Living near a railroad track provided numerous forms of entertainment for us as children. We weren’t allowed to play on the tracks but occasionally found ourselves sneaking over to examine this forbidden territory. We would walk the rails as balance beams, never going very far. We looked for treasures among the rocks and cross ties, treasures such as flattened pennies we may have placed there previously, or other such things. Mostly we watched from a safe distance as the rail cars passed, ever looking for the infamous hobos we’d seen and heard about on tv. If we had arrived before the passing of the engine, we would wave vigorously in hopes the conductor would notice and wave back. Then as the last car approached, we would wave again at the caboose man.
It was easy to understand what the conductor’s job was – he was the one driving the train. But I never really knew why there was a caboose man. Oblivious to his responsibilities as a watchman, I saw his job as simply riding in the back and waving at the children as the train rolled along. He wasn’t in charge of where the train was going, only to follow in his rightful place at the end, enjoying the trip.
I’ve used the illustration of a train many times in talking to others about faith and emotions:
FEELINGS FAITH FACTS
The engine represents the facts. When it comes to following Jesus, the facts are all that the Bible says about Jesus’ life and His words to us – the Truth. He IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The middle car represents our faith, the decision to believe. The caboose represents our feelings.
The problem we have is that we often let the caboose drive the train!
The caboose has no power source. No matter how much the caboose man wants to be the conductor, he is still unable to properly direct the train. In reality, when it appears that the caboose is leading the train, the train is actually going backward. It’s being pushed by the engine.
Ever let your emotions be the deciding factor in an important decision? Ever discover when it was all said and done that the emotions had it all wrong? Ever disobey God’s instructions because your emotions led you in the opposite direction – like that whole “love your enemies” thing? Oh, the many messes I’ve made by following my emotions rather than the facts!!
For a great deal of my life, the emotion of fear overshadowed the facts of God’s love for me. Fear led me to make some very bad decisions. I had never really understood the facts of God’s goodness and His passionate love for me, so my faith was placed in my feelings more than the facts. I was saved. I knew if I died I would go to Heaven. But I had never really believed what the Bible said about His love for me, so I wasn’t letting this amazing truth lead my life.
Once I began to diligently pursue the facts of God’s love, my faith grew and became solid in this truth. During this time of study and development, I had to ignore the feelings that would come that brought doubt and fear and I had to stay focused on the facts. It took awhile, but eventually the emotions lined up and began to follow the facts!
Our faith must be placed in the facts of God’s goodness, His mercy, His faithfulness, and most of all His love for us. When His ways become our diligent pursuit, our faith is rightly placed and the right emotions will follow.