I enjoy working out, but I don’t always feel like working out. I usually feel better once I do but not always. The problem is feelings can’t determine behavior. When we let them, we’ll likely get in trouble. Emotions enhance life; they don’t drive life. When we allow emotions to determine what we do and don’t do, our wants override our needs.
Right now I feel like eating a piece of peppermint chocolate. The problem is there’s one readily available to me in the candy dish near my computer. I want to eat chocolate, but I know (1) I don’t need chocolate and (2) I’ll regret eating it. While it’s what I feel I want right now, it’s not really what I want. What I want is to moderate my diet and avoid undoing the effort of working out earlier today.
Yesterday I was excited to get to take a long walk outside unexpectedly. I paused my writing to allow a two-hour walk time. It was glorious. However, with nearly 30 minutes to go, I started thinking about returning to write. My creativity began to flow, and since my muscles were beginning to hurt at the same time, I felt like returning home to write. However, I knew the opportunity to walk outside was limited and that I’d wish for the same opportunity in days to come and wonder why I hadn’t taken full advantage of it while I could. I felt like stopping in the moment, but I knew I really wanted the rejuvenation of an as-long-as-possible outdoor walk, so I finished.
We can get so accustomed to feelings leading our behavior that we don’t realize what’s happening. We can assign other reasons and excuses for our behavior. A common one is “I don’t have time.” We all have the same amount of time, and if you’ve ever experienced time seemingly flying by or dragging, you’ll agree that while 24 hours is a measurable time, what we can fit into it isn’t always measurable or predictable. What we plan to get done in an hour at times doesn’t get done. Something we thought would take a full day takes a half day.
How you spend time has to do with priorities. Instead of “I don’t have time,” perhaps a more accurate statement is “I choose other things to occupy my time.” Yes, I understand that some things, such as work and family time, are “givens” in many people’s lives, so they might assume that block of time is occupied not by choice but by obligation. However, there are still choices.
We don’t have to make excuses for our choices when they’re good. Yes, I choose to get my work done and spend time with family, but instead of saying “I don’t have time” as if I’m a victim of my circumstance, I can say, “I’m choosing other things right now that limit any extra time I’d have for…” It’s not that you don’t have time for something extra. It’s that you’re choosing to spend time on other things. As long as you’re being obedient to God through the process, that’s okay. If you’re rationalizing your own wants, it’s not. If you’re letting your feelings guide what you do and don’t do, it’s not.
It’s really not your time to determine. Time is God’s gift to you, and you’re expected to steward it well, which means you should glorify God with it. After a busy travel schedule, I woke up on a Sunday morning and wanted to have a “junk day” instead of going to church. I don’t think God would have been angry with me for not going to church if he was prompting me to do something else that would have nourished or challenged me to grow in my relationship with him. That wasn’t the case. I just wanted to stay in bed, eat junk food and watch reality TV all day: not exactly nourishing or challenging. I felt like staying in bed, but I knew it wasn’t what I actually wanted, because I want what God wants. I want to be in a relationship with him in which I’m seeking his will, listening and being obedient to him and glorifying him in the process.
And God gives us what we ask for because we obey God’s commands and do what pleases him. This is what God commands: that we believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, and that we love each other, just as he commanded. (1 John 3:22-23)
The next time you feel you do or don’t want to do something and let those feelings go unchecked and guide your behavior, check with God. Ask him what he has planned, and be obedient despite your feelings.