Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Knowing vs. Feeling

Leslie Basham: Do you base your actions more on what you know or on what you feel? Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Our conclusion is, "If I don't feel it, it must not be true." Now, we wouldn't say that, but it is what we feel generally as women that matters more to us than what we know. This is where I think a lot of women end up crippled emotionally and spiritually because they are relying on their feelings to be an accurate barometer of what's true.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, January 23.

Everyone goes through times of pain. All this week Nancy will offer practical advice on what to do when life hurts. During times of stress, it's important to act on what we know to be true rather than on what we feel at the moment. How can we learn to do that? Here's Nancy to get us started.

Nancy: We're talking about knowing something intellectually being different from it reaching the heart. I do think the victory starts with what we know. If you don't know the truth, then it's never going to reach your heart.

But once we know the truth, there are a lot of people who know a lot of truth but it never affects the way that they feel or live or act or respond. That's where we need to be committed to this whole process of sanctification in every part of us.

First what we think. The battle does begin in the mind, because as long as we're holding onto lies, that's going to control the way that we feel, the way that we live. But once we know the truth and have agreed intellectually with that, then we need the process of the Spirit.

And it is the work of the spirit—sanctifying, cleansing, washing, renewing every other part of us, that is our emotions, our will, our behavior. I think for us as women the emotions are the sticking point. A lot of times, because we know it but don't feel it, our conclusion is, "If I don't feel it, it must not be true."

Now, we wouldn't say that, but it's what we feel, generally. As women, that matters more to us than what we know. This is where I think a lot of women end up crippled emotionally and spiritually. They are relying on their feelings to be an accurate barometer of what's true. I think that's a whole principle that throughout all life we as women need to be careful about: That is not giving too much credit to our feelings.

Now, feelings aren't wrong; they're not sinful inherently, but they can be very deceiving. There's not a day that goes by that I don't have to counsel my own emotions, because my emotions would invariably lead me to think and to do things that are not consistent with the Word of God. So I have to become disciplined about my emotions.

It's one thing to discipline our bodies; it's another thing to discipline our minds. But it's tough to say to our emotions, "You are not going to run my life." What I feel may be: I didn't have enough sleep the last several nights, or I'm at a season of life or a time of the month or whatever where my emotions can run loose. We have to be very disciplined about them.

But I do believe that the same thing that sanctifies our minds, the Word of God, is also what sanctifies our emotions. It's a process. It doesn't happen with a six-week stint with a counselor, in of itself. It's not just sitting in church on Sunday morning and hearing the Word. It's a commitment to day in, day out washing of my whole being with the Word of God.

The Word: it heals, it cleanses, it renews. I find that if I'm not getting consistent (what I call) megadoses of the Word into my being, my emotions are going to be much stronger, they are going to be elevated out of proportion to what they should be. And I'm going to heed them. They are so powerful for us, particularly as women.

I've watched the Lord over and over and over again, with my own emotions, when they are spinning out of control . . . Sometimes it's just because you're tired, sometimes it's people. It's amazing how a family member can say one little thing and if somebody else said it, it wouldn't sting; it wouldn't hurt the same way. But it's that person whose approval you want. It just sticks in the emotions. You know what it is to mull over that thing so long and so hard that it’s way out of proportion. It's driving you. It's controlling you.

The next time you see that person, you're ready to kill them. Then you stop and say, "Wait a minute, think about what really happened here. Put it in perspective. It's the emotions that are running my life."

I've watched the Lord many, many times take the Word and use it to control, to manage, to steer my emotions.

I love what I do. I love ministry. I love people, most of the time. But there are lots of moments when in my own weariness or my own weakness or my own sense of inadequacy, I just don't feel up to whatever it is that God is expecting of me, or up to responding to the challenges that He’s put into my life. A lot of time it is with relationship.  

That's when I have to get into the Word, onto my knees, in a surrendered heart position and say, "Lord, just wash my emotions."

