Why We Must Engage Both Mind and Heart

When I was a much younger Christian, I was taught that feelings were unreliable. I learned that God still loves me even when I don’t feel like He does—just as a chair would still support my weight even when I don’t feel like it would.

My feelings did not determine reality, I was reminded, and neither should they be allowed to dictate my actions. I was told that I didn’t have to wait until I felt like praying before I started to pray; I was to pray because it was in line with God’s will.

I’ve tried to keep this in mind, but I’ve found that it can be challenging to act against my own emotions. There were times when I willed myself to go to church or cell group, but my heart remained unwilling or even grudging towards God. Although I was obedient outwardly, I felt no joy inwardly.

That is how I’ve come to realize this: it’s not healthy to always act according to my mind without engaging my emotions.

After all, Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Luke 10:27). Both our heart and mind must be engaged in loving Him. Just as it isn’t wise to trust the heart without checking back with the mind, it isn’t healthy to always go with the mind without engaging the heart, either.

But how are we to do that when the heart and mind sometimes pull us in different directions? God has taught me a few things that helped me to see that this doesn’t always have to be an ongoing battle, but the heart and the mind can instead have an ongoing conversation.


Listen to our Emotions

God showed me that while my feelings aren’t always reliable, it doesn’t mean that I ignore them. Even though my emotions may not always tell the truth about reality, they do tell me something about myself.

So if I feel a sense of rejection even when I’m surrounded by loving family and friends, I won’t immediately think that they are actually rejecting me. But I would ask myself why I’m feeling this way. I would seek God’s help to reveal to me any deeper issue that’s causing me to feel like that. After I get some idea of what might have led to that feeling of rejection, I’d ask God to comfort and heal me, and to show me His truths about me and the situation. He might remind me, as He has in the past, that He has accepted me (Romans 15:7) as His beloved son (1 John 3:1). And He might show me how I’ve misunderstood the situation or misperceived the intents of others.

Processing my emotions with God can help me to apply His truths to myself. If I have been hurt by something, God can bind up my wounds (Psalm 147:3). If the underlying issue is a sinful attitude, He can show me where I’ve gone wrong, so that I can confess my sin to Him and repent of it.

By digging deeper into what our emotions may be trying to tell us, we can receive God’s comfort or cleansing from sin. Our minds can then use the truths revealed by God to align our emotions closer to Him and His truths.


Get our Treasure Right

That said, while emotions are important, it doesn’t mean that we need to be controlled by them. When I was younger, I thought that my emotions would always have a huge hold over my actions. If I felt like doing something, it’d take a lot for me to not do it. I believed that there was nothing I could do to change how I felt.

That is, until one day when God spoke to me through Matthew 6:21: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He brought to my attention that the verse didn’t say, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also”—which would mean what I love is dependent on how I feel—and if I don’t feel that way, then I can’t make myself love it.

However, what God was saying in the verse was this: what I intentionally choose to value will eventually become what my heart cherishes. This gives me a lot of encouragement because it means that I don’t have to helplessly succumb to the influence of my emotions!

For example, I didn’t use to like to pray or read the Word. But I asked the Lord to help me to want to treasure whatever was upon His heart. So, with God’s help, I began to pray and read the Word as my way of giving value to these things, regardless of whether I felt like doing so or not. Over time, my heart began to follow suit. Today, I love to pray and read the Word much more than I did in the past. Through this, I learned that what I choose to value with my actions can affect what I emotionally treasure in my heart.

There’s something my pastor used to say which I’ve come to experience personally: “When you see as God sees, you will do as God does. But sometimes, you have to do as God says before you can see as He sees.”

When my heart isn’t aligned with what is upon God’s heart, I’m very thankful that He has given me a mind that can lead my heart to prefer His ways. Instead of needing to first feel like I agree with or value what He says before I can obey Him, God showed me that—regardless of what I feel—when I choose to do what He says and lay my treasure where He wants me to, that would help me to see as He sees and so, treasure what He treasures in my heart.


Think Right Thoughts to Influence Emotions

And ultimately, we can also influence our emotions by thinking the right thoughts. I’ve heard a quote that goes, “You’re not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.” Another saying explained it this way:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

This, to me, underlies how our thoughts play a primary role in determining the kind of person we become and life we live. This must be why the Bible instructs us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This helped me to better appreciate why God’s Word exhorts us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)—and nothing is more excellent and praiseworthy than God and His Word, will, and ways. If these are what we think about more, our brains will not only retain them, but these thoughts will also affect our heart, and ultimately, our life.


In my desire to love God, I want to love Him with both my heart and my mind. American pastor and theologian Timothy Keller said, “You have a circumcised heart when what you ought to do and what you want to do are the same—pleasure and duty are the same.”

