When Feelings Betray You

Do your feelings ever get the better of you? I’ve always considered myself to be someone who isn’t controlled by her feelings; I’m not super emotional. I tend to be logical and “matter-of-fact” about most things. Most of the time. But if we’re honest with ourselves, all of us (even me!) have to admit that we often operate by our feelings.

In His great wisdom, God made humans as created beings with feelings. As animals live more by instinct and less by emotion, I believe feelings are one aspect of being created in the image of God. Scripture tells us God has feelings too. He grieves, loves, hates, gets angry, is sorrowful, weeps, rejoices, and is jealous. Of course, all of God’s feelings are without sin and completely righteous. Human nature isn’t so perfect!

Matthew 26 reminds us that our feelings (as humans) will often betray us; it also reminds us that Jesus was truly and fully human as well as fully God in His incarnation, as He felt deeply, but overcame His feelings to obey His Father.

It’s the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. As He ate the Passover with His disciples, He tells them, “One of you will betray Me.” You would think the disciples would know their own commitment to Jesus so well that they would never think of betraying Him, yet they knew He was telling the truth. Being deeply grieved they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” (26:22). They each felt confident, sure, that they would not be the one to fail Jesus. (Judas was still present for this conversation, and we can imagine his feelings as he continued his charade, knowing for a fact he was the betrayer.)

Later, after the meal, they walked toward the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus says it again…You will all fall away because of Me this night (26:31). Peter, perhaps the disciple who lives by his feelings more than any of them, declares emphatically, “Never! Even if I have to die!” He truly believed what he said; he felt sure of it.

We know how that turned out. Watching from a distance, he saw his beloved friend be mocked, falsely accused, and beaten. In this emotional moment, Peter is confronted three times with his association with Jesus. His feelings betray him. Fear takes hold and he denies Jesus each time more emphatically. Immediately he hears the rooster crow, looks across the courtyard, and locks eyes with Jesus. Broken-hearted, he went away and wept bitterly.

Peter’s feelings got the better of him. They caused him to overestimate his loyalty and betrayed him in a moment of fear. In contrast, Jesus faced His own feelings in the Garden. He was deeply grieved, and cried out to the Father, If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me! (26:39). He knew what He was facing: the physical pain of the cross, the emotional trauma His family and followers would experience, and the spiritual grief of being separated from the Father as He bore the weight of the sins of the world. His feelings cried out for another way, but His faith in the Father’s plan won out.

Faith is the only antidote for feelings that will lead us astray. Faith in the facts of scripture, of God’s character, and of His faithfulness to us. Feelings are deceptive. They will tell us we’re strong when we need to recognize our weakness and rely on God’s strength. They will tell us we’re weak when God’s Spirit in us is able to overcome every obstacle. Feelings are simply a barometer that indicates the depth of our faith. When our faith is strong, our feelings will follow.

Do you live more by your feelings or your faith? We are human, and we are created to feel things deeply. This part of us allows us to experience the nature of God in us; our souls are created to know joy and love and beauty. But we live in a fallen world; our emotions are scarred by sin and can’t be relied on to always tell us the truth. Look at the facts according to scripture. Don’t watch from a distance like Peter, but fully engage with Jesus. Put your feelings in their proper place and make faith the priority.

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