Scripture instructs us to put our trust in God, not in our own wisdom, our own strength, our own skills, or our own feelings. Feelings or emotions are especially notorious as foci of misplaced trust. What can feel very right can actually be very wrong.
People often associate feelings with that which flows out of a person’s heart. The biblical definition of a “heart” encompasses a person’s mind, will, or center of being where originate thoughts, emotions, desires, and feelings. What does the Bible say about the nature of the human heart? Jeremiah 7:9–10 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (NASB). After Adam disobeyed God’s command and sin entered the world, every part of our being—including our heart—was polluted with sin (Romans 5:12–14).
Throughout Scripture, we see many examples of the devastating consequences of acting upon the fleshly desires of the human heart and trusting our feelings. Examples include Aaron making a golden calf for the Israelites to worship, which resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 Israelites (Exodus 32:1–28); King David committing adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, which led to murder and the death of a baby (2 Samuel 11:1–27; 12:1–19); and Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus in exchange for money, which resulted Judas eventually killing himself (Matthew 26:14–16; 26:47–50; 27:1–5).
Proverbs 3:5–6 gives explicit instruction in the matter of trusting our feelings:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight” (NASB).
In other words, we should (1) put our full confidence in God at the very core of our being—this includes our “feelings”; (2) avoid relying on our own flawed understanding; and (3) seek to know God in all of our “ways” so that our life’s path will be made “straight”—as opposed to being crooked or twisted, the result of placing confidence in the feelings of our deceitful hearts.
Seeking after God with our whole heart brings a blessing:
“Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
they do no wrong
but follow his ways” (Psalm 119:2–3).
Seeking God wholeheartedly might involve feelings of peace, joy, and contentment; but seeking God wholeheartedly might just as often involve feelings of distress, desperation, and discontent. People seek God for various reasons and in diverse circumstances, and the feelings they experience are not an accurate gauge of the validity of their quest. Whatever emotions or feelings are present, seeking God involves diligently listening to God and doing what His Word says, rather than “listening to your heart” and doing what it says.
But aren’t feelings a part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives? It’s true that certain works of the Holy Spirit may involve a feeling; He brings conviction of sin, comfort, and empowerment for Christian service. But Scripture does not instruct us to base our relationship with the Holy Spirit on how or what we feel. And we must be discerning: is this feeling of mine a prompting of the Holy Spirit, or is it a fleshly urge exerting influence on my heart?
Feelings are fickle, but God’s Word is constant. Good and bad, feelings come and go, but God’s Word is forever. Feelings are often a result of our fallen human hearts, but God’s Word is the result of the Holy Spirit. We must learn when to say “no” to our feelings and put our complete trust in God, who will supply all of His children’s needs “according to His riches in the glory of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:18, NASB).