Written after reflecting on “Difficulties Concerning the Will” from Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, particularly the following excerpts:
For the decisions of our will are often so directly opposed to the decisions of our emotions that if we are in the habit of considering our emotions as the test we shall be very apt to feel like hypocrites in declaring those things to be real which our will alone has decided. But the moment we see that the will is king we shall utterly disregard anything that clamors against it and shall claim as real its decisions let the emotions rebel as they may. (89)
When then this feeling of unreality or hypocrisy comes do not be troubled by it. It is only in your emotions and is not worth a moments thought Only see to it that your will is in God’s hands that your inward self is abandoned to His working that your choice your decision is on His side and there leave it Your surging emotions like a tossing vessel at anchor which by degrees yields to the steady pull of the cable finding themselves attached to the mighty power of God by the choice of your will must inevitably come into captivity and give in their allegiance to Him and you will sooner or later verify the truth of the saying that if any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine.” (93)
Such amazing peace is mine. God, You are so good to me. What wonderful sleep I had tonight and what blessed peace I hold in my heart. The battle of feelings is not as great a fight as I have made it. It really is acting and believing without regard to how I feel, particularly when my feelings and emotions would steer me in a direction counter to completely focusing on God and all that I want. How good it is to learn that the waves are not merely comprised of circumstances beyond my control but also the emotions inside of me that often feel far from control!
I know that when I have ignored my feelings and done what I knew was right, I have acted by faith in the past, but I wasn’t fully able to articulate what I was doing or always understand that it was a valid choice to make and not some weird, wishful-thinking way of coping. Hannah is right: When I look at the reality of my emotions, I am dismayed at the state of them because I assume that the one who loves Christ should not struggle with such feelings and that the presence of such feelings proved that I had not yet turned myself completely over to Him. How high my expectations are of myself! This was hard to deal with because I felt I had done all I could do in turning myself over to Him, so to see this gap in my belief and what I thought I should experience was disconcerting. Terribly so.
I thought my feelings, in and of themselves, were a marker of my spiritual maturity and abandonment to Christ. But now to realize that my feelings are merely “servants” to my will, as Hannah puts it, and that they need to bow to my will (my wants, my desires, my true self, as Eldredge would say, my heart) not necessarily agree with it – oh what a wonderful relief! =)
I simply lay my will down before the Lord Jesus, asking that His will be done in me rather than my own which without Jesus is guided by my self-interest, my emotions which are ever changing, and my flesh. I must surrender all, giving up my emotions, my plans, my imperfect expectations, my way of thinking, and my ambitions, by applying my will in complete abandonment and dedicated seeking of God’s kingdom and His righteousness. I do have a role to play; I must employ my will in His service. And it’s not by my strength, but in my weakness that His grace and strength enables me to turn to Him for help.
It’s not that emotions are bad but I find that mine are often a roller coaster ride of ups and downs and cannot be depended on as an anchor in my life. But when I fix my eyes on Christ, resting in Him as I surrender myself to Him, as I apply my will to knowing Him and serving Him, my anchor holds secure no matter what tempest may come through my emotions (wounds, fears, doubts, etc.) or circumstances (the unknown, dashed expectations, good or tragic situations, etc.). I can lay these burdens (for they are very real burdens, indeed) down at the feet of Christ through prayer and in Christian community in a Galatians 6 kind of way. My emotions are not the ruler of my life, nor are my circumstances. It is not what I can see but the things which are unseen that are my hope in Christ through faith and His boundless grace. As the hymn puts it, “In Christ alone, my hope is found.”
Funny, yesterday, I had nothing to write due to the complete frustration I felt with my feelings – perhaps it’s these feelings which have induced my writer’s block. But now that I know that I can acknowledge the reality of my feelings, intentionally lay them aside for they are not my true self, and through my will surrendered to God’s own, continue to run this race – oh what freedom is mine! Praise God for His care for me in teaching me His ways! As Hannah writes, the feelings will follow soon after, just let the will, your very heart, find it’s hiding place in Jesus, and He will transform our inner lives so that our selves will conform to His very will (Romans 12:1-2). A living sacrifice, I cast aside self and emotions and circumstances by choosing not to focus on them as the bounds of my reality, as problems that overwhelm but somehow must be solved by attending to them directly.
Instead, the only way is to take what I alone can control – that is, my will – and choose to let God have His glorious way in me, resolving myself time and again to focus on Him and seek Him alone rather than being distracted by the feelings that self would have me entangled by. No I must “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easy entangles us,” and “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) I must keep in sight the joy of the promises of God that He is with me, that He has a good plan for my life, and that He will bring it about. All I need to do is wait upon Him.
Lord God, whatever it is You want me to do, I will do. Again, I choose You; You first chose me. Give me courage by Your Spirit to not look to the left or to the right, to not wallow in self or self-pity, to not be swayed by the changing landscape of circumstances or emotions, and to not be frightened by the own sin I find yet in my flesh. Instead, may I with Your Spirit-induced courage and boldness press on in laying down myself before You so that You might take over and have your complete, uninhibited, glorious, and graciously uncertain way. Amen.