What Comes First? Feelings v. Obedience

“If you love me, you will obey me.” (John 14:15)

Over the past several years, I had cried out to the Lord asking for more of His love in me. But nothing seemed to change. Why wouldn’t he answer a prayer for something I knew He wanted me to have? A prayer to be someone I knew He wanted me to be?

It took longer than I’d like to admit, but I came to realize He already had answered my prayer. I just didn’t feel like it.

I don’t think I’m alone in asking for something and expecting my feelings to change.

“Boom! More love! I’m overflowing; I love everyone, even the most unlovable person!”

I’m not saying this can’t be someone else’s experience, but it wasn’t mine. God is always up to something, and in my case, it has yet to involve the above exclamations (although I trust it will!).

What He showed me was that He had already deposited His unconditional love in my heart, but there were some roadblocks preventing it from pouring out.

And that’s when He impressed upon me the great feelings v. obedience dilemma that was going on inside.

There were relationships in which He was calling me to extend His unconditional, pursuing love, but I was acting on my feelings instead. And justifying it, of course! I could probably share my common scenarios with most believers, and they would completely understand!

I was relying on my own human love, but I was not obeying by loving God’s way. The idea of doing so felt daunting. I knew the Holy Spirit could do it through me, if I submitted to Him. But I really wished I could feel like it. Then it wouldn’t be so painful. It wouldn’t require so much humility.

I know I’m not alone in this. Even recently, I’ve had quite a few conversations in which the same theme rang through: feelings v. obedience.

It seems a common thing for us to ask the Lord to fill in for our will. How many times have I heard that someone asked for patience, only to have their patience tested like never before? It seems almost cruel, but it’s really an invitation to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in a tangible way.

I can’t truly love others in my own strength. It won’t look the way He intended. But when I say, “Yes I will, Lord. I will humble myself; I will choose Your way”, the Spirit comes in power to enable me to obey. And it can be pretty exhilarating. Or, it can feel a lot like suffering. Maybe a little of both. God is good, and He knows how to lovingly shape us.

This isn’t just limited to loving others, of course. What is that thing you’ve been waiting to feel? Respect for someone? Absence of a wrong desire? The end of a sin?

I love how everything ties into the Gospel. It’s sad that it can become familiar, but if we have a heart to learn, there is never an end to what new thing He’ll show us.

Here’s something to really chew on: the fact that Jesus didn’t feel like dying. He was fully man, experiencing all the feelings we feel, and He still went through with it. He cried out to the Father saying “If you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me, but not my will but yours be done.” He was God, and He obeyed to death – a slow, excruciating death. I came from dust, and I have trouble humbling myself and obeying in lesser ways. It puts things in perspective, huh?

Well, that’s what I’ve been rolling around lately. And it’s convicting, but also encouraging, because:

  • I have the same power that raised Christ from the dead inside of me enabling me to obey.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11

  • I have fresh revelation of what it means to take up my cross daily and follow Him.

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23

  • I once again see His great love for me, because He took my disobedience and sins upon Himself, denied Himself and died so that we could be in relationship.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Phil 2:5-8

  • If I share in His sufferings (and we all know even relatively ‘small’ obedience issues can be painful. Ever handle a conversation poorly with your spouse?) then I get to share in His joy. It’s a joy that is much deeper and richer than the temporary satisfaction I’ll have from acting on my feelings.

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. I Peter 4:13

So be encouraged! Ask the Lord in what areas you have been waiting for the feelings to come. Choose to obey and walk by His Holy Spirit. It’s a process, and “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. I Peter 4:1

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