God can do that in a moment. He can do it with a particular passage, a particular word; but I think the bigger key is the long haul. It's weeks and months and years of faithful getting into the Word, meditating on it, memorizing it, quoting it to yourself and to others, singing it back to the Lord, whatever you have to do to get it engrafted into your heart.

And that lays a foundation. When you do have those runaway emotions or the word comes that stings or that reminder comes of something that happened in your childhood that was so painful . . . Maybe you were greatly sinned against and that that memory comes back. Maybe it's the face of that person who blew up your marriage, that ex-mate, that teacher or babysitter who so harmed your child. That image, that face comes to your mind, and your emotions just want to lash out. You want to be bitter. You want to be angry. You want to hold onto and nurse and cherish those feelings.

If you've laid a solid foundation of thinking biblically about God, about yourself, about your circumstances, about God's purposes and God's plans, then in that crisis moment or that stressed-out moment or that moment when the emotions are running rampant, then you can go back to the Word and more quickly get tethered back to the truth.

But if you haven't been doing it for a period of weeks or months or years, then you get into a crisis and you open up your Bible and you say, "God, do something about this problem." God may be gracious and give you just the right Word, just the right verse that ministers to you at that moment. But you don't have the reservoir, you don't have the well to draw from that's going to meet you at that point of need so, I can't say enough.

I've often said that if I had only one message I could share with women, it would be the message about the daily devotional life. And by that I don't just mean doing your devotions.

By that I mean the daily habit of taking time alone with the Lord to cultivate that relationship, to get to know Him in His Word, responding to Him in worship, praise, prayer, humility, confession, repentance but getting the intake of the Word.

I have been reading the Scripture, thankfully influenced by the habit of my parents, who from the time they were first converted to Christ, began to read the Scripture on a daily basis. With that example in my home, I've read through the Scripture, I don't know how many times, now. There's not one right way to do this, but I know how much I need it. I work at getting megadoses of the Scripture into my system.

You know when you get a cold, they tell you to take lots of vitamin C and echinacea and drink lots of water? I mean, you just start pumping that stuff into your system.

Well, if you're always, as a way of life, pumping this stuff into your system, the Word of God, you’re not going to end up in that depleted condition. And the challenges and the hurts and the wounds that come into life, as they will, (you can't avoid those) but as they come into your life, there's going to be a level of ability to respond to those things because your heart is tethered to the truth. And that does not come overnight. There are no shortcuts to that. It's a way of life, a lot like physical diet.

It’s one thing to go on a health food kick for six months, and that's not a bad idea, but far better if you really care about the overall condition, your overall physical condition, to have a whole lifestyle.

I've just made a major lifestyle change in my eating, and I'm committed to this, not for a short period of time but, Lord willing, for the rest of my life. Now I'm on record. But I know that's what I need, and I know that's what's going to make the difference. It's been a major change, but I know that if I'm just in there for the short haul, it's not going to make the difference I need. It has to be a long-term commitment. And it's hard.

Getting into the Word every day and letting it minister to you and wash you, it's hard. I'm busy. You're busy. Time doesn't just happen for that. It takes choices. It takes accountability. It means failing sometimes, sometimes a lot, and getting back up and going again and saying, "This is not a sprint I'm running here. This is cross-country. This is long range. This is long term. This is long haul."

I'm in it for that, and that's the commitment that we need to help each other with. That's the commitment that I think really gives us grace to have the healing for the damaged emotions and the reservoir to respond when those emotions are challenged as they are.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss is in a series called What to Do When Life Hurts here on Revive Our Hearts. Some members of our audience have given Nancy some tough questions. Here she is responding to the question, “What do you do when your problems seem more real than the Bible?”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That's when we go back to what I call, "counseling your heart," according to the Word of God. And you're right. There are many times, that's because we place such stock in our emotions. We're really flabby spiritually. The problem is that we've trained ourselves to think that what we feel is real. And many times my feelings have no connection to reality.

Now, it isn't that there aren't circumstances that are real. There are hurtful things; there are tough things; there are challenges. It's not that we're being, well, sometimes we're being emotional for no reason at all. But sometimes there really are reasons that relate to our health, our times of loss and grief.

