Ruled by My Feelings
You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16:22
I had a crabby day at work recently. My irritability wasn’t due to external stressors. I was simply cutting down on carbohydrates and it made me hungry, which made me angry at the world. I wasn’t overtly rude to my coworkers, but they could tell that I was on edge. So, they said something, which made me more irritable. When I realized what I was doing, I felt stupid. How could I let something so small affect my attitude in such a big way? Why do I allow my behavior to be ruled by my appetite and feelings? That annoyed me even more. So, I ate a banana and was happy again.
If this were only about carbohydrates, it might be amusing. I find though, find that my life’s attitude and behaviors are often ruled by feelings in a way that is self-destructive. If I feel slighted, I’m resentful and pout like a child. If things don’t go exactly the way I want, I lash out in frustration at those around me. Often, my feelings are the opposite of helpful.
I’m not suggesting that my feelings aren’t real. I am suggesting however, that I must interrogate my feelings, making some conscious decision as to whether I follow them or not. Honestly, I often have some pretty ridiculous emotional impulses. When I’m jealous, resentful, angry, or frustrated, I must ask myself if I’m being reasonable, or if I’m simply following my impulsive, immature emotions. Not everything I feel is helpful or right.
In today’s passage, Jesus acknowledged that his disciples would experience sorrow upon his departure. However, he promised them a joy that wouldn’t be dependent upon his physical presence. With the arrival of God’s Holy Spirit, which would dwell in them, they would experience a joy and peace that didn’t rely on circumstance and that no one could take away.
We have access to this same Spirit and this same joy. Whether we experience it though, is largely up to us. Daily, we can follow God, being filled with his peace and joy. Or, we can follow our own impulsive feelings, allowing them to rule us. The problem of course, is that living by our feelings is often a rollercoaster of self-destruction. When we daily choose to anchor ourselves to the Father though, we’ll find that we have a steady, immovable source of joy and peace.