On our journey of letting God circumcise our heart more and more, I’m glad that God has given us ways for our heart and mind to engage each other so that we can love God fully. He is totally worthy of us loving Him with our whole being—because He’s the One who first loved us with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength.

ODJ: the real boss

July 6, 2013 

READ: 2 Timothy 2:23-26 

The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm (Exodus 14:14). 

Seven months later, American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke some words in response to attacks on American diplomatic missions in the Middle East that echoed my son’s convictions.

“When Christians are subject to insults to their faith, and that certainly happens, we expect them not to resort to violence,” Clinton said. “The same goes for all faiths. . . . Refraining from violence, then, is not a sign of weakness in one’s faith; it is . . . a sign that one’s faith is unshakable.”

Whether from the mouths of babes or seasoned leaders, there’s wisdom in the exhortation to refrain from fighting.

As Scripture strongly states: “Avoiding a fight is a mark of honour; only fools insist on quarrelling” (Proverbs 20:3); “An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin. Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honour” (29:22-23); “A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them” (15:18); “Greed causes fighting; trusting the Lord leads to prosperity. Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe” (28:25-26).

As followers of Jesus, let’s adhere to the apostle Paul’s advice, “Don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone . . . and be patient with difficult people” (2 Timothy 2:23-24).

—Roxanne Robbins
› Matthew 11:1-30

In 2 Timothy 4:7, what does Paul mean whenhe says he has “fought the good fight”? How does this type offighting differ from violence and retaliation? 
What has caused quarrels or fights in your life recently? How can you apply Scripture to help heal your relationship(s)? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: relative peace

May 23, 2013 

READ: Genesis 13:1-18

Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us (v.8).

A 60 year old man, atop a tractor, charged at his 69 year old brother in law who was harvesting hay astride his own tractor. The collision resulted in a damaged tyre and the tractor-crasher’s arrest. One law enforcement official commented, “We’ve responded on prior occasions to calls because of differences between the families.” While it’s a bit unclear what the man hoped to accomplish by confronting and crunching his brother in law, the story shows that family feuds can escalate to ridiculous levels if they’re not resolved.

Abram and his nephew Lot needed to settle a family issue regarding farmland because the area where they lived “could not support both [of them]” (Genesis 13:6). Scuffles broke out between their herdsmen. “Finally, Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us’ ” (v.8). Abram bravely took the first step towards peace, noting the need for harmony since they were “close relatives”.

Humbly, Abram said to Lot, “Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate” (v.9). This offer showed that family relationships were more important to Abram than satisfying his self-interest. Imagine what might have happened if he had left Lot in a cloud of dust, yelling over his shoulder: Get lost, kid. I’m your elder, and I’ve got first choice on the prime real estate around here! Instead, Abram kept his word and allowed Lot to settle in the lush Jordan Valley, while he set up camp in Canaan (vv.11-12).

Abram’s actions show how humility, generosity and selflessness can help us navigate through rough spots with our relatives. Jesus said: “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Why is it sometimes difficult to make peace with family members? How might a Christian seek peace without becoming a pushover?
How have the wounds of life tried to break your spirit? How might God be using what happened to make you a more considerate and compassionate person?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: stay hungry

May 4, 2013 

READ: Hosea 13:1-6 

When you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot Me (v.6).

It’s often more difficult to stay on top than it is to get there. This is true in sports: a young boxer trains hard as he fights his way through the ranks, but once he wins a championship he becomes lazy and loses his title to a new, hungrier challenger. This is also true in business. A rising star puts in long hours as she climbs the corporate ladder, but she loses her edge when she begins to enjoy the wealth and privileges that come with her success.

This is also true in our walk with God. Have you ever been spiritually dry? Your heart yearned for God in what seemed like a barren wilderness. You fought the malaise until finally you broke through. God mercifully illumined His Word as verses leapt off the page and into your heart. You shouted His praise and poured out your love and adoration. You thought you had tasted heaven.

If this has happened to you, you know that the days that follow a spiritual high are extremely dangerous. Firstly, we may become tempted to chase ever-escalating emotions. But feelings are fickle, and it’s impossible to create a high, let alone to stay there. 

Secondly, we may become content and overconfident in our spiritual life. We recklessly click on websites, watch films and share gossip that we normally wouldn’t. We feel so close to Jesus that we presume these actions must be okay, simply because we’re doing them. And so we fall—sometimes hard—and the cycle starts all over again. 

How can you stay hungry when you are spiritually full? Remember where your food comes from. God told Israel, “I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land” (Hosea 13:5). When you’re full of gratitude, there’s no room for pride (v.6).—Mike Wittmer

Read Philippians 3:12-21 to discover how we can stay hungry in our walk with Christ.
Do you feel spiritually full or hungry? Which is better? What can you do to thrive in both situations?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)