I have a theory that the happiest people are the ones who think the least about whether or not they feel well/happy/accepted/appreciated. It seems like a preoccupation with my sensitivities is a pretty sure way to find something a little off. As I write, I am becoming aware of a mild headache that has niggled all day, a soreness in my shoulder that may be arthritic, and the way the laptop is digging into my leg in an uncomfortable way. I sense that I need tea to drink but I don’t wish to get off the couch to make it, so I shall have to just sit here and suffer. Oh dear, but I am starting to feel blah.
If you really want to know why I have been thinking about this subject, it is because it is February and that, for me, is synonymous with “not feeling it”. I don’t want to grouse about the weather, but it feels like winter has been long enough. I can’t even look at photos of the tropics without coveting a ticket on a flight south. 🙄 If I start getting mired down with how little I feel like making any effort, I start worrying that anything I do will be useless in the long run if I didn’t really feel like doing it and who wants to spend their life doing useless stuff?
Our world today is saturated with “I deserve to be happy” messages. The right to the pursuit of happiness is in our constitution, although I suspect that it had a nobler meaning than having my cheeseburger just the way I want it when I want it.
Did you know you can “open happiness” by drinking a bottle of Coke? Or you can “let happiness find you” when you fly to Fiji. And if you could drink a Coke on the beach, now that would be double happiness! But if you can’t have that? What? You are doomed to be feel unhappy.
I started looking at God’s standards for my life. Does the Bible say anything about my feelings? There are lots of admonitions to not grow weary in doing good. It appears to be a given that we will be tempted to be swamped by how we feel. But don’t let it make you faint (give up) because you will reap the rewards for perseverance. -My paraphrase.
I thought of the parable of the father who had two sons whom he asked to work in his vineyard. The first one said, “I will not,” but then he changed his mind and went after all. The second son readily assented, only he never showed up in the vineyard. Jesus asked, “Which son did the will of his father?” It’s obvious, isn’t it? Was the father pleased with the son who really didn’t want to pick grapes that day, but did it anyway? Of course he was.
There is a verse in Proverbs 16:3 that has often guided me through a quagmire of negative feelings. “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” That is exactly opposite from how I think it should be. (“I wish I would just love to cook! Then I could enjoy this constant onslaught of hungry people.”) Instead of grumbling and sighing about how little motivation I have to cook this supper, I can choose to say, “Okay, obviously the people around here need some nourishment before hunger incites a revolution. God gave me this work, and I want to make something that they will really enjoy eating, so bring on the cookbook! I have a whole freezer full of beef…” I may feel silly with the line “God gave me this work” in the same line as “freezer beef”, but it is truth and it helps me get my heart in line. You see how the feelings just sort of meekly come along when the thoughts are established? Trust me, I have tried this both ways. 😕
I have come to the conclusion that
A. Feelings are an indication of being alive. In that capacity they are helpful in figuring out what is going on inside me, but they are not navigational tools.
B. Feelings are not evil, but the heart that they are born from can certainly be evil. Sometimes the violence of my feelings is an indication that something is terribly wrong, but it is wrong on a much deeper level than an emotional turmoil.
C. Feelings are not terribly important on their own. They are a direct result of the way I think. If I take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, I will not need to worry overly much about how I feel.
Is that too simplistic?