I was talking with someone the other day about how many funerals I’ve been to in my lifetime, just weeping with people in my own family, in others’ families, from old people to little babies, and things that are unexplainable and difficult to comprehend when it touches close to home.

Those are natural emotions, and they're not necessarily sinful or wrong. What is wrong is to allow those emotions to dictate the way that I'm then going to live, or to let those emotions lead me to believe something that isn’t true. The fact that I feel grief, that I feel loss, that I feel hurt, doesn’t mean that God has fallen off His throne. It doesn't mean that God doesn't care. It doesn't mean that I'm not going to make it. I may feel I'm not going to survive this, but that's not true.

The fact that I feel bad isn't necessarily wrong or sinful. There may be circumstances that really did make me feel bad. What's sinful is when I let those emotions cause me to start to think things that aren't true, and I nurture those thoughts and then begin to act based on them.

For me a lot of times it's really just taking myself by the scruff of the neck. And when I can't do it for myself, and I've been there, I've had God put around me others who will help me do it. That's what the body is about.

At those times it's great to have a friend who's high in mercy; who can put her arm around you and say, "You know, it’s okay, you're going to make it."

But I tell you, based on my wiring and the way I'm made up, at those times, I also need people who will come around and say, "Think about what's really true." People who will challenge me, who will force me to face truth.

And there are times when I have let my emotions get out of control. I will say this about emotions, you give them an inch, and they'll take a mile. And there are some thoughts and feelings that I cannot afford to let go.

The problem is we kind of like living with those emotions. We want to nurse them. We want to mull those thoughts over. We want to dwell on the hurt. We have to become spiritually disciplined and say, "I cannot let myself continue to think evil thoughts toward that person, though what they did was unquestionably evil. I have got to choose the pathway of forgiveness."

I remember a situation where I had been so hurt by something that had been said in a meeting I was in. It was an accusation, of sorts, that was lobbed at me. I felt that it was just totally unwarranted, untrue. It's somebody whose approval I wanted. This thing had been made public in a small meeting, and I was so hurt.

I just remember going home and sobbing, just hurt so deeply. I wrestled for a matter of hours and into the next morning with this issue. Part of me (I wouldn’t have admitted it at the moment) really wanted to be angry at that person. I wanted to hold onto that; I didn't want to let it go. I knew in my heart that the only pathway to freedom for me was to let it go, to choose the pathway of forgiveness.

Would you believe the next morning in my quiet time, you would believe it because God does this so often, but I was just in the course of reading through the Scripture. I was in Matthew chapter 5, the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is talking about forgiveness.

Forgive. He just says, "Do it!" And I tell you, for me it was just like prying those fingers of that clenched fist open because I was still feeling so intensely the wounds of those words and feeling so defensive.

I was in my mind conjuring up spiritual ways to look spiritual while wounding the person who had wounded me. I wanted to hold onto it. I wanted to make sure this person knew how badly they had hurt me. And by this time my emotions are just way out of control.

But the Word says, "Forgive. Let it go." My feelings were screaming the opposite, hold onto it, lash out. Now, I wasn't going to have a screaming fit, but I knew some subtle ways I could make this person feel the pain. And God just said, "No." And then I'm faced with a choice.

I knew the truth the night before. I let it go on those hours, and some of us have done this not just for hours but for weeks, months. I've been there, too. Some are living for years with just refusing to let it go. So now your emotions are "god" in your life. You've thrown Him off His throne, not that He ever goes off His throne, but in your life you're acting as if He is not God.

Well, anyway, I got next to my quiet time chair that morning, knelt there, and just as an act of my will said, "I forgive; I let it go. I'm giving up the right to nurse this hurt. I'm giving up the right to keep dwelling on this. I'm giving up the right to my reputation, to what this person or anybody else in that room thinks about me. I'm just giving it up. I'm letting that person go."

And then, of course, what will help with that, especially when it involves people who've hurt us, is to then begin to take a step further: to return good for evil, to return blessing for cursing, to look for ways to invest in the life of the one who has hurt us, to look for ways to see that the person spoke out of a sense of their own need and they're revealing that.

