Godtalk: Faith and Feelings

POST BY PKnott

We cannot promise that the passion and excitement we initially experience when we fall in love will remain that way forever. What we can promise is something more realistic - that we want to be faithful, to treat our spouse with respect, and always be an honest partner in trying to build a life together. We can't guarantee how we will always feel, but we can promise fidelity.

Beyond pointing us towards a more mature understanding of love, this is also a good image for faith and how it works. Faith too, in the end, is more about fidelity in action than fervour in feelings. We don't necessarily have to have warm and imaginative feelings about our faith. We don't need to be full of passion and fire. We only need to be faithful in our actions, and not betray what we believe in.

Faith means living with charity, peace, patience kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control. Ga15.22 We don't need to feel it; we just need to do it. Faith and love are too easily identified with warm feelings, passion, fervour, and romantic fire.

Those feelings are part of life’s mystery, a part we are meant to embrace and enjoy when they happen.

But wonderful as these feelings can be, they are fragile and ephemeral, as all experience shows. Our world can change in fifteen seconds: it takes no more than that to fall in love. Passionate and romantic feelings are part of love and faith, but not the deepest part, and not a part over which we have much emotional control.

Apart from brief periods, faith for some of us may never be something that fires our emotions and fills us with warm feelings. We may have to settle for a faith that says to God, others, and ourselves: I can't guarantee how I will feel on any given day,  I can't promise that I will always feel passionate about my faith,

But I can promise that I will be faithful, that I will act with respect towards others, and I will always do what I can to help others' and God's cause in this world. I can't guarantee how I will always feel, but I can live in the firm resolve never to betray what I believe in. That will do.            

Peter Knott SJ