There is an old Quaker story told about a king who asked for an inventory to be taken of all the flowers in his kingdom. He sent out a census taker with a clipboard to count every flower. Then, he realized that the information would be of little value to him unless he had something with which to compare it. So, he called for a second census taker. This one was asked to count all the weeds in the kingdom.
Before long, the first census taker came back into the king’s chamber with a big smile of contentment on his face, saying “Your majesty, whatever you do, don’t ever transfer me or my family out of this kingdom. It has to be the most beautiful kingdomin the world. It is overrun with flowers.”
This was interrupted by the sound of the second census taker stomping across the floor to the throne where he threw his clipboard down, demanding an immediate transfer to another land. “King,” he shouted, “this has got to be the worst kingdom in the world! I didn’t even get past the drawbridge before I realized I couldn’t count all the weeds. This kingdom is overrun with weeds. I want out!”
This story reminds us of a truth: In this life, we are going to see whatever we are looking for, and it will affect our feelings and behavior. If we look for the things that are good, as we are encouraged in Philippians 4:8 to do, we will feel good. If we look for the negative things, we are sure to find them and act accordingly.
It also illustrates how our feelings follow our eyes. We can see this whenever we trace negative feelings back to where the eyes of our heart have just been. If we look at all the faults and failures of those with whom we are at odds, negative feelings will come to mind. If we look at our own faults and failures, the same thing will happen. However, if we look to Jesus, thinking about how patient, kind, and forgiving He is, feelings will follow, but they will be different.
Look long and hard at how completely God loves you instead of focusing on your shortcomings. Then, move your inner eyes to see how completely He loves the person with whom you’re angry. Warm, loving feelings will flush your heart of the negative ones you had felt only moments before because your feelings always follow your eyes.
YOUR BODY CANNOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE
Part of the genius of our design is that we have different sets of eyes, both within and without. We have our physical eyes, and we have the eyes of our heart. For some reason, our body cannot readily distinguish which set of eyes we are looking through, so it reacts to all of them as if what we are seeing is real. So, when we imagine something fearful with the eyes of our heart, our body reacts as if we are actually seeing it with our physical eyes. It tenses up and starts to sweat. Adrenaline begins to flow, giving us a boost of energy; muscles fill with blood, the heart begins to really pump, and pupils dilate until everything we need to survive the situation we are “seeing” comes into play, even though what we are imagining is not real. Our body cannot tell the difference. It reacts the way it should if we were really seeing the trouble we imagined.
YOUR FEELINGS ARE NOT TRUE
Feelings are not a reliable compass to guide us, especially when they are all over the map. I have had to learn that my feelings, for the most part, are not true.
There are times when we do not feel God’s love or sense His nearness. The trouble with this is that these feelings are very subjective and can be easily manipulated. The fact is, God is near whether we feel Him or not. He loves us, whether we sense it or not. Perhaps, this is why John wrote,
We have known and believed the love that God has for us. (1 John 4:16)
We can know spiritual things by experience. That’s what the word knownin this verse means. In other words, it’s a real experience, and we can feel it. Sometimes, these spiritual experiences are beyond our ability to describe. When we sense God, we are overwhelmed by His love. Then, there are other times we do not feel anything at all. That’s when we must rest in His love by faith. We need both to know and to believe God’s love for us. He wants us to feel it, but when the feeling is not there, we must simply believe He loves us.
WATCH YOUR EYES
It sounds like an odd thing to say, but we must watch our eyes. By this I mean that we need to be careful about what we focus on with the eyes of our heart. For example, if our eyesare not set upon how big God is and what He can do, our feelings will falter. There is an old book by J.B. Phillips, entitled, Your God Is too Small.The title alone is worth the price of the book as it shows us that our view of God often determines the way we feel much of the time. The more we see God as being bigger than our problems, the more victorious we will feel. If we deem Him too small, or what we are facing too large, it will affect how we feel.
If our eyes are upon ourselves, we will begin to feel discouraged. People often conclude that every thought that comes to mind reflects their heart, but they forget that we have flesh, which has its own voice, feelings, and desires. We have to learn how to divorce ourselves from our flesh and deny what it says or wants. Our flesh does not represent the real us, which is in fact a born-again spirit, indwelt by the living Christ. When we set our eyes on that part of us, we will feel and function much differently. Likewise, whenever we allow our flesh and its desires to be the predominant influence in our lives, rather than our spirit, the worse we will feel (see Roman 8:6).
If our eyes are upon our weaknesses or the failures of others, then we will become critical or judgmental. Then, we will begin to feel the same way about ourselves, which is a by-product of judging. When Jesus said that we will be judged if we judge, He did not mean that it would come from God. The “glasses” we use to look at the faults of others are the same ones we see through when we look at ourselves. We condemn ourselves.
If our eyes are on our problems, instead of upon the Lord, we will feel helpless and hopeless. David made himself lift his eyes up “to the hills from whence cometh” his help (Psalm 121:1). When we do as he did, our feelings of being supported and helped from above will follow.
If our eyes are on negatives, soon our mouthswill say what we see.And once again, our feelings will follow, which will cause this cycle to be repeated or accelerated. What we say can affect our spiritual well-being. We see this borne out in the book of Proverbs, which says,