Preparing for Lent: Thoughts and Feelings


February 26th — 8th Email

It is very important to note the difference between “thoughts” and “feelings” and the relationship they have to one another.  To a large extent we can’t control our feelings.  Both happy and challenging emotions arise spontaneously in the course of our day.  We have thoughts in relation to these feelings that can affect our emotions either positively or negatively.  For instance a feeling of joy arises and if our thoughts move in the direction of expressing gratitude we can extend or deepen the joyful feeling.  On the other hand, if we find ourselves feeling blue our thoughts can have the effect of reinforcing the feeling: “My life is hopeless,”  “I’m worthless”— sending us in a tailspin.

Though in general, we have little freedom regarding our emotions, we do have some freedom to choose the way we respond to our emotions with our thoughts.  If we can pay attention to the feelings that arise within us, we can choose thoughts that bring our faith to bear before a negative mood takes us hostage.  This sort of thing is expressed frequently in the psalms:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
(Psalm 43:5)

When we are tempted to pass judgement on ourselves as being worthless, we can remind ourselves that God has claimed us as beloved daughters and sons.  When we begin to despair with feelings of hopelessness, we can remind ourselves that our future is in God’s hands, and God will not forsake us.