For more years than I can remember, I have enjoyed the company of a very close friend. This friend knows my every thought and pretty much everything that has ever happened to me, good and bad. We have been through absolutely everything together.
I would say this friend always is someone who has defended me. I could always count on her sensitivity to my needs and what was going on in my heart. In fact, it’s like I didn’t even need to say a word. We could walk into a room together and immediately she would reassure me that this was going to be an awesome night…and it would be or give me that thumbs down and I would know that this was a place I would not be staying for long.
Have you ever had a friend like that for your whole live-long life? Have you ever been so close your souls were knit together? Then one day….
It probably happened first when my Dad pointed out that my friend was betraying me. She wasn’t being truthful. Of course, I was indignant. How could he know that? God gave me this friend, put her in my life and I trusted EVERTHING she said.
I had absolutely no reason to not trust her and I told him as much. Very disrespectfully, I might add. He shook his head and quietly tried to help me understand what was going on with this person I loved so much, whom he said was leading me in the wrong direction.
I wouldn’t have any of it. After all, he is a man, I thought to my teenage self. What do men know about these things, I would wonder?
But, then, after ignoring him and sticking together like two peas in a pod, I would find through experience that some of what he said was true. She WAS betraying me. In fact, during a time when I lost another close friend to a disagreement, I later wondered if my very best friend had anything to do with it. Did she read the situation wrong? Did she give me bad advice? Was I listening to her in vain, only to lose a very close friend to both of us?
How could this be? I couldn’t be more close to her. We literally were like the same person. In fact, we WERE the same person. My best friend my entire life has been my feelings.
From infancy, I have trusted my feelings, especially that “gut feeling” or that “just a feeling.” Feelings usually tell me whether or not to trust a person or if I thought a person liked me or not. My friend of feelings would tell me not to clean my room, just yet, but to rest a little longer. My friend of feelings would hold onto grudges or past pain from other relationships and every time that relationship pain was triggered, my friend, the feelings, would turn and fight or run and fly away. (It depended on what the event was.)
As I get older, I realize how many times my personal feelings sabotage my life, my relationships, my work or even my walk with Jesus. In my relationship with Jesus, my feelings will either tell me that I’m doing a lot or too little. It’s never just right. In fact, it will often times tell me I’m doing TOO MUCH. My feelings will sometimes get tired before my body does and it forces my body to stop. Some people call this depression. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Jesus brings us rest. Our emotions tell us, “You are never enough.”
Fear of rejection can be a strong feeling. It makes me want to run away from people who I think will reject me, even if they really won’t. In times like this, rejection is a very strong friend that betrays me. Fear of rejection can make one feel paranoid or fear can make the heart hard like steel. I look back in my lifetime and there are times when my fear of rejection was so great that I didn’t reach out to a relationship for mending and forgiveness, because my feelings told me it would never be the same again. Feelings would tell me that I wasn’t good enough.
When I was younger, fear told me not to reach out to that hurting person, because they might hurt me. There are other fears besides rejection. Fear told me not to go on a missions trip, because it would require me getting on a plane, which I was afraid of doing. Fear of failure lies to a person and tells them they shouldn’t even try, because they will not succeed.
In working with teenagers, I see fear as one of their greatest enemies. A young person will smoke a joint, because they are afraid of not fitting in. A young woman will dress more provocatively because she is afraid no one will love her if she choses an outfit that doesn’t scream “sexy.” A teen will not go talk to a group of peers, because they just have a “feeling” that no one there likes them in that group and if someone looks at them the wrong way….well, yeah…
“I told you so! I walked over there and so and so made this really weird face when I said hi.”
Even if the person in the group was making a face, because they were thinking about the test they bombed in the last class, fear will tell the leery teen that the face was made towards him.
Our feelings betray us. This is why the scripture says in 1 John, “Perfect love casts out fear,” AND “The one who fears has not been made perfect in love.” The complete security of God’s love will drive the betraying feelings of fear and the lies of our fear from our lives. As I grew closer to The Lord, he began to reveal to me who he is and how I don’t need to be afraid, EVEN IF someone rejected me or IF I failed at something.
Feelings of pain sometimes protect us, but other times they harm us even more. We can’t get past what happened to us in a certain relationship. We are unwilling to allow the other person, whether it’s our spouse, a friend or another family member to have space to change, because we keep holding that pain over their heads. In this way, pain is a friend. We think it is defending us and protecting us from something that may or may not happen. In fact, some people call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it’s really a vicious cycle. We live in our pain from the past, therefore we treat our spouses like they are going to hurt us and when they react to what seems like our over-reacting, we FEEL justified for living in the pain in the first place. They feel justified in also assuming the worst about us and we continue in our chains and cycles of pain. Our feelings of pain betray us and keep us trapped in pain. Unless we are willing to go to the complete truth of forgiveness in God’s Word, we will always be trapped and betrayed by our very own feelings.
I know many people who have experienced abuse as children. Their feelings of shame are like “good” friends they carry around. (I use the word good loosely, here.) Those feelings speak to them daily and tell them things like “You are worthless,” and “No one loves you,” and “You are dirty.” Others just carry a general feeling of guilt everywhere. It affects everything that person does. A pile of laundry on the floor makes you feel guilt. An unpaid bill makes you feel like an utter failure. OR you feel an urge to rebel against everything that would cause feelings of shame to come upon you (even if there is no shame in what is being said or implied… a fighter will answer guilt with rebellion). Those who have been hurt, abandoned, abused or used, please know and remember that in Jesus Christ, God trades our past for a future and a hope. All sin in our past, whether it is our own sin, or the sin against us can be removed from our lives and it no longer defines us. Jesus gives us new life.
Isaiah 61 New International Version (NIV)
The Year of the Lord’s Favor
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
The point is, that our feelings many times betray us, but they are so close to us, they give us counsel like a best friend. Unless we acknowledge that our feelings are not always right and seek truth, we can be deceived and even betrayed by our own thoughts.
One last example, because I can’t help myself.
Pride and Rebellion.
The child who stands toe to toe with a father and mother throwing a fit or steel-faced over whether or not they should brush their teeth is listening to their feelings. Most people recognize this as wrong behavior, but I can remember those intense feelings of childhood and how RIGHT I THOUGHT I WAS AT THE TIME! Good thing my mom still made me brush my teeth. That seems obviously clear. How does this look in adults?
How many adults feel rebellion rise up against someone, just because they suggest something for them to do? (In the Bible we call this the sinful nature or the flesh. In our world it seems to be celebrated as a god of some sorts.) I encounter this so many times in my life in leadership and in general. It sometimes feels like we all have to play psychologist in our time. If we want to get from point A to point B with someone, we have to word things for a person to feel like it was their idea. It’s honestly exhausting sometimes. Anyone? Standing up against wrong is good. However….
Rebellion in general betrays us. It makes us NOT want to do what is good for us….just because it is. In this way, rebellion betrays us.
I am sure that you can think of other ways that your feelings have betrayed you in the past. Really, I have to say that sometimes when I give up ways of thinking and living to God, it feels like I am giving up an old friend, like she is moving far away and I just don’t know how life will go on without her. My hope and prayer, which is proven over and over again, is that Jesus will replace those lies of my misguided emotions with truth and that living in the truth will set me free.
What are some examples I may have missed? If you made it this far, please share what comes to your mind.