Sitting at the dinner table the other night, my dad mentioned how our school system of taking the summer off can negatively affect children’s expectations about life. Kids grow up expecting to use the summer for “fun” and this expectation of the summer being simply for that purpose leads him to struggle at work. When he spends his summer putting in normal hours he feels like things aren’t the way things are “supposed to be,” he feels like it’s time for him to be having fun–like he deserves this chance at play.
Just because you recognize some blatant influences of culture doesn’t mean you’re safe from its influences. Just because you realize the over-the-top, self-serving aspects of advertising (you recognize sex sells, you see that the product claims to satisfy your deepest desires, you understand some of the manipulative devises) doesn’t mean it doesn’t change the way you think. Just knowing it’s there doesn’t shield you. I believe our culture affects us more than we know. It tells us we deserve to–and therefore always should–feel good. If something doesn’t feel good, we shouldn’t do it. We see this in the big picture, but do we realize how this attitude affects us as it sifts into the less obvious places? What about your spiritual life?
I will admit that I am guilty of setting aside my Bible because it isn’t as entertaining as other things, cutting prayer time short because I’m just not “feeling” it, and turning down a chance to love a neighbor simply because I don’t want to spend my precious time on someone else. In these areas I have accepted culture’s message and have missed chances to make my life count.
In considering this, I was inspired by what a fellow blogger said in one of his posts: “Our feelings will lie to us. That is why we need the facts of the Bible and the Holy Spirit in our lives to lead our faith walk.” Faith is not a feeling. Faith is an action, a lifestyle, a choice, and a commitment. It is something we need to work at, even when we aren’t “feeling” it.
Now I don’t want to be that stony, beat-you-over-the-head-with-the-Bible (or any other available object, for that matter) Christian who immediately proclaims that God will bring down judgement on you if you do anything fun or enjoyable. I mean, seriously, folks, you’ve read my posts; I’m a hard-core believer that life should be brimming with joy and that we can find contentment, hope, and joy in every single situation–even at work 😉 I’m a tell-tale fun-lover.
So how do we balance this? My friend continues his thought in a way that allows for feelings, but places them in perspective: “Feelings can take a backseat. That’s not saying we shouldn’t have emotions at all, emotions are what helps us connect with each other. They make us human. But emotions shouldn’t be the decision maker in our faith and beliefs.”
Quoting a pastor from Moody Radio, my fellow blogger stated these factors should influence decision-making in the following order: Fact, followed by Faith, followed by Feelings. Feelings are in there, but they are at the end. While culture might tell us otherwise, it is important to open our eyes wide to what culture is communicating and, in doing so, to do a systems check–making sure we are oriented the way we want to be.
Ecclesiastes 11:9 explains it well: “You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” It is not wrong to follow your heart–so long as you aren’t following your heart to places that will bring judgement upon yourself. You were born with a sinful desire; not everything you feel like doing will be the right thing.
Joshua Harris again states this clearly: “‘The heart is deceitful above all things…’ we read in Jeremiah 17:9. ‘Who can know it?’ Though the advice of many well-meaning people today is to ‘follow your heart,’ the Bible warns that your heart can lead you in wrong, even deadly, directions. Our hearts lie. Something can ‘feel’ right and be completely wrong.”
Culture has been wrong before. I’m not asking you to become emotionless, but I am challenging you to consider what your emotions are prompting you to do before you act on it. And I want to remind you that you have control over your feelings.
Please share your thoughts. I would like to know your reactions 🙂
Also, though long, I like to believe it proves interesting and a worthwhile read…here’s a link to my testimony of how pursuing happy feelings almost led to suicide and the lesson I learned from it.
P.s. So that you don’t have to constantly question whether or not you may have missed one of my essential posts, you should just hit the “follow” button on the top left of the page. That way you’ll be notified when I post a new post 🙂