You might not want to try this experiment simply because the feeling it produces is not pleasant (and we try to avoid unpleasant feelings). The next time you want to use your feelings as an excuse, try using the same excuse in a different context.
For instance, instead of “I don’t feel like helping,” think, “I don’t feel like going to work.” Instead of “I don’t feel like getting up,” think, “I wonder what it feels like to be out of a job.” And instead of thinking “I don’t feel I love you,” think, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
It is more than curious the way some people determine the role feelings have on their behavior. The sluggard uses his feelings as an excuse to do nothing, “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor” Proverbs 21:25. On the other hand, the hero sets aside all feeling and throws himself on the grenade. Both do something with their feelings.
In writing to his goddaughter, Sarah Neylan, on April 3, 1949, C. S. Lewis passes along some godfatherly advice concerning her upcoming Confirmation and first Communion. Lewis warns that the experience may be anti-climactic. Don’t let that bother you. He writes,
“A bit of advice that comes into my head is this: don’t expect (I mean, don’t count on and don’t demand) that when you are confirmed, or when you make your first Communion, you will have all the feelings you would like to have. You may, of course: but you also may not. But don’t worry if you don’t get them. They aren’t what matter. The things that are happening to you are quite real things whether you feel as you wd. wish or not, just as a meal will do a hungry person good even if he has a cold in the head which will rather spoil the taste. Our Lord will give us right feelings if He wishes — and then we must say Thank you. If He doesn’t, then we must say to ourselves (and Him) that he knows best.
“This, by the way, is one of the very few subjects on which I feel I do know something. For years, after I had become a regular communicant I can’t tell you how dull my feelings were and how my attention wandered at the most important moments. It is only in the last year or two that things have begun to come right — which just shows how important it is to keep on doing what you are told.”1
Of all the reasons I hear why people do not believe the gospel or why those who do do not attend church, the overwhelming majority is they don’t feel like it. Perhaps I’ll be forgiven for thinking God is no more persuaded by that line than their spouse or boss.
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” – Philippians 3:13.
- Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 1587. Italics in original.