There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things.
—1 John 3:19-20, The Voice
I once owned a car with a broken gas gauge. When the tank was empty, the needle pointed to “E.” When the tank was half full, the gauge still read empty. When the gas tank was filled to overflowing, the needle budged just a little, moving slightly to the right of the empty mark. No matter how much fuel was in that car’s tank, the gauge gave me the same message, “Your tank is empty.”
Because the gauge was not a reliable indicator of how much fuel was in my gas tank, I learned to disregard its message. I also devised another way to assess how much fuel was in the tank. I found a long stick I could slide through the nozzle into the tank, then pull it out to see how much of the stick was wet with gasoline. You could call it a literal dipstick for my gas tank. It wasn’t fancy or stylish, but it worked, telling me the truth despite the false message of a broken gauge.
Human emotions are a kind of gauge of the heart, an indicator of the fullness or emptiness of our lives and relationships. When feelings are working well, they help us experience life fully and warn us when some aspect of our lives is running low. The problem with feelings is that they are a gauge that sometimes breaks. When you are in a season of depression, your feelings can give you the wrong feedback. Like my broken gas gauge, feelings hijacked by depression can give you a constant message of emptiness. You may read that flawed feeling in various ways:
My life is a total wreck.
No one loves or respects me.
I am a complete failure.
I cannot be right with God and feel this way.
What do you do when you realize that your emotional gauges are broken? First, you must learn to question the meaning of what you feel. When you know your emotions are depressed, you must fight the tendency to accept that empty feeling as an accurate appraisal of your life. Second, you must find another way to measure the fullness or emptiness of your life, a kind of emotional and spiritual dipstick to help you work around feelings that aren’t giving you a true reading. The letter of 1 John offers you and me a tool that can help us get beyond our broken emotional gauges.
God is greater than our hearts. What God says about who we are and our standing with him is a faithful measure of the truth. God knows everything about why our feelings are giving us false messages. He also knows that his love for us and faithfulness to us do not depend on our feelings.
This passage also means that God is a higher authority than our hearts in determining where we stand with him. When feelings are broken, we may feel far from God, unable to pray, far short of the purpose we believe God has for our lives. But our feelings are not the final authority. They do not have the last word. God is greater than our hearts. We are who God says we are, no matter what we feel.
Loving Father, my feelings are so broken right now. They tell me I’m far from you and useless to the people around me. Teach me that you are greater than my heart. Help me to trust your word and your promises about who I am as your beloved child. Amen.
Truth to Affirm
God is greater than my heart.
This post originally appeared in Seeing in the Dark: Biblical Meditations for People Dealing with Depression by Ronald D. Vaughan.