You Can’t Control How You’re Feeling, but You Can Control Where You’re Looking

The Bible tells us the truth. It tells us the truth about God, about the nature of the world, and – perhaps most uncomfortably – about ourselves. We might, in fact, think of the Bible as a pane of glass. And glass can have two primary functions – you can either look through it, or you can see yourself in it. The Bible does both.

We can look through it as a window in order to see a true representation of that which is outside of us. We can see God, the gospel, sin, and the nature of the world around us through this lens. But we can also gaze into it and see ourselves. And if we do not do both, then we aren’t really having our minds transformed into a biblical way of thinking.

On the subject of seeing ourselves, I’d call your attention to one verse in particular today:

The heart is more deceitful than anything else,
and incurable—who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9). 

This is indeed an uncomfortable truth. It’s a decidedly different truth than the version of truth we find anywhere else in the world. While movies, Hollywood, and self-help gurus will tell us to follow our own hearts, the Bible says we should follow Jesus. While the world tells us that the source of truth is within us, the Bible tells us that our hearts are liars. While the world says that we can’t go wrong if we trust in ourselves, the Bible tells us that a sure way to go off track is to trust our own feelings.

This is a hard truth, but it is nevertheless a gift – the gift of being able to actually know ourselves. To know what we are capable of. And to find a source of authority far more trustworthy than ourselves.

Friends, I can’t trust myself. And you can’t trust ourselves. Our feelings will mislead us. Not all the time, but at least some of it. These feelings are blind guides and deceitful leaders. We follow them at our own peril. Problem is, we by and large can’t control what we feel on a given day.

Think about it personally. What do you feel right now? Do you feel hopeful? Sad? Happy? Excited? And now ask yourself whether you decided to feel that way. Probably not. Instead, you just feel what you feel at a given moment. Sometimes it’s motivated by the circumstances around you. Sometimes there is no valid reason for those feelings at all. But in the end, you feel what you feel. We all do.

You can’t control what you feel. But you can control what you look at.

The psalmist was one who recognized this:

I will set no worthless thing before my eyes… (Ps. 101:3, NASB).

Now while we might typically think about this verse in terms of something like pornography (which we should), there are all kinds of worthless things we might set before our eyes. But why the resolution not to put anything before his eyes? I mean, it’s only looking, right? Except for the fact that the psalmist knew that where we look determines where we focus. And where we focus often will determine what we value.

By that logic, then, if we are resigned to the fact that we are going to feel what we feel, and that those feelings might not be right, then the most proactive thing we can do is to make sure we are looking at the right thing. To make sure, even in the midst of feeling what we know we should not, that at least our gaze is on the right place.

And so then we turn to the New Testament, where we find that which ought to be ever before us. That which, if our focus is right, will determine the way we should go and what we should value:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:1-2).

Christian, you may or may not be feeling rightly today. Regardless, make sure you are “looking” rightly.

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