What are feelings anyway?

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On the way to church recently my 7 year old daughter asked, “Momma, what are feelings?”

I started to say, “They’re how you feel.  I mean they are what you feel…I mean…ahhh!!!”

I couldn’t figure out how to define it without using the word “feel.”  I thought if I used the word emotion it would open up another definition discussion which I was ill-prepared to have.


(Just saying that word makes me think of that song…”Feelings, nothing more than feelings…”  Great. Now it’s stuck in my head.  And I apologize because now it’s probably stuck in your head too.)

I ended up saying, “Sweetie, feelings are the way you feel – like happy, sad, scared, excited…”  I think she understood.

I wish I understood feelings…those dreaded emotions.

Lately emotions have come up a lot.  I don’t even know if I should use the word lately in this sentence…I have emotions and they come up a lot (sometimes that’s an unfortunate thing).

I’ve been studying Philippians for the past couple of months.  This past week I was in the 4th chapter – Paul says, “rejoice in the Lord always.”

I had to ask, “What does rejoicing in the Lord always look like in my life?”

I think, for me, right now it is trusting despite my circumstances and my feelings and emotions.

I can really struggle with my emotions based on my circumstances.  Lately I seem to have tears in my eyes at odd times throughout any given day.

Yesterday my youngest daughter had a really bad day.  She was angry all day – slamming things and saying words like, “I wish you weren’t my mommy.”  She is a very difficult little person sometimes…there aren’t many things I can do to convince her to choose to be good.

She needs love and affirmation a lot.  Sometimes it’s exactly what she needs and exactly what I don’t believe she deserves and it isn’t what I really want to do either…I want the time out to end all time outs! (for her and me)

But my little girl was a ragged mess yesterday and I decided to love on her instead of endless timeouts and taking-tos.  She wasn’t perfect afterwards, said but she was oh so much better.  We were both better.

Instead of being crushed by her behavior and my fears about parenting her, I focused on the good in my daughter.  And there is a lot of good under the feisty little girl she so often shows me.

But without any warning, while I was holding her, I felt overcome by the massive amount of things in my life that are stealing my joy.

Can something steal my joy?

I think something can definitely try to mess with my joy – but my joy isn’t about my circumstances or the people in my lives…or even my feelings.  Ultimately, my joy is about Christ.

Right before Paul says to rejoice in the Lord, he addresses an issue between two women in the church.  I believe maybe Paul’s point it to remind them that Jesus is more important than any issues they have in their lives, or difficult people they have to deal with daily.

So if God commands we rejoice, we have to be able to do it right?  God doesn’t call us to do anything that He will not enable us to do.

But when tears spring to my eyes and I feel completely overcome by all the unknowns, the struggles and the fears, I’m not close to rejoicing…I’m close to crumbling. It’s such a struggle to rejoice.  I don’t feel like rejoicing…I feel like crying, wallowing, complaining, moaning, and woe-is-me-ing.  I feel afraid, concerned, frustrated and anxious.

It’s those fears and anxieties that keep me up at night.  I’m in a season of sleeplessness – which I have to say has arrived at an incredibly inconvenient time.  I have a lot to do.

Last night was particularly difficult. I was feeling completely undone.  Thousands of thoughts, fears and feelings tumbled through my head and heart.  Sleep was elusive.  I got up at 3 am and did school work…I wish instead that I had put my face in the Word.  Had I done that I’m sure I’d have had a better chance of resting.

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Instead I read about assessing student achievement – 10 pages on how to construct a multiple-choice test…seriously how was I NOT asleep after that!?!  And when I finally decided to try the sleep thing again my 6 year old was ready to start her day…with me.

While she colored, I did more homework. Until I received a text from a dear friend which reminded me that God wants me in the Word.  Duh.

So I opened up my Bible study and let me share the verses God gave me.

Psalm 55:22 Cast all your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Isaiah 26:3-4 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 41:10   fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 43:1-2 Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Hebrews 13:5-6 …be content with what I have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.  So we can confidently say, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

It was a soothing balm to my weary heart.  I couldn’t help but be amazed at God’s love for me.  He asks me to do these things that are all wonderful things – do you know what I mean?  It’s like a parent saying, “Hey, your bag looks heavy, sweetheart.  May I carry it for you?  Let me have that and you just follow me.  Don’t be afraid.  Let me lead you. I love you and I will take care of you.”

