This winter our church has been partnering with Agape Family Services, a Longmont-based non-profit which helps people who have been homeless to transition to independence. Agape provides shelter, food, help with overcoming addiction and assistance in finding jobs and a place to live during their 6 month program.
White Fields partners with Agape by teaching a Tuesday morning Bible study for those in the program. It has been great seeing Agape’s work, the effectiveness of the program, and how the people are progressing. One man, for example, who comes to Bible study every week and reads his Bible avidly has, with Agape’s help, gotten sober, found a job, married his girlfriend and is working on finding a place to live when he graduates from the program in the spring. It has been great to witness his progress over the past few months, and to see his completion and countenance improve each week.
This past Tuesday, a man from White Fields named Brad led the Bible study. Brad used to fly corporate jets for a living, and he used an example from that world to illustrate what it means to live and walk by faith:
When Trusting Your Feelings Will Kill You
Brad said that pilots often experience “spacial disorientation”, which means that even if the plane is flying perfectly level, they will feel like they are tilted to one side, and that the plane isn’t going straight, when it actually is.
The danger with this is that if the plane is actually tilted, it will pick up momentum and spiral out of control. So this feeling of “spacial disorientation” triggers panic in your mind and body which tells you that you need to straighten out the plane or else you’re going to spiral out of control – except, if the pilot follows that feeling and “corrects” the plane, they will actually be tilting the plane which can result in entering into a “death spiral” from which they can’t pull out.
The pilot needs to know that what their body and mind are telling them might be incorrect, and rather than relying on those feelings, what they need to do is trust their instruments.
On the instrument panel, a pilot has multiple gyros (in case one fails), which tell them whether they are level. It is an act of faith to trust your instruments rather than your feelings, but if you don’t, you (and your passengers) will experience disaster and tragedy.
Slow Down and Think
I recently finished reading Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, in which he talks about rapid cognition and intuition. In the book, he discusses this same issue: that generally our minds are very powerful and our rapid cognition is trustworthy, but sometimes it’s not, and we must slow down in order to make the right decision.
He used the example of police brutality in the cases of Rodney King and other incidents, and how rather than being caused primarily by racism, they are caused by officers being in a heightened state of arousal (high heart rate) as a result of a chase, which causes their minds to shut off, and they begin acting without thinking. As a result of research, police departments have gone to great lengths to slow down procedures in order to create more “white space” for officers to be able to think before acting, knowing that sometimes their instincts will lead them to do things in an instant which they wouldn’t have done had they had time to think.
Landing the Plane
Similarly, as Christians, we know that our hearts can be deceitful (Jeremiah 17:19). Proverbs 14:12 tells us that ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.’
So rather than “following our hearts” or doing what feels good in the moment, it is important to think before we act, and trust our instruments, i.e. what God’s Word says is true, not just what we might feel in the moment.
This applies to how we think about ourselves, how we assess our situations and circumstances, and how we react to others.
In our recent study of Habakkuk, we saw that Habakkuk was a man who was struggling to understand why God was allowing certain things to happen, and why God had chosen a course of action which, to Habakkuk, seemed wrong and unfair. God’s response was to remind Habakkuk to “trust the instruments” in those instances when things seemed to be spiraling out of control; he was to remember who God is (e.g. sovereign, good, just), and then look at his circumstances through that lens, trusting that God was working out a plan, even if Habakkuk couldn’t see the whole thing just yet.
You can listen to that study of Habakkuk here: Habakkuk: The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
May we be those who trust the instruments God has given us, lest we end up off-course or in a death spiral – so we reach our final destination.
9 thoughts on “Trust Your Instruments”
This is very important stuff. Even those of us (like me) who scoff at the “trust your feelings” mantra are often swayed by feelings on so many different levels.
And I think there can be an over-reaction to this as well, in which we begin to discount the importance of our feelings, or even begin to think as if feelings are bad and something to be suppressed. Feelings and emotions are good things, gifts from God, they’re just not always an accurate gauge of the truth.
I trust my feelings because they usually lead me the right way.
Except when they don’t.
I think my feelings are usually correct. The problem is when I do not listen to my feelings and I listen to other people.
I feel like your feelings about your feelings are incorrect.
Haha yes, I feel there is a place for following “gut” feelings. We do have consciences. I think of the battle between following the spirit or the flesh. You can describe either as following “feelings” (Feeling “led by the spirit”). Maybe fleshly feelings are baser, more self-centered? Whereas true spiritual leading comes from seeking God? And the spiritual leading goes hand in hand with truths we know about God through the Bible. I think the “instruments” example applies both in discerning/directing our spiritual feeling and also comes into play when we are facing struggles and temptations such that the needs and desires of the flesh are heightened and “spiritual feelings” aren’t as apparent. Then we have to lean on what we know.
I thought “Blink” was a very insightful book and might be applicable to the comments about feelings. One of the other stories in the book was of a experienced fireman who knew something was wrong in a fire but couldn’t put his finger on it.
His feelings were guided by his knowledge to correctly get out of the building before it collapsed. Feelings by itself might have led him the wrong way
That’s a great point Bob!