The Squeezings of my Brain Grapes.
It’s Ok To Feel How You Feel

When I talk with Christians, one of the things I hear most often is, “Look, I know I’m wrong to feel like this, but…”

I bet you can relate.  Maybe you feel jealous of somebody.  Maybe you feel mad about something.  Or maybe you feel like God isn’t really coming through for you.  It makes sense that we’d look at those kind of feelings and say, “Well, that’s not good!”

But here’s the surprising thing: you aren’t wrong to feel like that.  Whatever it is – jealous, mad, lonely, whatever – you aren’t wrong to feel that way.

The reason why is simple.  Feelings are neither good or bad.  They’re just feelings.  We all have them, and they come into our hearts and minds whether we want them there or not.

It’s what you do with your feelings that matters.  And I’d like to suggest a step one that will always be the right answer, the safe answer, and the best answer.

Go tell God how you feel.

Now, I bet that sounds right.  Sure.  But, how many of us have things in our life where we’d never dream of simply telling God, “Here’s how I feel”?

Let’s look at some examples.

“God, I feel riled-up, and I really want to look at porn right now.”

“God, I feel really mad at my parents, and I think they’re jerks, and I want to go get even with them.”

“God, I feel so mad at you.  This awful thing is going on in my life, and you could stop it, and it feels like you just don’t want to.”

Whoa.  Now, that feels a little crazy.  Maybe too far.  Can’t be right.  But before we dismiss it, let’s turn to the Bible, and remind ourselves of what old King David said to God:

“God, why have you deserted me?  Why do you seem to be so far away when I need you to save me?  Why do you seem to be so far away that you can’t hear my groans? God, I cry out…but you don’t answer.” (Psalm 22:1-2, NIRV)

Dang – now, to me, that feels almost scandalous!  Dude is saying, “God it feels like you’ve just straight up sold me out!”  Surely God can’t be cool with that! 

But then we remember that the Bible describes David as “a man after God’s own heart.”  And we remember that Jesus – who was perfect – quoted that exact passage of Scripture right before he died.

As it turns out, this kind of honesty is exactly what God is looking for.  In fact, God makes an offer of how he’ll respond to our courageous honesty:

“Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.” (Psalm 55:22, MSG)

Wow.  God is saying: be real with me.  Tell me how you feel.  Tell me what’s really going on in your heart and mind.  And, when you do, you’ll discover that I’m giving you the strength that you need right in that moment.

It’s ok to feel how you feel.  Just go tell God about it.  And let Him give you what you need to keep on walking with Him.  Cause He loves you like that.

Does Faith Ever Stay Around?

bmentzer asked you:
I’m not used to seeing positive Christian things on tumblr - Maybe I wasn’t looking for it but I’m glad I stumbled onto this! I guess my question would be is does “It” ever stick? do Faith/Beliefs ever stay around? I’ve had so many ups and downs in my journey that I’ve found that it’s easier to to not expect my relationship with God to go anywhere. Maybe this is an experience vs relationship issue?

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey sis,

Well, in terms of positive Christian things on Tumblr, we can load you up!  Check out these awesome blogs:

Thebridgechicago.tumblr.com
Unkaglen.tumblr.com
Leeyounger.tumblr.com

All awesome, and all friends of mine.

Now, then, do faith and beliefs ever stay around?  Well, I think it depends what you mean.

What I’m betting you mean is, “Do the emotions of religion ever stick around?”  Good question.

When I was growing up, I associated having a walk or relationship with God with my feelings.  When I felt “spiritual”, I figured I was doing good spiritually.  And when I felt less spiritual, I figured something had gone wrong.

The problem here is that feelings come and go.  That’s part of what makes them “feelings”.  And that here-today-gone-tomorrow quality of our emotions is normal.  In fact, when Jesus was talking about living life as a Christian, he didn’t say that the emotions might wear off, he said that when they wore off, we should be prepared.  (Check out Matthew 13:1-23 in The Message translation, and in particular verses 20-21.)

So, given this, we’ll want to base our walk with God on something stronger and more permanent than feelings.  Now the Bible answer here is that we live by faith - a supernaturally strong ability to believe God’s promises that in fact comes from God.  But, practically speaking, how does that work out?

Well, see, one of the promises God has made – including to you – is that there is a point and purpose to your life.  (Check out Ephesians 2:10.)  The way that we get to that destination is by following God’s lead, regardless of how we’re feeling about it at the moment.

If I could suggest something to you, it would be to begin looking for – and asking God for – a burden to serve other people.  With spiritual stuff, it’s really easy to get stuck in our own heads.  This much I know: God’s purpose for your life revolves around serving others. 