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And not only does He say all those things, He promises these:

He will sustain me…strengthen, provide for, prepare, direct and establish me.

He will not permit me to be moved.

He will keep me in perfect peace.

He will be with me.

He will be my God.

He will strengthen me.

He will help me.

He will uphold me with his righteous right hand.

He has redeemed me.

He has called me by name.

He has made me his own.

He will be with me.

He is my helper.

He will never leave me

He will never forsake me.

He will exalt me.

He cares for me.

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So which one of those stood out to you?  I’m hard pressed to pick one. Throughout any day I need to remind myself of at least one of these promises of God.

In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep or in the middle of the day when I feel on the verge of tears or a nervous breakdown (or both), I get so frustrated that I’m struggling with fear or anxious thoughts.  I know better.  I know the Truth. Why do I struggle so?

Lord, why?  I know you.  I’m in your Word.  I’m seeking godly counsel.  I’m trusting you for the day…or am I?

How do I live in the reality of what those verses tell me…those things that I believe but can’t seem to live?

I don’t know yet.  Although I will say that right now there is just so much and I find myself feeling similarly to days following my ex-husband’s abandonment.  That beautifully awful place where I feel such sorrow and fear but I see God meeting me at every turn.

I know Him better in these moments.

I’m at a place where I understand the living today idea.  I can only live today – I can’t live tomorrow or a month or a year or 10 down the road.  Just today.  That is all God asks me to do.

So I’m trying to live faithfully in today.  It’s challenging, but there’s a relief in it.

I’m trying to figure out how to put it into words.  It’s definitely a way of thinking for me.  I’m purposefully keeping my head in today…just trying to work on the massive amount of stuff that today has for me.  Honestly there is plenty there to keep me occupied…mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

So how in the world did I get from the feelings question in the car to this?  Feelings…they do take us to interesting and unexpected places. J

I think this is a topic we will all be coming back to a lot.  How to really trust God.

I think He has given us the answer already —

  • cast my burden on Him,
  • keep my mind fixed on him,
  • trust him,
  • be unafraid,
  • don’t be dismayed, discouraged, distressed, or troubled
  • be content, and
  • say confidently, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

“I will not leave you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous…”  Joshua 1:5-6

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Lord, I don’t presume to have the answers to life’s struggles, but I do have You.  And I know that that is always enough.  Father, my feelings cause me such angst sometimes and I don’t know how to handle them or all that You have allowed in my life.  I want to cast my burdens and cares on you.  I want to throw them at your feet and leave them there.  I have such a hard time leaving them there Lord.  Maybe if I could just keep my eyes on You and not look down at them again, they would stay put at your feet.  Lord, like the father begging Jesus for healing for his child, I’m crying out to you, “I believe, help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9: 14-24)  I trust You Father.  I want to face my future unafraid and untroubled.  Please Lord, help me be strong and bold and courageous.  You are my helper!  I will not fear!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

10 thoughts on “What are feelings anyway?

  1. Thank you for the verses. Your blog posts always seem to have something in them that I can take and stand on. I have started tabbing all those verses in my bible so that anytime I am feeling stressed or disappointed, I can go to His word. Or even just looking at my bible with all the tabs gives me this feeling of complete peace.


  2. Been reading your blog lately, and my heart has felt heavy for you, even though I don’t know you.
    You seem to be walking through a dark valley, for a while now, and your name comes to my mind throughout the day & I whisper a prayer for you.
    I am a single-mom sister of yours, and I appreciate your honesty in sharing your rough patches as well as your victories~ that honesty makes your blog that much more credible & relateable.
    Your posts remind me of the Psalms, starting out lamenting, and ending up hoping in God.
    He truly IS our only hope & strength, isn’t He? and we would never have found out the depths of His goodness, if not for walking through these dark valleys.


