Did you know that in a 12-month period of time close to 20% of the United States struggles with anxiety or depression? When studied over the lifetime of our society, the data points to close to 30% of the US adult population will wrestle with anxiety and depression at some point. (Either way, this is roughly 1 of out every 4-5 people in our culture.) If that statistic runs true in our church, then there would be well over 100 people a week that are seeking to trust and follow God in the chaos of their emotions.
Basically, people want to be happy, and many of them are not. According to these stats, many people are far from happy they are depressed? So, is there a path to happiness for all of us? Which way that the world and different religions offer to happiness works or is true?
There is a path to happiness, to what I would call supreme or true joy. But, true joy and happiness are not found through the pursuit of happiness, it’s found through the pursuit of something else.
Before I explain this further let’s examine the idea of our feelings first. (This is part two and can be found here.)
There are a variety of positions on the role of feelings in the Christian life. Regardless of whether you place your feelings at the front or the back of your relationship with the Lord, each of us must admit that emotions are involved in our faith and our relationship with God. One question we need to answer is “Where do emotions fit in the life of a Christian?”
In his book, Spiritual Depression, Martyn Loyd-Jones identifies 4 General Truths About Feelings:
- Feelings must be engaged.
- Feelings cannot be created, or to put it another way, feelings cannot be commanded at will.
- There is nothing that is quite so variable about us as our feelings.
- Our feelings are always seeking to control us, and unless we realize this, they will undoubtedly do so.
You cannot, nor should not, experience life without your emotions or feelings. In the church there is debate and struggle over the impact that feelings have on an individual. Many Christians struggle with their faith because of how they feel. Some may even question their salvation as a result of particular emotions, or the absence of certain feelings. If you find yourself wrestling with your faith or your salvation because of your feelings ask yourself these 4 questions:
4 Questions To Help Diagnose Doubt & Feelings:
Am I living with habitual or repetitive sin?
Not all emotional struggles are the result of habitual sin, but if you are ensnared and struggling with the same sin over and over again, know that it will lead to a diminished joy. This is because as a Christian if you are guilty of sin, you are going to be miserable.
“Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.” Proverbs 13:15 ESV
Are my feelings in the driver’s seat of my life and my faith?
Your feelings should never have first place in your mind and heart. Instead, take note of what Psalm 34:8 says, ““Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Faith is not based on how we feel, but on what we know. More importantly, it’s based on who we know. We know God is good and we base our life and our faith on the truth not on our feelings. What we have in the Bible is Truth, not an emotional stimulus. This is not to say that there is no emotional response, there is, but our emotional response is secondary to our belief.
Am I chasing happiness or choosing to rejoice?
Philippians 4:4 says; “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.” There is a difference between happiness and rejoicing, and the difference is that You cannot make yourself happy, but you can make yourself rejoice. Even in the worst of circumstances, you can rejoice. This why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.” 2 Cor. 4:8
Am I listening to my feelings or preaching the Gospel to myself?
Practically, when your emotions are low or out of control, you have to talk to yourself. Remember the truth that your emotions will seek to be in the driver’s seat, and that though your emotions are real, they are necessarily true.
When you study Scripture, it prepares and teaches you to speak the Gospel to yourself as well as to others. You should remind yourself of the truth of Scripture and who you are as a Christian. Remind yourself that you belong to the Lord because of the work of Christ and your faith, not your feelings. Finally, preach the Gospel to yourself in the way that David does in Psalm 42:5. David says to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Question your despair and remind yourself of the hope that you have in Christ, your salvation by faith in Him.
In the next post, we will answer the question, Is there a path to happiness for all of us?