Is Faith Just a Feeling?
by Tim Barnett
Faith—properly understood—is not a feeling. Rather, faith is active trust based on evidence. Of course, faith can affect how we feel. For example, my trust in my wife may produce feelings of happiness and gratitude, while mistrust can produce feelings of sadness and betrayal.
So faith and feelings are related, but different. Unfortunately, some people base their faith on their feelings. Consequently, the good feelings they get from praying, worshiping, or attending church lead them to conclude their faith is true. In this case, faith is held hostage by feelings.
This is extremely dangerous because feelings are fickle—they can change from day to day. The psalmist David knew this very well. In Psalm 73, he describes how he was feeling “envious of the arrogant” because of “the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:3). Moreover, he writes,
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
When David’s feelings are left unchecked, he begins questioning his faith. Notice again verse 13. In a moment of emotional weakness, he declares that his faithfulness to God was “all in vain.”
However, David doesn’t let his feelings steer his faith. In fact, it’s just the opposite. David’s faith in God governs his feelings. He writes…
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