Thoughts vs. Feelings
How can you know if what you are hearing is the truth or a lie? One way is to determine the difference between what you "think" (a mind issue) and what you "feel" (a heart issue).
Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17-19 that Christ will dwell in our hearts and that we will know the love of Christ so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Both feeling and thinking are important.
One method we can use to help us separate our thoughts from our emotions is validation. When we validate ourselves, we are acknowledging our feelings. You say, "I feel" and then complete the statement with a word that expresses feeling, such as "lonely," "angry" or "sad."
Feelings are necessary. They are given by God in order for us to experience emotions. The Bible tells us that Jesus experienced joy, wept and had righteous anger. But He distinguished His emotions from reason, and so must we.
Let's use the feeling of anger as an example. Anger was created as an internal alarm to warn us of potentially threatening situations or conditions.
To feel anger is not a sin (Eph. 4:26). But the ungodly behavior that often accompanies the emotion of anger is sin. If we discipline our children, for example, by using our anger in ways that devalue them, discourage them or provoke them to anger, we misuse the emotion.
The feeling of fear is another internal alarm. But if we allow feelings of fear to paralyze us from taking biblical action, such as confronting someone in truth and love about their abusive behavior toward us, we misuse the emotion.
Even though feelings are important, we should not allow them to direct our behavior. In the Believer's Bible Commentary, William MacDonald defines having the mind of Christ as "To see things as He would see them, and to respond as He would respond."
Many Christians, however, respond as the world responds. Generally, the world's approach to living is, "If it feels good, do it." Their thought process looks like this: My thoughts ** my feelings ** my actions.
But the approach of a Christian who has the mind of Christ is, "I know what I think and how I feel, but I will do what God says to do." That process looks like this: My thoughts ** my feelings ** God's thoughts ** my actions.
The second set of thoughts is based on God's Word (Heb 4:12)—aligning our thoughts with His thoughts before we act. "A prudent man gives thought to his steps" (Prov. 14:15).
Discerning the Truth
Let me give you an example of how this works in real life. A husband and wife exchange cross words. The wife says, "I feel you don't love me." In actuality, the idea that her husband doesn't love her is a thought, not a feeling. The feeling is probably hurt or rejection.
The wife needs to examine her belief from a rational perspective. Is the thought that her husband doesn't love her the truth or a lie? Usually it is a lie of the enemy to put spouses at odds with one another.
The truth is that her husband does love her but needs to learn ways to show his wife his love in order to minimize her feelings of hurt and rejection. If the wife can see this truth, she is able to cast down an argument that goes "against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5, NKJV). What could have escalated into a battle can become fertile ground for unity, growth and change.
Let's say you make a mistake at work. The feeling you have as a result is probably frustration or disappointment. But the thought that goes through your mind might be something like this: "I'm so stupid. I can't seem to get anything right."
This is a lie, of course. God's Word says that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14).
Learning to replace the lies of Satan with God's truth is the key to having the mind of Christ and living a life that is pleasing to God. God will honor you as you seek to align your thoughts with His. "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve" (Jer. 17:10, NIV).
Ask the Lord to show you the lies you have been believing and living out in your life. Replace the lies with God's truths so that your relationship with Him, yourself and others will improve.
Julie Roe, Ph.D., is a clinical Christian psychologist who has ministered to hurting and wounded women around the world.
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