temporal pleasure? 

Teach Me To Feel

Teach Me To Feel

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Meditations on the Psalms helping women to express their feelings and grow in their faith.

This is one of the (many) reasons I have grown to love the psalms. Feelings and emotion are all over the psalms. Take Psalm 77 for example. It is a psalm of great darkness. Like Psalm 88, there is no happy ending to this psalm. The psalmist is gripped by darkness and despair. Even if we are separated by time, culture, and redemptive history, many of us can find a familiar friend in Psalm 77, and many other psalms. In the psalms we meet people who feel just as deeply as we do. But these feelings aren’t unbridled. They are rooted in truth. Phrase after anguished phrase, the psalmists speak honest words about life in a broken world. But in all of these pain-filled poems, they direct the prayers back to the only one who can do something about their circumstances—God. You want to find a language for the greatest anguish of your soul? Go to God. Go to his word. The psalms speak to our feelings only if our feelings are grounded in who God is. We are meant to feel something when we read them. The psalms are poetry. They are the language of God’s people in times of joy and in times of pain. 

In God’s image

But there is a reason the psalms give us such a robust language. We are created beings, so in every expression we are simply mirroring the God who created us. 

Mark Futato, Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Seminary says “To be human is to feel. You are more than feelings, but without feelings you are less than fully human. This is true because you have been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and God feels”. And in this, he says, the psalms teach us what to do with our feelings.

Many of us are likely accustomed to know that God feels anger. We can grasp his holiness, so it is only right that he would be angry over an affront to his perfection. But God also feels sorrow (Matt. 23:37, Luke 13:34), grief (John 11), delight (Zeph. 3:17), and even joy (Is. 65:18-19). You are who your are because God made you to tell a story about him to a watching world. So whether you are prone to stuffing your emotions or giving full vent to them, God wants you to feel rightly and deeply because he does too.

Whether you are prone to stuffing your emotions or giving full vent to them, God wants you to feel rightly and deeply because he does too.

This is where Psalm 1 is a helpful guide. Yes, you are an image bearer. Yes, your feelings are not unique to life in a fallen world. But your feelings are absolutely shaped by living in a fallen world (and in a broken body). But if God’s word is your delight and meditation “day and night,” as Psalm 1 tells us, you will be shaped more by God’s word than you by the world. As the word of God “dwells in your richly” (Col. 3:16), you will then feel more as God feels—you will be happy what he is happy about, sad what he is sad about, and mad what he is mad about. This is why we need Psalm 1 to set up the psalter, because what is coming after Psalm 1 is a range of emotions, questions, joy, and pain. In Psalm 1 we are told where we find our stabilizing influence—God and his word. And it helps prepare us to feel as he feels.

Made to Feel

God didn’t create us as bland, emotionless beings. Some of us will have a wider range of feelings than others. Some of us have circumstances that drive our emotions. Some of us medical conditions that make emotions more potent or more difficult to express, but all of us are made to feel. God is a creative and diverse God, so no two people are the same in how they respond to life in a broken world. 

The psalms can be our guide as we work through our feelings. God has left no stone unturned when it comes to helping us live in the world that he has made. He has given us narrative to help us understand his redemptive story. He has given us prophecy to tell us what is to come. He has given us epistles to tell us how he expects us to live. And he has given us the psalms to give us language for life in this world—in the joy and in the pain, we are meant to feel something. God feels and so should you. 

Learn to navigate your feelings faithfully with Courtney Reissig's new book, Teach Me to Feel: Worshiping Through the Psalms in Every Season of Life. In these honest, personal and uplifting meditations on 24 selected psalms, Courtney Reissig looks at emotions we all experience; for each, she shows how the psalms give us permission to acknowledge how we feel before God, and how they can help us to use those feelings productively and faithfully. Buy it here.

Courtney Reissig

Courtney Reissig is a writer, speaker, and blogger. She helps lead the women's ministry at Midtown Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, and is the author of Teach Me To Feel and Glory in the Ordinary. She's married to Daniel and they have four sons.

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