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frames and feelings

"In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, 'So shall your offspring be.'  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb.  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised."  (Romans 4:18-21 ESV) 

Early in my Christian life I learned that my feelings and emotions, and my mental state of mind, did not change the certainty of God's promises.   The "train" of our Christian life is pulled and energized by the facts of the great salvation that Christ accomplished for us.  Our faith is placed in (attached to) the great promises of God, not in how we feel at any moment.  As important as feelings may be -- and we are not to be unemotional creatures -- nonetheless, feelings are fallible and changeable, and are meant to be directed and pulled by the unchanging promises of God in whom we trust. 


William Romaine writes, "Abraham against hope believed, in hope: so do all his children. They believe the pardon of sin, victory over sin, and the death of sin; the immortality of the body, though crumbled to dust and atoms; the second coming of Christ, and the eternal state of happiness or misery.  Faith looks at God’s word, calling the things which be not as though they were, and is commonly forced to contradict sense. Sense judges from what it sees —faith from what God says. Sense is governed by what appears—faith by what God says shall be. Sense looks inward—faith looks outward. Faith can answer the seeming contradictions which sense opposes to it, from the word of God, which cannot be broken. And when sense is ready to despair, and all its fine frames and feelings are gone, then it it is the believer’s happy privilege still to trust in the Lord, and to have a good hope because of the word of his grace."  ~ William Romaine, from The Life of Faith (1793)

"Frames and feelings" is a common phrase used by 18th and 19th century Christian writers to describe mental states of mind and inward feelings, or religious emotions.  What we feel to be true -- in our present state of mind -- becomes more important to us than what God has plainly said.   John Newton once wrote, "Yet in this state of infirmity, nothing is perfect; and our natural temperament and disposition will have more influence upon our religious sensations, than we are ordinarily aware. It is well to know how to make proper allowances and abatement upon this topic, in the judgment we form both of ourselves and of others. Many good people are distressed and alternately elated—by frames and feelings, which perhaps are more constitutional than properly religious experiences."  ~ John Newton, Letters, Sept. 17, 1776.

In other words, much of our mental and emotional outlook, whether of despondency or elation, may be due more to our temperament and disposition rather than to God's Word and Spirit.  

May we ever remember to refocus our view!  So, no matter how we feel, no matter what our state of mind is, we are to take God at his word and trust his promises.  For he alone is truthful, infallible, and unchanging. 


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