“Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise Him in the heights.” (Psalm 148:1)
When was the last time you were on cloud nine? Did you wake up from dreams that infused your sleep with a pleasant atmosphere? Was it when you received a letter or email or text from a friend, either current or past? How did the rest of what was going on in your life play in to what made you high? While there, did you wonder how you could retain and maintain that level of spiritual ecstasy in spite of your surroundings? That’s normal. Paul says however, that he had learned “in whatever state [he was], therewith to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)
This isn’t a call to cynicism or pessimism. More of a reminder toward pragmatism and circumspection. “And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect” (Exodus 23:13). My opinion—my ideal—is that we should always be focused on God rather than our feelings. Granted, our feelings are gifts from Him and form a great part of our life before the Lord. I believe also that the Holy Spirit speaks through our feelings if they’re oriented toward Him and His Word. But! When we place our faith in the mercurial whims of our feelings, then we may just be left high and dry. And that’s not a good thing.
I think it’s dangerous to walk around feeling good all the time for no discernible reason. Sometimes a feeling of happiness or peace may not have come from God. Don’t worry, this is the Holy Spirit’s specialty. Helping us decipher the wordless depths of our being. If Jesus had responded as His feelings had dictated, would He still have said “not my will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42) when He was suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane? I wonder.
Shallows and Narrows
As an aside, the root of “narrows” (naar) means “unpleasant”. If you’re reading this and you live in the United States of America, try and mentally strip away all of the happiness and peace and self-satisfaction you feel that might be the result of your station in life. And imagine yourself free (literally) of all of those trappings and simply yourself, before the Lord. Forgive me for being a touch negative, but I wonder how many of us take for granted just how good we have it because of the country in which we live and the freedoms we possess.
“Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off.” (Psalm 139:2) The previous verse says “O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and known me.” David had evidently invited God into his emotional life and allowed Him to search out the dark corners of feeling that many people keep from Him. Verse eight says “If I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.” For many years, I was afraid of any trace of shadow or depression because I felt I could not control it. And while I wanted to be happy all the time, what I didn’t realize was that the greater thing—the constant realization of God’s presence—was infinitely more important than simple garden-variety happiness. It might take longer for you to build up a conscious awareness of God’s presence but it’s worth the effort–it lasts longer as well. I also think that our feelings can be one of the last frontiers for us to “bring into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27) before the Lord. And until we do, I don’t believe that God can use us in a fuller way—the way He truly wants to. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil…” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Let’s just cut to the chase. When Jesus says that we must “deny [ourselves], take up our cross daily and follow [Him].” (Luke 9:23) And then Paul rounds this out with the addendum: “I die daily.” (1 Corinthians 15:31). What more reason do we have to feel good? Hmm…
How ’bout this: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3, emphasis mine) There is such peace in this verse that it’s nigh indescribable.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Don’t be afraid to let God take you wherever and however He chooses to the life He has for you. If it means there’s some downtime while you reorient your feelings toward Him and His Word, then let Him gently guide you through those depths while on your way to the heights.