Feelings do not necessarily speak truth. If you feel guilty, it does not mean that you are guilty. Many times, feelings merely tell us what is going on in our thought life (or what we are really believing). If we think we are guilty, there will be feelings of guilt as the fruit of those thoughts or beliefs. It’s sort of like feeling a hot stove; feelings are meant to help alert us of something that is wrong. Feelings should not be ignored, but properly interpreted. For example, if you feel guilty, don’t start thinking “Oh, it must be true. I need to go confess my sins again and go try to dot every i and cross every t.” That is letting feelings tell us what to do, and feelings can be (and often are) wrong.
When we begin to feel guilty, we need to instead get to the root of the problem and address it with God’s Word. What does God’s Word say about our guilt? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) When we choose to believe that over how we feel, then our feelings will begin to change because they are merely the fruit of our thoughts and beliefs. In this case, our feelings were wrong because our belief was wrong. Remember, feelings are just the fruit of our thoughts and beliefs. If we feel wrong, then it wouldn’t hurt to stop and ask ourselves what we believe. Do we believe that when a man confesses his sin and believes upon Christ, that he is forgiven? Or do we, in the back of our minds, wonder if we’ve sinned too badly, or if we need to do something before we can be forgiven? Our feelings can be a great revealer of what we are really believing under the surface.
It is important to be balanced when dealing with our feelings. I don’t think it’s healthy to completely ignore our feelings, but I can assure you that it is not healthy to go by our feelings either. The key is to learn how to discern what our feelings are really telling us, and then get to the root of the problem. Feelings of guilt, for example, do not necessarily mean that we are indeed guilty, but rather that our beliefs are not rooted and grounded on God’s Word like they ought to be. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:6-8)
A dirty conscience should not be ignored, but rather investigated. False guilt is an indication of a faulty belief. Is a clean conscience important according to God’s Word? Yes! “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14) As a Christian, you have the capacity to walk before God with a clear conscience. In fact, that is your daily privilege and joy. Paul said, “I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16).
So with that said, it is important to have a clean conscience. But we can only have that clean conscience when we stand firm on God’s Word and believe what it really says about the forgiveness of our sins. When we truly believe that the Blood of Christ has paid the full price for our failures, only then can we have a truly clean conscience. As long as we think that we’ve messed up too badly, or need to do something before we can be forgiven, we will live with a dirty conscience. That is because we don’t truly believe we are forgiven, and when we don’t believe that we’re forgiven, how on earth can we expect to feel like it? We can’t!
Don’t procrastinate in clearing your wounded conscience. Some people put off dealing with their guilt, thinking their conscience will clear itself in time. It won’t. Procrastination allows the guilt feelings to fester. That in turn generates depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems. Dealing with a wounded conscience immediately by heart-searching prayer before God is the only way to keep it clear and sensitive. Putting off dealing with guilt inevitably compounds the problems. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
Fear is another feeling which is completely unnecessary in the life of a believer. How do we know this? God’s Word tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. For those who think that fear is a natural and unavoidable feeling, God’s Word tells us that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
Got fears? Don’t believe them, but rather seek to be established and made perfect in God’s great love for you. That will dispel those fears. What most people do is go by their feelings and believe them, rather than seeing them as a warning that something isn’t right in their beliefs or thought lives. That is where many well intending Christians go in the ditch. Another ditch is to completely ignore those feelings (or warning signs), and do nothing about them. The question I ask you is, what are you doing about those feelings? Are you going by what you feel as if it were truth? Or are you asking yourself, “What am I thinking or believing that may not be aligned with God’s Word?”
With the thousands of thoughts we have in one day and all the energy generated from our mind, as Christians, don’t we have a responsibility to keep a sound mind and pay attention to what we are fixing our thoughts on? “Commit your works to the Lord [submit and trust them to Him], And your plans will succeed [if you respond to His will and guidance]. (Proverbs 16:3) The result of being “out of alignment” will be confusion and frustration. God’s Word does not produce confusion, it produces peace. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Fear, like false guilt, is a result of believing something other than God’s Word. False guilt is when we choose to believe an imagination that has risen itself against the knowledge of God, even though God’s Word assures us that when we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us of any sort of unrighteousness that we’ve committed.
Now of course, not all feelings should be interpreted as a fault in our thoughts or beliefs. There are times when then Holy Spirit will give a person an uneasy feeling about a situation (discernment), or maybe a burden to pray over somebody that we normally wouldn’t pray over. These types of feelings are used by God as a means to communicate with our spirits, and should not be ignored.
However, feelings of low self-esteem, fear, false guilt, shame, etc. and feelings along these lines are spelled out clearly in God’s Word as being completely unnecessary for the children of God. What these types of feelings (false guilt, fear, etc.) have in common is that they are rooted in a belief or imagination that has risen itself against the knowledge of God (what is spoken clearly in His Word).
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)