Facts? Feelings? Faith?
We fall in love with our own ideas. People often merely reinforce their existing beliefs, in other words “our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept” . “Researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds" How Facts Backfire .
I would characterize this as pride of knowledge. And it manifests in all sorts of places, not just politics, religion sadly being one as in “my doctrine’s better than yours”. But not all ideas are right even though we strongly believe our own ideas are. Computers can be good for teaching us that our own ideas aren’t always right. I have what I think are great ideas that don’t actually work on the computer.
Follow Your Heart?
Well if I can’t trust my brain, how about my heart? Feelings just “are”, they aren’t right or wrong, or are they? Consider these well known sayings and songs.
“If it feels good, do it.”
“Search your feelings Luke, You know it to be true.” – Star Wars
“It Can’t Be Wrong When It Feels So Right!” - Debbie Boone.
“Hooked on a Feeling” - Mark James and B. J. Thomas
Popular culture appeals to feelings as a source of truth. We have expressions like “gut feeling” or “trust your gut”. And research shows “Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings”  (the title says it all).
But it doesn’t always feel good to do the right thing. A righteous man swears to his own hurt (Ps 15:4). Feelings are real, sometimes very intense, but they may not be true. Sometimes you should listen to your feelings, not my strong suit. Read Blink  by Malcolm Gladwell for a fascinating look at how people make decisions.
No matter what issue you pick (abortion, free speech, immigration, terrorism, health care, global warming, GMOs) and within the church (nature of God, calendars, pre-existence of Jesus, Sabbath or Sunday), there are people on both sides, people with strong opinions and strong feelings on both sides. I submit that both sides can’t be right. Yet each side has their facts and “searched their feelings” and is certain they are right.
Here’s how I came to think about these things. I had a stroke in 2011 that hit the pons region of my brain. After that, I suffered from pseudo bulbar affect (PBA), a fancy term for excessive laughing and crying. It’s not unemotional crying, but deep feelings welling up into tears. In the hospital I felt grief with my whole being. It got better, but lasted for months and months, music being a big trigger. Finally, I started medication, and it stopped that day, which isn’t the way it’s supposed to work. I’ve tried to stop the meds and the PBA comes back. I wanted to stop the meds because I thought somehow that the unmedicated me was the real me, that those were my true feelings. And remember feelings are always right. But I have feelings whether I take the meds or not. Which ones are real?
What brought it to focus was when I visited a stroke patient who asked “what about the feelings?” I saw that he was going through what I went through, and I told him it wasn’t real. But I decided later that’s not true. I think it would be more accurate to say the feelings are real, but they’re not true. Just like an idea or thought can be false, so can a feeling. Those of you with high emotional intelligence would probably say I’m stating the obvious, but I’m better with numbers than feelings.
So I can’t trust my thoughts and can’t trust my feelings, where does that leave me? (I overstate my case for effect.) I have to step into the spiritual realm. It’s simple enough to say trust God. But let’s get more specific, in what am I trusting?
Let me share more of my own story. Before I started the meds, I struggled at times with depression. I remember a low point the night I felt God had forsaken me. My feelings bore witness that God had forsaken me. I knew the Bible says “I will never leave you or forsake you”, my feelings told me otherwise. Looking back, I would guess that God was nearer than ever (near to the broken hearted). I just didn’t believe He would do this to me. BTW, God does take responsibility for evil, He doesn’t hide behind statements like “God allowed it”. Concerning Satan’s attack on Job “although thou didst move Me against him, to destroy him without cause” Job 2:3.
So I believed something that wasn’t true, misplaced faith if you will. I used to believe in Santa Claus too. What else do I believe that’s wrong? What do you believe that’s wrong? With a nod to Jeff Foxworthy:
If you think you’re better than others because you have special knowledge, you might have misplaced faith.
If a loved one died waiting for divine healing instead of seeing a doctor, you might have misplaced faith.
If you believe Sunday is the Sabbath, you might have misplaced faith.
If you think it’s OK to kill infidels, you definitely have misplaced faith.
If you think [insert name here] is a prophet, you might have misplaced faith.
If you believe a trial will be lifted as soon as you learn some certain lesson, you might have misplaced faith.
If you believe a corporation is the church of God, you might have misplaced faith.
If you think you’re one of the two witnesses, you might have misplaced faith.
You get the idea.