Why is it so difficult to reconcile the mind and heart regarding faith in Jesus Christ?

Q. Why is it so difficult to reconcile the mind and heart regarding faith in Jesus Christ?

I believe you are observing that there are things we know in our heads to be true about faith in Jesus that we don’t always feel to be true in our hearts, and you are asking why that is so.

I think the answer is that there is a difference between the way our minds and hearts work. Unless we have some motive for rationalizing things away, our minds work pretty straightforwardly to understand and accept things that are true, particularly when we are committed believers learning in community under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Our feelings, on the other hand, are influenced by countless factors, and as a result they do not always correspond to the objective reality of our situation.

So we may very well be walking in fellowship with God and in obedience to God, with no known sin or willful disobedience between us and him, and yet God may still feel distant for some reason, even though we know in our heads that he isn’t. Or we may know Jesus’ promise perfectly well, “Whoever comes to me, I will never turn away,” and yet we may still feel doubts about whether God has accepted us.

But the Bible itself addresses this very issue. The apostle John wrote in his first letter, “When we love others, we know that we belong to the truth, and we feel at ease in the presence of God. But even if we don’t feel at ease, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” This statement addresses the issue of a possible disconnect between what we know and what we feel. It tells us to rely on a third faculty, our capacity for faith and trust, to mediate between our heads and our hearts. We are to rest assured that whatever we might be feeling at any given moment, God knows that we truly love and trust and believe in him, and we can rely on that.

And I am convinced, from what I have seen in many years as a pastor, that if we continue to live out our faith, not relying on what we feel, but on what we know, our feelings will come around eventually. The steady influence of a committed way of life will come to outweigh the scattered momentary influences of all those different factors that go into determining how we feel.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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