So, start serving others.  Let your walk and faith become less about whether or not you suck (you don’t) and more about hooking up people going through a rough time.  If you’ll do that, I bet you’ll find that the ups and downs don’t bother you the same way they used to.  And I bet you’ll start to find a conviction and sense of calling within you – a whisper from the Holy Spirit – that doesn’t come and go.

How Do I Deal With Feeling Far From God?

snickleefritzz asked you:
Hey Jed, would you have any advice for someone who is going to a Bible school but recently feels far away from God? Not mentioning who it is or anything ;)

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Tiffany,

Thanks for your question, sis!  And, just as a side note, I dig your photography!

The first thing I would offer, in terms of feeling far from God, is that it’s not something you need to feel ashamed of.  David, who the Bible describes as “a man after God’s own heart”, wrote both Psalm 13 and Psalm 22.  And those are pretty dang “feeling far from God” Psalms!

So, let’s take a deep breath, and set down that sense of shame.  I know that, particularly somewhere like a Bible school, there can be pressure to act like everything’s OK all the time.  Well, it isn’t, and it ain’t gonna be, so let’s just let that go.

The thing we want to determine is: where is this feeling coming from?  You and I, as human beings, are capable of having strong emotions for a wide variety of reasons.  Some of them stem from rather simple things.  Ever had a rough night’s sleep, and spent the next day pretty sure that everyone hates you?  Ever been really hungry, and you inexplicably find that you hate everyone around you?  See what I mean?  Huge emotion; small cause.

And, sometimes, our emotions are dislocated – there’s something substantial behind them, but the connection isn’t obvious.   So, in your life, family drama, a sense of uncertainty about the future, loneliness, and discouragement – just as examples – can all lead to feeling far from God.  None of those things are related to actually being far from God, but any one of them can lead you to feeling that way.

Now, Tiffany, I should note that, when Christians ask about feeling far from God, very often, they’re quietly afraid that the emotional distance they feel is the result of some secret and terrible sin, and, perhaps, one they’re not even aware of.

For what it’s worth, I haven’t found that – the secret sin – to be the case very often.  But, the generalized guilt that a lot of Christian carry around – feeling bad just cause – will absolutely, no question, mess with your head, and lead you to feel not only far from God, but unworthy of his love and grace and acceptance.  And it’s a nasty little lie.

So, what I’d encourage you to do is, first, for the next few days, get enough sleep, eat regular meals, and drink plenty of water, and see how you feel.  If you’re still feeling off, spend some time praying and journaling, and talking with a trusted friend or mentor, and try and get a sense of “where is this coming from?”  In particular, look for subjects that come up again and again.  If your parents’ troubled marriage – as an example – keeps coming up as you think, pray, journal, and talk, then that’s a good sign that that’s what you’re concerned about.  And then you can start dealing with that situation directly.

Lastly, sis, here’s what I know: God is not far from you.  Even if the worst was true, and you felt far from God because you were running away, you just turn around, and He’s right there.  That’s the kind of love he has for you.  So don’t be ashamed, and don’t be afraid.  Your Father is crazy about you.

Can I Keep My Friend From Having Sex With Her Boyfriend?

guidetheblind asked you:
My friend just got her first boyfriend. They’re both self-professed Christians. They shared their first kiss. I always thought he was a nice guy, but the more she tells me about him, the more I start to not like him as much. She just told me that he said to her that he wants to have sex with her. She’s come to me for help. I think she should get out NOW. But she really likes him, and says that she’s never felt this way about a guy before.

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey sis,

Well, here we have the age-old problem of perspective.  You’re able to see something clearly that your friend who’s down-in-it is having a much harder time realizing.

If I can read between the lines of what you’re saying, I’m hearing that we have a dude that, at first glance, seems nice enough and Christian and everything.  But, behind closed doors, he starts acting more and more like a tool.  He doesn’t want to respect the boundaries of the person he’s with, which is a major problem, but now your friend has an emotional investment that clouds the issue.

Well, look, of course, sex outside of marriage is not God’s plan, and I think we’re all clear on that.  And, if a person can’t respect your boundaries, you shouldn’t be with them.  And, if you can’t set and keep boundaries yourself, you shouldn’t be in a relationship at all. 

But none of that is the critical issue, and that’s because of the last thing you said: “she’s never felt this way about a guy before.”

One of the things about being human is that we want our emotions to define reality for us.  The problem is that they can’t. 

