By the Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, November 15, 2020 @ 11:00 a.m.
… Most Sincere Condolence to Rauf and Teresa Naqishbendi upon the Passing of Rauf’s Mother…
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness…through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3,4)
“You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than God’s Word, which the Lord, who receives sinners, preaches to you…furthermore, acknowledge that you are a sinner…and then sin all the more boldly…in the assurance of faith that the greatness of God’s forgiveness will cover you, rejoicing in Christ” (Martin Luther) — […this is an English paraphrase from the German text…]
“…only let us live up to what we have already attained…take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you…press on to the goal to win the prize…” ([Saint Paul] Philippians 3:16,17,14)
“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet, than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1)
Would you pray with me today?
Dear God, Starting today, I’m going to remember that feelings are an important, and also, necessary part of my life. My purpose will be to learn how to express my feelings in an appropriate and meaningful way. I promise to be open to my feelings when it comes to church, to family, to friends, in my relationship with my spouse or partner, and at work. I’m going to feel my feelings without judging myself, ride with those feelings, rather than stuffing them down, and messing myself up…and in the process…make my life and my feelings fall together into a beautiful symbiosis…When those feelings seem to overwhelm me as though they were a ball of yarn all rolled up inside me, unravel them for me in a beautiful way so I can understand anew your purpose in my life. Amen.
What is it in me saying that we have such a tough time with our feelings?
It seems like such a struggle for most of us, if not all of us. Why is it that we deny what we’re really feeling, especially when it comes to friends, to neighbors, and with family. In the course of any single day we just may hide the fact that we feel frustrated with someone who is doing something for us…and it turns out they are actually doing something to us instead. We need the spectrum of faith skills to help us, because…
We seem to be afraid of our feelings, when feelings have neither large biceps—nor do feelings conceal a hidden gun or a handy knife under our shirt. We deny that we have consuming negative feelings for those we work with, with those we have even befriended, and with those who are normally beloved family members. These days most of us dare not express our feelings in regard to our preferences in the 21st Century, especially in the area of political stance or beliefs. Nothing more said about this.
“Now, Come on–y’all! Admit it!”
It’s really tough for us to admit that we feel frustration, anger and hurt! The thought occurs to us, how can we go on with the feelings we have. It’s too much at times. To men, I hear often, the freedom to “let it all hang out” is relative to gender…that intense show of feelings is just “a women’s thing”. I think not!
We cannot bury what we’re holding on to. It’s got to come out some way, or the other. All too often we just
“cram it all down within” where it decomposes but smells rotten. It reminds me of what us boys used to do on Explorer Scout camping trips…when we used to bury our garbage appropriately in the woods when we were about to leave to return to “civilization”. Should we actually attempt to bury our feelings in a similar way, it would, indeed, come back to haunt us…and that’s what always, always happens…big time!
TRUST ME. I GET IT!
We deny deep-hidden feelings of frustration and disappointment about the past — past personal performance in life — the direction of our nation, or the government, or the decisions of our state government, or our city officials, or church leaders, and even our children, our family members. We
become poisoned emotionally and we even become physically afflicted. We become known around
town as inherently “angry people”. We become known as those considered basically “hard to understand”. We lose our God-given ability to live as free men and women in a free nation.
Often we deny a whole wide range of feelings we have toward our husband or wife, since we are so intimately connected with that person. [We don’t really want to ruffle feathers.] I liked hearing about the decision of two of my cousins back in Minnesota who decided on a “fine-dining night-out” to “celebrate” the fact that they didn’t decide to get a divorce after the last four years in the United States of America.
There is a “very real prohibition” about expressing feelings when it comes to an employer, or on the other hand, the people that may work for us if we run a business. Sometimes our feelings come in direct reaction to those we are sharing a special project or experience. Often enough, we become surprised when a great relationship seems to be ruined by feelings in regard to a difference of opinion when it comes to what seems to be right or appropriate in completing a mission or a project.
Sometimes, something happens to trigger a feeling from way back. Quite recently, I had a flashback to a time when Priscilla and I returned back to Berkeley from Sacramento and I decided we had to leave our dogs at the SPCA in Sacramento. We were all too young and naive then. None of our friends or church members were able to adopt the dogs. I had the illusion that they would be taken care of and adopted through SPCA. Years later, I discovered that most adult dogs are destroyed eventually because of lack of interest on the part of most people adopting. I suffered with deep feelings of guilt and shame which I could not cast off…and underneath it all…deep irretrievable hurt. I was amazed at the “cutting pain” of realizing
what I had decided fifty years before. Imagine what I’m saying. I couldn’t recant. I was stuck with my feelings. I would’ve given a great deal to be able to go back and choose to keep the dogs, even at the cost of abandoning plans back then. But, listen! A person cannot do that. What had happened, had happened. One can’t go back to make things right. What is done is done. What is left undone is left undone.
