ON FEELINGS AND CHRISTIAN LIFE:
DO WHAT PLEASES GOD EVEN IF YOU DON’T FEEL SO.
We need to keep go forward toward the fullness of Christian life, even though we may not experience any consolation. It doesn’t matter whether there are feelings or not; what matters is having our head – and our heart -fixed on the path that leads to God. Below you have St. Josemaria’s wonderful spiritual considerations on the role of feelings in our Christian life.
“If God gives us pleasant feelings, we are grateful because they make it easier for us to fulfil his will, to keep his commandments and counsels. At times God treats souls in the same way as we treat little children.
This is a classical comparison that ascetical and mystical writers of all ages have used. Babies are fed on their mother’s milk or on baby food, or nice soft things to eat like cake or bread… We never cease to be children, but we are also older and we have strong teeth. So God can give us solid food which is for the mature, for those who by practice have their faculties trained to discern good and evil.
Therefore, we should not do things out of feelings. If they come, then say: Thank you, my God, for giving me this sense of devotion that makes it easier for me to fulfil my duty! But when there are no feelings, you should still say: Thank you, Lord, because I know that I can count on your help to act in a way that pleases you.
Is it good to want feelings? It isn’t bad to want them. But clearly it is more perfect not to ask for feelings. If God gives them, be grateful. But if they don’t come, then don’t ask for them. It’s just as good to have them as not to have them, so long as we seek God’s will in everything. Besides, once we start speaking about feelings we run the risk of looking only for doubtful devotions which are not very Christian, since they’re not based on the Cross, and which could lead us astray. That’s why I avoid using the phrase “I feel…”. It’s true that at times I’ve written: “We feel this or that…” because it’s difficult to find a more precise word. But the context makes it clear that I’m not speaking about emotions and sentiments. Religion and Christian life are not matters of sentiment. God can give us great joy, great fervour, and great enthusiasm, just as he can send us terrible dryness, in order to help us to be transformed by the renewal of our mind, that we may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
My children, I “feel” affection for you. But I insist that interior life is not a matter of feelings. When we see clearly that it is worth making the effort to sacrifice ourselves day after day, month after month, year after year, for a whole lifetime, because Love awaits us in heaven, then we will be seeing things in their true light. We should store all this up in our souls, my children. We should learn how to capture and retain, like water in a reservoir, all these graces from God: the bright clarity, the light, the sweetness of our dedication. And then, when the darkness of the night comes along, bringing with it bitterness and sorrow, we will plunge into those pure clean waters of God’s grace. Even though at that moment I may be blind, I will still see. Even though I may be parched, I will be refreshed by the waters that flow from the Heart of Christ unto life everlasting. Then, my children, we will persevere in the struggle.”
CHRISTIAN LIFE IS NOT A MATTER OF FEELINGS. IT CONSISTS IN PLEASING GOD IN ALL THINGS, IN DOING WHAT PLEASES HIM EVEN IF WE DON’T FEEL SO. IT IS ABOUT LOVE WHICH ARISES FROM THE WILL, LEADING ONE TO SACFRICE HIMSELF FOR THE SAKE OF THE BELOVED.
PHOTO: Salzillo (sculptor), “La Oración en el huerto”