If you go to a casino, you’ll see dozens of gambling addicts, about to lose their shirt, who are convinced to the core of their soul that this next hand of blackjack, this next spin on the roulette wheel, or this next roll of the dice at the craps table is going to turn everything around.  You can remind them of all the times they’ve lost the rent check doing this, explain to them the mathematical certainty that they will lose, exhort them that their wife will leave them if it ever happens again, but none of that will make any difference.  Because, in their heart, this time is different.  They can feel it.

I mention that to mention this: the hard decision before your friend is not one of right versus wrong, of premarital sex versus chastity.  The hard decision is going with emotion versus going with what you know to be true.

The truth, sis, is that your friend is almost certain to go with emotion, sleep with a guy she shouldn’t, and get her heart broken.  I hope I’m wrong about that, but that’s the likely outcome.  In truth, I’m guessing she’s already made her choice on this, and may have done far more with her boyfriend than she’s letting on to you.

It’s important for you to know that it isn’t on you to fix this situation.  That’s out of your hands.  What you can do now is to make sure your friend knows that you love her, even if she makes really dumb decisions.  To make sure that she knows that you aren’t judging on her today, and that you won’t be at any point down the road, either.

You’ll want to make sure your friend knows that because the good news is that there is life after this bad relationship.  There will come a point where your friend will be ready for something new, and that’s when we want to encourage her about what we do moving forward.  And here’s what we do moving forward:

  • Pray about and set what my emotional, relational, financial, and sexual boundaries are now, while I’m not in a relationship.
  • Pray about and decide now what a dealbreaker is in a relationship with a future guy.  (Hint: Him pressuring me into sex should be on that list.)
  • Pray about and decide now what the exit strategy is going to be if I’m with a guy who violates my boundaries or crosses a dealbreaker line.  In other words: what’s my plan for breaking it off?  How do I practically do that?

Relationships are for grown folks.  And grown folks don’t let their emotions tell them what to do.  Unfortunately, the path to being grown often involves some avoidable heartbreak along the way.  For your friend, she’s lucky to have you ready to walk that next mile with her after that heartbreak has come and gone.

Should I Get Baptized?

lovedbythesavior asked you:
I am thinking of getting baptized, but recently I’ve been feeling distant from God. And some fellow believers tell me I should get baptized. Should I wait till the flame in my heart is burning?

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Laura,

Great question.  I think you should get baptized.  But it’s important to understand why.

I bet you’ve heard this before: we live by faith, not feelings.  Most of us have heard that phrase at one point or another, but I think a lot of us struggle with understanding what it really means.

Faith is a special kind of strength that God gives us in order to choose to trust Him.  But, it’s important to note that the trust is still a decision you make.  You choose to follow the Lord, or you don’t.  He provides the supernatural strength (faith) that you need in order to do it, but the choice is yours.

Why does that matter?  It matters because most of us are waiting to be bowled over.  We want to be overwhelmed by positive feelings about God, or we want to be overwhelmed by passions for something else.  Either way, we want to be overwhelmed.

But that isn’t how mature people live, and that’s not how God wants us to live.  Mature folks take some time, consider the options before them, weigh the costs, and, at last, make a decision.  Emotions don’t enter the equation on that.

This is important because, as you choose to follow the Lord, you will face hard times.  This is a guarantee.  And, in those moments, you will not feel good about the situation.  And, at that point, you have to have something else to keep you going.  Jesus talked about exactly this phenomenon:

“And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.” (Mark 4:16-17, MSG)

In those moments of difficulty – which, again, are a certainty, not a possibility – faith is the thing that keeps us going.  This inexplicable, supernatural, amazing strength to keep on believing God’s promises, no matter what it looks like, and no matter how we feel about it.  That’s what drives the train.

Now, let’s talk about the other side of this equation.  The Devil, as it turns out, is a salesman.  That’s his real skill.  He can’t make you sin, he can only try and convince that you that’s it’s your best – and, really, only – option.

Given that, he will go after your feelings every chance he gets.  Again, he can’t stop you from following the Lord.  But he can – and will – chant in your ear, nonstop, “You’re a fool, this will never work out, everyone thinks you’re a idiot, you can’t pull this off, why are you even trying?”

I mention the enemy, and his involvement, because, I think it’s worth considering that, just maybe, he doesn’t want to see you get baptized.

A baptism is an outward expression of an inward change.  You’re publicly expressing to the world – and to yourself – “Yes, I am about this Jesus thing.  I’m on it, I’m not ashamed of it, and that’s the case from now on, period.”  Well, that’s a heck of a thing, and who knows what amazing stuff the Lord would bring out of it?  I know this much: it’d be pretty awesome.

So, if the Devil’s scared of that happening, his only real play is to try and mess with your feelings, and get you in a fog of, “Man, I don’t really feel that close to God, I don’t know how ‘on’ this thing I really am, maybe we should just slow it down for a minute.”

