Thursday, 24 June 2010

The place of feelings in decision-making

Often a Christian will enjoy security about the decisions they are making because of how they feel. They might declare, ‘I feel a sense of peace that this is the right thing to do.’ But are such feelings always a good indicator for wise decision-making?

The rationale for making 'peace' an indicator of knowing God's will is made by connecting Colossians 3:15 and Philippians 4:7. To the church in Colossae Paul talks of letting the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the church at Philippi he speaks of that peace which transcends all understanding.  However what is being spoken of in Colossians is the peace that should exist between individuals within the church and Philippains 4:7 is 'not being anxious but being prayerful about everything, and the result will be the enjoyment of peace’ (Saunders).

However Saunders suggests that we do not ignore subjective feelings of peace. ‘Is it not true … that when we are walking in the Spirit … doing His will as far as we know it, we do experience the peace of God which passes all understanding? There is a good case for the contention that the peace of God can be expected when one’s decision is in line with God’s will.’

In his classic work on guidance F. B. Meyer points to the fickle nature of feelings. ‘They are affected by the state of our health, changes in the weather, the society or absence of those we love.’ As we have seen a sense of peace in decision-making may be a gift from God.  We also may have a feeling of peace simply with the relief of having reached a decision, whether that decision is wise or not.  We may feel a lack of peace because we know the path that we should choose will involve hardship.  We may feel a false-peace because our plan of action secures our self-interest.  Positively we may feel peace because we know that we have made an effort to think that matter through and are confident that we are making a wise move.  We may feel a greater sense of peace because we are acting with a clear conscience before God and men (Acts 24:16).

However, we should be cautious on putting too much emphasis on putting emphasis on such feelings. The advice of Packer is most helpful: ‘We need to ask ourselves why we “feel” a particular course to be right and make ourselves give reasons.’

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