    • Kristy,
      Thank you so much for your prayers!
      You are right that we are blessed to know the depths of His goodness because of the depth of the valleys.
      But I think the thing I’m seeing is that my life is no longer a valley – it just dips down occasionally particularly when I take my eyes off of the Lord. This life is tough but it is still good…it is painful but it is still blessed! I’ve been joking with my prayer partner that I need to pray that God gives me time to write more so I can share the happier times too! LOL!
      Thank you again!
      In Him,


  3. Sue, Please know that you continue to be in my prayers, quite frequently. I know it seems weird to have someone in your prayers that you don’t really know, but I do know your hurt. I know this is a walk that is full of so many emotions. Some days it still feels like it is just too much. I know. Sometimes I struggle most viciously with the unfairness of the whole thing. I guess it is mostly a struggle to let go of “me” and rest in Him. Keep walking. I’ll be praying.


    • Penny,
      You are so right – it is such a struggle to let go of “me” and rest in Him. We just gotta cover each other in prayer!
      Praying for you too! Thank you for your prayers!
      Resting in Him,


  4. Only God can give us peace in the midst of the storm. Single parenthood is a very lonely and depressing road.
    May we always find His peace and comfort at all times. Shalom!


  5. I will keep my mind stayed on Him, I will keep my heart fixed on Him, that’s my song every minute of the day.
    I’ve decided to cast all my cares on Him, for I’ve realised He’s the only one that truly understands and cares for me.
    I’m new on this forum, I got to know of Sue Birdseye during my search through the Internet for books or posts to give me comfort and encouragement at this time.
    I am a single parent of two boys age 13 and 3. I’m a Nigerian and also live in Nigeria. I got married in September 1999, to my first love. Barely two years into our marriage, he left for America when things weren’t so easy for us back here financially. We tried to get back together but all didn’t work out, our communications went bad and all things fell apart. After 8years of living alone with my son, I was given an ungodly advice to remarry which I did in June 2009, I also had a son in Jan 2011.
    Since then, my peace left me because I kept having this convictions that I did the wrong thing. I sought for counsel and I took time to search the scriptures alone with God. Eventually, I got convinced that I’m living in sin as long as my first husband is still alive and that my marital vows are still intact in God’s sight. Meanwhile, all through, I never stopped loving and missing my first husband.
    After so much struggle, am out of the marriage and now I have my peace back.
    My husband is married with kids in America now.
    I sometimes feel lonely and unhappy but am satisfied that I’m back on track with my God.
    I feel frustrated that I’m back to where I was before the second marriage and keep having deep regrets that I remarried when the road was rough, I should have remained alone.
    I need to hear from you guys on this forum. Please talk to me.




    • Abby,

      Thank you for commenting. Your story is heartbreaking and yet I know that God can bring beauty from ashes. I’m so very sorry for all the difficulties you have faced. Do you have a place to seek godly counsel? A person who can encourage you? Please know that God doesn’t wish for you to live with regrets – He is a God of redemption! I will be praying for you sweet sister.
      In Him,


      • Dear sister,
        I’m so happy to get a response from you. It’s an indication that God still cares.
        Most people around me here including my families don’t agree with me on this issue, they believe I’m better off staying in the second marriage, so I don’t really have their support.
        We all have different understanding of God’s word and even relationship with Him. People don’t understand what I mean by the peace I experienced leaving the second marriage. It hasn’t been easy though, but my heart is permanently fixed on God and standing right with Him.
        I recently met 2 women that have similar understanding with me and also in a similar situation although they never remarried since their husbands left them about 15 years ago. They are standing in Him and hoping for restoration of their marriages if the Lord tarries.
        We share and pray together occasionally.
        The issues of marriage, divorce and remarriage is a controversial issue here, even in church because people have different opinions about it and try to use scriptures to suit their feelings, but I strongly believe that God’s principles doesn’t change.
        I wasn’t able to get your book in major bookshops here in Nigeria, but I’ve asked a friend in the US to buy and mail a copy to me.
        The Lord that has helped you thus far will complete His work in you and also help me too. Someday, maybe I’ll have the grace to put my experience too into writing so people here can learn from it. I now strongly believe in the permanence of marriage and the covenant, no matter what is encountered along the journey.
        I’ll like to read more from you and tap into that grace that has kept you whole and sane going through this ordeal.
        My sincere regards to your children.
        God bless you.




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