Should Feelings Direct Our Decisions?
Kevin EastKevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
- 2012 May 01
We've all been there, standing at a crossroads of a decision, unsure of which way we ought to take. For those of us who desire to honor God with our lives, we can become stalled out as we seek to hear God for clear direction. What should we do in such a situation?
In our culture, feelings have come to exercise near total control of an individual. This is because, when given an opportunity to decide, for many, feelings are all they have to go on. We confuse feelings for reason, and those feelings become the principles by which we make decisions.
April is always an interesting month for me. For years, I have worked with thousands of college students during the summers. Our staff travel to 35 different states, finding great college students that want to use their summers investing in the lives of young people. These college students are elated when finally offered a position with us. That is, most of them are. For some, the month of April is agonizing.
Each April we have well-meaning college students call us to let us know that God is leading them elsewhere. Even though they accepted a position, signed a contract and gave us their word to be on staff, "God" somehow chose to operate contrary to His Word by leading people's "yes & no" to no longer be taken as a "yes & no." Or maybe He hasn't. Maybe that student is falling victim to decisions being made with feelings as their guide.
"Feelings are a primary blessing and a primary problem for human life. We cannot live without them and we can hardly live with them." Dallas Willard, in his book, "Renovation of the Heart," does a great job unpacking the process of being renewing by transforming our minds. What are we to do with these emotions that run wild?
Years ago I was on the phone with a college student who was explaining that God's peace had left him when a pastor friend of mine called on the other line. I asked the college student to wait for a minute, while I explained to my pastor friend that I would need to call him back shortly. After I explained about the conversation I was in the middle of, he told me it is the same line he hears over and over with people wanting out of marriage. Essentially, he said, people are using God to justify their divorce, because they don't feel in love anymore.
So what do do?
Willard goes on to explain how self-control can be the remedy for the Jesus follower:
"Self-control is the steady capacity to direct yourself to accomplish what you have chosen or decided to do and be, even though you 'don't feel like it.' Self-control means that you, with steady hand, do what you don't want to do (or what you want not to) when that is needed and do not do what you want to do (what you 'feel like' doing) when that is needed. In people without rock-solid character, feeling is a deadly enemy of self-control and will always subvert it. The mongoose of a disciplined will under God and good is the only match for the cobra of feeling" (127).
Applied in my marriage, here is what I do if I'm not sure on something:
1. Do what I know to be right, even if I don't feel like it at the time, trusting that my feelings will follow.
2. Seek God through prayer or time in His Word, asking for His direction for my steps.
3. Ask my Godly friends their opinion, trusting the ones who are willing to tell me the tough, biblical truth, if need be.
4. Pray more, and listen.
5. When I get to that place when a decision is necessary, but I don't have a clear sense of what to do, I do what I think is right, trusting that God will directly me differently if He so chooses.
An old friend used to tell me, "Love God and do what you want." I understand his point now. We just have to make sure we don't just "do what we want." If I love Him, I will put my will under His, and trust Him with the outcomes.
What do you do when tough decisions are in front of you?
If you liked this post, check out Kevin's personal blog, Following to Lead, where he regularly writes on following, leading, fostering and family.