The thing I’d encourage you to do is to pray, read your Bible, and seek advice from older Christians on the question: is God calling you to go on and get baptized?  If He isn’t, than no worries.  If He is, then feelings don’t change that.  Certainly, it’d be good to talk your feelings out with an older Christian just so you can put your concerns to rest.  But, Laura, you’re the kind of girl that’s in-it-to-win-it.  That means you live by faith, and that means that when God calls you to do something, you just go on and do that thing.

Bottom line: We’re praying for you, sis, and we’ve got your back.  And we can’t wait to see a super cool photo or two from your baptism.

When Should I Be Worried About My Walk With God?

Anonymous asked:

What should I do when I am having a hard time feeling God? A few weeks ago I was on fire for Him, and had been for a while, but lately I’m having a hard time even feeling that He is with me. I have continued reading my Bible and praying on a regular basis, but I don’t feel like it’s helping. I’ve asked for Him to fill me with the Holy Spirit, reveal to me my sins that would keep me separated from Him, etc. Nothing seems to be changing, and it scares me.

Jed Brewer replied:

This is a great question, and it’s something that a lot of people wonder about and struggle with, and I commend you for having the courage to ask it.

The first thing that we want to be clear on is that we don’t live by feelings.  This Christian life is lived by faith, which is, ultimately, a special kind of strength that we receive from God, which enables us to make the decision to trust God.  That trust is then brought-to-life in the choices we make and the way we live.  We should note that feelings don’t come into play anywhere in here.

And that’s important, because feelings come and go, and feeling go up and down.  You will find, as you walk with the Lord, that he will bring you to places and ask you to do things that you really don’t feel excited about.  This is normal.  (Read Matthew 21:28-32)  Likewise, you will probably find, in your life, that you have moments of feeling really good about a direction or idea you’re considering.  And then you’ll pray and ask for wisdom, and the resounding reply will be, “Holy cow - do not do that!”

Of course, Jesus spelled all of this out directly.  In Matthew 13, he tells a famous story about a Farmer planting seeds.  You should read the whole thing, but here’s the important bit: “The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.” (Vs. 20-21 MSG)

What Jesus is saying is that emotion can’t drive the bus in our relationship with God.  It just won’t work, ‘cause there’s nothing to it.

And that leads us to the next thing – there’s nothing to it.  We have a way (all of us) of thinking that our emotions must mean something.  The problem is, they really don’t have to.  I don’t say this to in any way make light of your question, but, here are things that can cause you to feel the way you have described in your question:

-       being overtired

-       being stressed out

-       having your period (for ladies)

-       being sexually frustrated (for guys)

-       being overworked

-       having a cold

When we feel off, we have a way of thinking it must be this huge big deal where we’ve lost our fire and there’s some secret sin in our lives and perhaps God has rejected us.  (The first two are rarely ever the case, and that last one never is.)  But, often, the truth is something far simpler: we need a hot shower, a hot meal, and a good night’s sleep.

Of course, many times, we have strong feelings, and they are connected to something real, and serious, it’s just not the thing we think.  So, for example, if your family situation is difficult, that often leads to the feelings you’ve described.  Likewise, high stress levels over a long period (like, if you were in school and you were constantly pressured to excel) can lead us to the same place.  Both of those are real problems, neither of them say anything about you-and-God, but both of them can lead us to where our feelings about us-and-God are out of whack.

So, where does that leave us?

First, sit down with God and just tell him how you’re feeling.  If you’re feeling off, disconnected, out-of-sorts, blah, numb - tell him that.  He understands, and he wants to hear it.  Ask him for faith to believe what he says even when you don’t feel it.

Then, run a mental checklist.  On the simpler side, do you need to get some sleep or have a meal or get a weekend to yourself?  If so, hook that up and take some good care of you.  That is both right and necessary.

If we’re not seeing anything there, ask the Lord for wisdom about if there are larger things in your life (like family drama or school pressure) that are wearing on you, and perhaps you’re not seeing them.  Sit down with an older Christian friend and talk stuff out – this has a way of bringing things to light.

Lastly, it will help – a lot – to get out of your own head.  The best way to do that is to find people in need and do something to hook them up.  Go swing a hammer with Habitat for Humanity.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen.  Go by the nursing home and visit with folks there.  Get your focus off of you and onto other people.

Finally, don’t get discouraged.  God loves you, he believes in you, and he’s not going anywhere.  The walk you’re on has ups and downs and twists and turns.  God knows that and understands - you are riding a bucking bronco, not a pony.  Make the firm decision to never let go, no matter what.  And, then, having made it, let yourself relax.