“…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light…it is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade
as servants of righteousness…their end will be what their actions deserve…” (2 Corinthians 11:14,15)
At this point, the preacher steps in. That’s me…to say…it is very, very interesting to me that after fifty years
I should experience the intensity of feelings over what I had done in regard to my precious dogs, and continue to have, in a sense, to this day, when I allow it to happen. Satan is real and powerful. I know it is 2020 AD, but he is still around and he’s still doing incredible damage to us as individuals and to us as a nation. From me to you…I declare that Satan exists in truth — to torment us and belittle us — by attacking us, among other means, through our unresolved feelings. I also affirm that there is a solution. The purpose of God in our lives becomes evident. We are grateful for the Good News that tells us…the greater the sin…the greater the forgiveness of God…I recall the comforting words of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ:
“Come onto me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
When, on one occasion recently, even fifty years hence, I sought God’s forgiveness, and in so doing, sought the “higher road” for myself in Christ, I had the strangest and most wonderful vision. I didn’t manufacture it
for myself to feel better…or attempt to relieve myself, but…a powerful feeling of assurance came over me…that things had worked out for my dear doggies way back then. I guess, like many other things in life, we need assurances like this, that are not an excuse to let us “off the hook” from feeling our crushing guilt.
GOD IS GOOD. GOD IS REAL. GOD IS PRESENT.
To summarize, regardless of what it is that makes us feel the way we do, our feelings are still ours…that is to say, we own them. In the grace we have in the Lord Jesus, acceptance of what has taken place, or hasn’t indeed happened, is often all that is needed to make them go away. We don’t have to allow our feelings to control us and the way we act in life. Saint Paul says it so well in Galatians 5:1,13, “It is for the sake of freedom that Christ sets us free…stand firm, then, and don’t let yourselves be burdened again with a yoke of slavery…you, brothers and sisters, were called to be free…just don’t use that freedom to indulge the sinful nature…” We don’t need to go right ahead into a devious way of escaping to indulge our lower nature with inappropriate thoughts and behavior as an excuse for the way we feel. I know many, many people
ruin their lives living in that way…they stubbornly hold onto feelings that cause them to go wayward.
What’s the role of a community of faith in terms of addressing a very real problem for human beings?
Now, when I write about what I have shared, thus far, I don’t mean to address this to a “Country Club for Saints”…a church wherein all the folks wear “spanking-white shoes” and present themselves as “almost” perfect. I’m glad to proclaim (rest assured) that “No perfect people are going to heaven!” Really? Did you know that? The reason for that is …in short…there ain’t no perfect people. God was so smart He knows that He deals with “a fallen race”…inclined all too often…to make decisions contrary to what is helpful in life. It’s a reminder for us that we’re not punished for our sins, but rather, we are punished by our sins. On the
cross, the Lord Jesus Christ became our sin (“the sin-bearer”) that you and I may be “free from sin, death, and the power of the devil”. Jesus literally became our sin. Hold on to that statement, Nibbe, I want to savor those words from Scripture. I prefer being in a community, therefore, that is a “Hospital for Sinners” rather than a country-club for saints. I’m up for that as long as all folks know they are made whole in God.
So what do we do with our feelings?
They are only feelings! Remember that! It’s not our feelings that will hurt us. It is what we do with them.
Feelings seem so very powerful. People often base their lives on how and what they feel. They then act
out on what they are feeling. It doesn’t end up well. Feelings are only feelings! It needs to go no further. Do what you need to do to acknowledge what you’re feeling…think things through without acting out on them…ask the Lord Jesus to help you process what you are feeling…that’s the thing to do…because our feelings are nonetheless powerful and have control over our motivation to act.
DWJD [Do what Jesus would do.]
(for some it has become a slogan some people joke about)
That’s what makes faith genuine. Rather than doing what we would initially want to do…we process what has “grabbed us by the neck”…and eventually…we do what Jesus would do. It isn’t our identification with our local church, or with what denominational affiliation we may have, or what connection or what kind of “pull” we have that allows us to literally “get by with murder” and yet cover us in the end. Saint Peter writes:
“…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light…don’t use your freedom as a cover-up for evil…” (1 Peter 2:9)
JUST DO WHAT JESUS WOULD DO ANYWAY
It helps us to talk about our feelings with a kind, gentle person we trust. At times it’s really a good thing
to bring our feelings to the person who triggered them. We can actually, with a little bit of personal courage, make a trusted friend out of a despised enemy. A number of years ago a very active, lovely lady in the congregation approached me with her complaint about another lady in the church…”I can’t stand that lady”, she said, “Pastor, what can I do.” My reply was not a comfort for her…”You know you’re going to have to spend eternity with her someday…” Not well received. She replied, “What should I do?” I suggested,
“…Take her to lunch…” That’s what happened. The sandwiches were good. The shakes were good.
They became great friends and even better fellow workers in the congregation and beyond.
Just a comment I hope will be helpful. None of us are exempt from dealing with our feelings. Some of those feelings are really pleasant. However, many feelings really challenge us and our well-being. It’s not our
feelings that will get us into trouble, though they can get us down. It’s how we react to the way we feel.
In the midst of living out our lives day by day, often enough, it’s kind of like a “roller-coaster”. The role of God in all of this is to take us off the roller-coaster. In the Lord, we have the assurance to know that He will come to our aid in the most dire of situations. We will do our very best and He will cover us. We simply need to ask, (even though it’s become a joke to some), what would Jesus do? We will always do well with Him walking beside us. Sometimes we’ll seem to fail, but He’ll cover us — to the extent that often our seeming mistakes we eventually realize become what God had in mind anyway. Finally, keep in mind that God will not allow us to experience anything other than what He has planned for us to go through for our good…and our spiritual maturity. Sometimes that might seem unpleasant, other times unfair, unreasonable or even unacceptable. Someday soon enough, God will reveal what good He had in mind for us.
“…and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose…” (Romans 8:28)