That's why Romans 12:20 says, "If your enemies . . ." It's talking about returning blessings for cursing. Then it says to go a step further, "If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat."

It's saying, really, "Your enemy is demonstrating by the way he has treated you that he has a need in his life. See if you can figure out what that need is. Is he hungry? Is he thirsty? Has he never received a blessing in his life or her life? What need are they manifesting? Then ask God to show you how you can be an instrument of helping to meet that need."

You can become an instrument of healing in the life of that other person, but I think the power there is what it does in us. It's setting us free. As you begin to pray for those enemies, for those people who have hurt you, to pray for God's blessing in their lives, to do good to them, to love them, to bless them, you find you can't long hate someone that you're praying for.

You can't be on the one hand nursing those angry or jealous or hostile or competitive feelings and, at the same time, praying for God to bless that person. There's not room in your mind for both those thoughts at once. So you replace, you displace and replace those negative, angry, bitter, resentful, runaway emotions with thoughts that are pure and true and good. As you invest in the life of that person, God sets you free from the bondage to those emotions.

Leslie: That helpful message from Nancy Leigh DeMoss is part of the series What To Do When Life Hurts. You can order the series on CD or listen to today’s program at our website,

Today’s program is a good example of the mission of Revive Our Hearts. We’re helping women find freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. We know you can be freed from bitterness no matter what hurt you’ve been through. To help you experience this complete freedom, we’d like to send you a book called, When the Hurt Runs Deep.  

Here is Nancy to tell you more about this book by Kay Arthur.

Nancy: Kay is no stranger to hurt and pain. In this book she opens up her heart about some of the dark seasons that she’s been through. She shows us how God has met her there and has led her to a place of hope and healing. I believe with all my heart that your journey through pain could lead to a place of great blessing and joy and fruitfulness. I believe that this book, When the Hurt Run Deep, will help you through that journey.

Perhaps you know someone else who is in a deep, hurting place right now, and you’d like to share this as a resource to help minister grace to them at their time of need. We’ll be glad to send you a copy of Kay’s book, When the Hurt Runs Deep, when you make a donation of any amount at Or if you prefer, give us a call at 1-800-565-5959.

Let me just say, when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, you’re making an investment in the lives of other women who are in a hurting place, a deep, dark place. And you’re helping them experience the freedom, the fruitfulness, the joy that Christ can bring even in those dark places. So on behalf of those women, I want to say, "Thank you for your support of this ministry."

Leslie: Well, tomorrow Nancy Leigh DeMoss will pick back up on this series, What To Do When Life Hurts. She’ll cover a lot of practical topics such as: What to do when you’re spouse hurts you.

Nancy: A woman came to me yesterday, and she said, “I want to bless my husband, but he just is profane. He is a curser; he reviles. Ninety percent of what comes out of his mouth is critical and ugly. It has wounded my children who are now young adults trying to deal with that pain and that hurt.” 

So what does Peter say you have to do? Suffer. Well, what he says is, “Be subject, be submissive, come under God’s authority.” And coming under God’s authority means coming under the authority of that mate and doing it with a spirit of meekness and a gentle, quiet spirit.

What is a gentle, quiet spirit? Well it is a spirit that trusts God. It trusts that God is bigger, God is greater, God is more real, God is in control. The king’s heart is in the Lord’s hand. Your husband is not the ultimate king of the universe, even if he thinks he is. And neither are you.

Peter says, “Be subject to the Lord, and then because you are subject to the Lord you can be subject to your mate. And you can do it with a spirit of meekness.” That is you not mouthing back; you’re not returning to him his way of talking or dealing with situations. 

He goes on to talk to husbands, and we won’t focus on that, but he does apply it to husbands who have to live with wives who are impossible to understand. That is probably at some point or another, every wife. He says, “You have to as a man live with your wife in an understanding way,” even if she is incomprehensible. That is what submission means for the men, Peter says.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.