Nov 30, 2012
A while back I wrote about how Moses Teaches Joshua About Faith And Feelings.
A Christian Counselor emailed with some disagreements. So I asked if we could dialogue and post the results here.
He said that would be fine. So here’s our first exchange — let me know what you think. Thanks!
His initial email
I recently read one of your blogs in which you said God commands feelings – and that “If I am feeling frightened and dismayed, and not strong or courageous — I am not trusting that God is with me.”
As a Christian Counselor, I have a general disagreement with your general premise.
One question is — do we know that God’s words are ones of command rather than exhortation? After all, God made us in his likeness and he knew that we would be full of all kinds of feelings. Isn’t it possible that our loving God wants us to look to him to deal with our overwhelming and out-of-control feelings? Isn’t that one of the ways that God can be our Lord?
When you say “if I am feeling frightened and dismayed, and not strong and courageous, I am not trusting God is with me” are you saying that every time I feel frightened and dismayed I am not trusting God is with me?
Wouldn’t that mean that if I am truly trusting that God is with me – then I would never feel frightened and dismayed? But wouldn’t that mean we should avoid fear and dismay as sin against God’s commands?
I believe that there can be strong feelings of fear that people decide upon. Christians also may decide to “hang onto” their fear to attempt to manage it prior to turning to God with it, others may decide to hold onto it throughout. Can both still have a belief that God is still with them?
As counselors we are trained that to overcome feelings like anger we need to know what we feel, feel that feeling, and then decide what to do about that feeling. Your statement appears to undercut such a process even for believers.
Dear Christian Counselor,
Thank you for your email. I appreciate your willingness to talk about these crucial issues.
It looks like you are raising three questions —
Question #1 — Is Joshua 1:9 a command that we stop feeling fear, or is it an exhortation to look to God to deal with our fear?
My answer — I believe it’s saying both. There are many Scriptures in which God commands that we stop feeling fear (like Joshua 1:9; Isa 41:10; Mat 10:31; Luke 2:10).
But the point of these commands is not that we deny our feelings, or stuff our feelings, or try to will-power our feelings to change. The point is that we bring our fears to God and rely on Him to change our hearts as we trust His promises.
Question #2 — If fear means I’m not trusting that God is with me – wouldn’t it mean that every time I fear I’m not trusting God? That if I’m trusting God then I won’t fear? And that if I do fear, then I am sinning and disobeying God?
My answer — Joshua 1:9 says – “Do not fear … for the Lord your God is with you.” So the reason I need not fear is because God is with me. Which means that if I am trusting that God is with me – then I won’t fear.
For example, let’s say I fear losing my job. So when it comes to the possibility of losing my job, what does it mean that God is with me? It means —
- that He is in sovereign control of my job (Proverbs 21:1; Gen 50:20; Eph 1:11);
- that He will either keep me in my job, or move me on from my job — whatever will bring me the greatest joy in Him (2Cor 4:16-18; 2Cor 12:9-10);
- and that He will provide all the finances I need whatever He does (Matt 6:33).
So if I really trust those promises – will I fear losing my job? No, I won’t.
Which means that if I do fear losing my job, then I’m not trusting all that’s contained in the promise that God is with me.
And if I’m not trusting God then I am sinning and disobeying Him.
There’s many Scriptures which show a cause-effect relationship between fear and lack of faith (Psa 56:3-4; Isa 12:2; Mat 8:26; Mark 5:36). This supports the idea that fear is caused by lack of faith.
So what does God want me to do when I am afraid?
- Turn to Him as I am and pray “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
- Ask Him to forgive me for my unbelief through Jesus (1John 1:9).
- Ask Him to increase the work of the Spirit in me to help me see and trust all that He promises to be to me in Christ Jesus (Luke 11:13).
- Pray over specific promises in God’s Word covering whatever I am fearing until the Holy Spirit strengthens my faith and the fear leaves (Rom 10:17).
When I do this, He will run to me with open arms, bringing His loving forgiveness through Christ. And, by the work of the Spirit, He will strengthen my weak faith so I fully trust all that He promises. The result is that I will be freed from fear and filled with peace.
Question #3 — if fear is sin and disobedience, wouldn’t that undercut the crucial steps of knowing what we feel, feeling what we feel, and then deciding what to do about that feeling?
My answer — It would not keep us from any of these – because God is calling us to come to Him as we are, with our unbelief and sin, admitting what we are feeling, and asking Him for help.
Let me know what you think, Christian Counselor. I value this interaction.
What do YOU think?
I’d love to hear — leave a reply below. Thanks.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful —
A Gospel-centered explanation of feelings (part one)
A Gospel-centered explanation of feelings (part two)
How Jesus Frees Us From Fear (4-Min Video -- With French Fries)
The faith-joy connection
What Is The Peace Of Christ?
(Picture is from everystockphoto by wrestlingentropy.)