Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Book Review: True Feelings

True Feelings: God's Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our Emotions. Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole  Mahaney Whitacre. 2017. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Imagine Marilla Cuthbert and Anne Shirley writing a book together, and that’ll give you an idea of what’s ahead. But that’s only half the story. We may be emotional opposites, but we share a common curiosity and enthusiasm to learn what the Bible has to say about a woman’s feelings.

Premise/plot: True Feelings is written by a mother and daughter team. The focus is on emotions and what God has revealed about them in his Word. Chapters include: "Fact, Fiction, and Feelings," "The Gift of Emotions," "Why Do I Feel This Way?" "Feeling Good," "Emotional Emergency Measures," "How Do I Control My Emotions?" "Act to Feel," "God's Purpose in Pain," and "Godly Emotions for Life." The foreword is by one of my favorite authors, Joni Eareckson Tada. The book is definitely geared more towards women, but, I don't think women are the only ones that struggle with emotions and feelings.

The book is titled True Feelings. In chapter four, they define what makes feelings true:
Do we believe what God says is true and do we value what God says we should value? If so, we will have true feelings. In other words, our positive emotions are ungodly if we approve of things that God says are wrong or find pleasure in things that God hates. 
My thoughts: I definitely would recommend this one. At first, I felt a little disconnected from the authors. I remember finding it odd that the authors were referring to themselves in the third person. But it wasn't too long before I forgot about *who* was writing it and focused solely on the content or the message. What does God have to say in His Holy Word about emotions and feelings--positive and negative?

I would say the book is practical and relevant. For example, in chapter five, the authors teach readers three "emergency measures" for resisting emotional temptation. They are: 1) exercise self control, 2) cry out to God, 3) take one action (one obedient action).

And the book is definitely thought-provoking. In chapter six, the authors ask a lot of tough questions for readers to answer: "What are my working beliefs about God? How do I think about myself? What do I think about how things are going for me? How do my beliefs line up with the life-giving truth of the gospel?"

Favorite quotes:

  • Emotions play an integral role in our lives, from our relationships with God and others, to our memories, imaginations, and life experiences. God created our emotions to work in harmony with our other two most fundamental faculties: the mind and the will.
  • The myth that “emotions are bad” puts the blame in the wrong place. Emotions aren’t inherently bad or unruly, but sin has devastated our emotions. 
  • Emotions tell us what we value. They tell us about the people we care about and the things in life that we desire.  
  • Emotions also tell us what we believe. They reveal our take on reality. They tell us how we evaluate what is going on with the people and things that we value.
  • Nowhere in Scripture does God require us to examine and catalog every emotion. A cacophony of emotions tells us one thing above all: we must move to God. There is no feeling or jumble of feelings that we cannot bring to him. In fact, confusing emotions can be marvelous motivators, driving us to the only one who clears up our confusion.
  • When we seek emotions for God and not for ourselves, we will, by the grace of God, find true happiness. Only when we start with God can we handle our emotions; and in his Word, God tells us how we are supposed to feel. 
  • Godly emotions arise from godly beliefs and values. In other words, godly emotions spring from beliefs and values that correspond to the truths and values of God’s Word. By the same token, ungodly emotions flow from ungodly beliefs and values.  
  • If we spend twenty minutes a day reading our Bibles, but the remaining twenty-three hours and forty minutes ruminating on unbiblical thoughts, then it is no wonder that our sinful beliefs and values are so stubborn and our sinful emotions so strong. Sinful ruminating can reverse the good effects of time spent in God’s Word. It slows our growth and keeps us stuck in the same sinful emotions. We can’t expect to grow godly emotions in the soil of our sinful ruminations, so if we struggle to change our beliefs and values, this bad habit is the place to start.
  • We have to be deliberate, and we have to persist. But if we meditate on what is true, lovely, and admirable—all day long—we will cultivate godly beliefs and values from which obedient emotions will flourish (Phil. 4:8).
  • The longer we go without reading our Bibles, the less we want to read them. The more serving opportunities we pass up, the less we feel like serving, and the more times we skip church, the less we feel like going. If we procrastinate in our work, we feel less inclined to finish it. That’s because our faculties work together, and our actions (or inaction) affect how we feel. Waiting to feel before we act in obedience is a bad habit that bolsters our sinful emotions. Sinful beliefs and values only get stronger when we indulge our sinful feelings.  
  • God not only gives us Scripture, prayer, and the refreshing shelter of his church to sustain Christlike emotions, he punctuates our whole lives with gracious gifts that enliven our feelings.
  • Emotions are not dangerous. We are in danger, though, if our emotions are not satisfied in Christ.  

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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