Posted by: sailingspirit | April 22, 2011

Thinking, Emotions, and an Opposites God

Ever been in a situation where your head and your heart don’t agree?  For example, you know you should forgive someone, but your hurt is still very present so you’re struggling to do it?  In times like those, do you tend to act based on your head or your heart?  Which one is easier to ignore?

I was raised to believe that being logical, practical, and smart is the utmost.  The “use your head,” and “toughen up” approach.  In other words, ignore your feelings.  Feelings won’t get you anywhere but weak and ineffective.  They’ll drag you down, hold you back.  Muster up!  Push forward!  Considering my grandfather was in the army, as part of the WWII generation, and my father would have liked to serve but didn’t pass the medical so he pursued competitive sports and sales instead, I guess it’s no surprise.  But sadly, it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I learned this approach is wrong.  I didn’t know that there’s a difference between thinking and will, between emotions and spirit. That emotions are the byproduct of the mind, and that sometimes what we feel from our spirits and what we feel from our emotions can be very similar experiences.  That it’s both possible and important to learn how to discern between these, as subtle as those differences might initially seem.  And, bottom line, our minds should always be disciplined to get in line with our spirits.  Never the other way around.  Particularly when we’ve become born-again and received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, our spirits know far more than our brains so to let the brain lead would be foolish.  Not to say we turn the brain off, we just keep it in subjection to wiser management.

Which is key when you have an experience in your faith walk where what you believe and what you Believe don’t match.  Especially when that mismatch results in really bad feelings you simply can’t ignore.

As I was forced to learn in my personal life early this year, it is not unusual for God to do something seemingly opposite of His promised end-goal as a means of getting to that goal.  Check your scripture!  How many of our ancestors were promised something, and at some point the polar opposite happened to make them question whether God was the worst manager in the whole world?  To be so astounded, so blindsided, that they could not even begin to see how it would ever be possible for God to turn it around and fulfill His promise?  Lots!  You could even say it’s one of God’s favorite M.O.’s.   In some cases, like Abraham, God gave the larger picture and the outcome.  But it didn’t stop Abraham from having that experience; “I know what you said, but….”   In my personal situation, like all of theirs, I had to make a choice:  choose to stay with God even after being totally hurt/disappointed by Him, or abandon Him and all remaining chances of His promises coming true.  In other words, how bad do you want it?  And I, like they, went to God demanding He explain how it could possibly turn out well and I could possibly get over this to trust again. This is what God taught me: “If I explain the How, and you find comfort in knowing, will you be trusting in Me or the plan?”  Gulp!  That one really hit me at the knees.  God wants us to trust Him, the person.  No matter what method He chooses.  You don’t really know whether you’ll do it until you’re forced to.

So God probably won’t tell you the How outright.  But, He knows your feelings are real and He understands that, from your limited perspective, it looks really bad so you’re confused.  He’s not heartless, and in fact He wants you to pursue learning about Him and His ways.  So He loves it when you ask a lot of questions (respectfully) and press into Him.  And, like Abraham, we ought to remind Him of His word by referring back to our scripture.  For example:

“God, You said _________, but now You’ve either taken or allowed _________ to be out of my reach forever, because nothing happens without your knowledge and approval.  If You cannot lie, or break a promise because it would be contradicting Yourself, then how am I supposed to believe You after this happened?  I want to trust You, and believe in faith, but I just don’t know how because I just can’t understand.  If Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and Your ways higher than my ways, please help me with new thoughts and new ways.  I need Your help on this.  This is too big for me.”

By respecting His sovereignty, admitting our limitations, and asking to be molded into His image, we have pleased Him and He’s willing to teach us.  He’ll even break it down into bite-sized pieces for us if need be.  (“How do you eat an elephant?…)

But what most people don’t seem to anticipate is that when He explains something, you’ll be expected to change your thinking.  The very fact you’re in this conundrum in the first place is because you have thinking that doesn’t line up with His thinking, you’re upset and He’s not, and He’s not about to change His thinking to match yours.  Some bits He’ll give you will be bits you never knew, but seldom do you get those bits separately from having to change what you thought you knew.  This is what is meant by “be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

You’re upset about the situation because of what you think/believe is or isn’t possible, is or isn’t true, is or isn’t likely, etc.  You’ve set boundaries and what He promised appears to be outside your boundaries.  You need to move your boundaries.  You need to change what you believe is possible, is true, is likely.  Said another way, your upset is rooted in fear of some kind, fear that something bad will happen or fear that something good won’t happen, whichever kind it’s still fear.   You’re in fear because you don’t have enough faith in that area.  That typically requires a deep questioning about what you believe God is capable of.  Where does your thinking hit the brick wall?  Why do you think God is restrained by that wall?  Does scripture say He’s bound that way?  Fear is the opposite of faith, so wherever you find fear you need to build your faith in that area.  Building faith does NOT mean mustering up more willpower, it means increasing your understanding about God’s will and capabilities so you can feel confident and act accordingly.

And in the tough cases, especially, such as forgiving someone who hurt you really badly, your ability to do it will be the last step in the procedure.  You may decide to early on, in obedience and with the intent to walk in faith, but still not feel able to for a while.  That doesn’t mean you won’t get there.  Keep working at it.  If you’re determined to trust God and you’re clinging to some scriptures about your situation, but you’re still sobbing in your pillow at night, you must not be 100% convinced yet.  Sure, maybe 85% or 90%, but the tears indicate there’s more thoughts that need to be traded in.  There’s still a shred of doubt in there somewhere.  Search it out!  Get a mental flashlight and probe deeper until you find it!  Be your own psychologist and ask the tough questions.  Force yourself to answer what you normally push away.  Say it out loud, even.  Don’t be ashamed of the honest answer, just deal with it.  Each time you do, you’ll tick closer and closer to 100% convinced, and then you’ll have peace about it.  Even when the Enemy tries to steal that peace, you can wield your understanding like a sword to defend it.

So when you change your thinking about God, it changes your thinking about a situation, about what is possible.  And when you think it’s possible, you have hope.  Your emotions change in response to your new thinking.  The next time your emotions seem to have control, and you experience a major mismatch, take a careful inventory: what are the thoughts creating these feelings?  What should they be?  Fix ’em, ALL of them, and when the peace finally comes, you will have the power to do what you set out to do.

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