Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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Why then does God give the believer such a feeling and withdraw it again? He has a few purposes for doing this. It is a pity that the believer does not understand God.

God gives the believer happiness for the purpose of drawing him even nearer to God. He draws men to Himself through His gifts. He hopes His children would realize how gracious He is and how much He loves them so that they would believe in His love under any kind of circumstance. Yet believers only love Him in the presence of feeling and forget Him in its absence.

Moreover, God deals with a believer in this manner so that he will know himself. The most difficult lesson for a believer to learn in life is that of knowing himself—knowing his own corruption, vanity, sinfulness, even knowing that he has no goodness at all. This is a life-long lesson. The more he learns, the deeper the lesson becomes and the more he realizes how filthy his life and nature are in the sight of God. However, there is not the willingness in him to learn, nor is his nature able to learn. Therefore, God employs many ways of instructing the believer so that he may be brought to the place where he can know himself. Among God’s many ways, one of the most important is by granting the believer a happy feeling and later withdrawing it. Through such a dealing, the believer will come to realize his own corruption. In the midst of dryness, he will recall how he misused God’s gift, how he highly estimated himself, despising others, and how he did many things that were not of the spirit as a result of being manipulated by the emotion. This realization humbles the believer. If he understands the experience, it causes him to know himself and no longer wholeheartedly pursue it as though it were the noblest of all experiences. God wants the believer to know that he does not glorify God’s name any more when he is full of happiness than he does when he is suffering. He is not making any more progress in the light than he does in the dark. In either case, his life is just as corrupt.

God’s intention is for the believer to overcome his environment. The believer should not allow a change in the environment to affect his life. Whoever changes his living according to his environment lacks depth in the Lord. We know that the environment can only change our emotion. Our emotion is affected by the environment which, in turn, causes a change in our living. Therefore, to overcome our environment, we must overcome our emotion—our feeling. This is crucial. Whoever wants to overcome the environment must overcome the fluctuating feeling. If we have no way of overcoming our constantly changing feelings, we have no way to overcome our environment, because our feelings cause us to sense the changes in our environment. As soon as the environment changes, our feeling senses it and changes accordingly. If we cannot overcome our feelings, our living will vary according to how we feel. Therefore, to overcome our environment, we must first overcome our feelings.

The Lord causes the believer to have different feelings so that he may learn how to overcome them and, thereby, overcome his environment. If he can overcome strong and contradicting feelings, he can surely overcome any kind of changing environment. In this way, a believer will stand on sure ground, and his living will be stabilized. Otherwise, he will be carried away by the waves. God wants a believer to behave the same way, whether he is full of feeling or has no feeling. He wants the believer to just as faithfully serve Him, fellowship with Him, work, pray, and read the Bible, whether he is full of feeling or has no feeling. God does not want His children to vary their way of living according to the brightness or darkness of their feeling. If faithfulness, work, or supplication is called for, they should do it with the same fervency in happiness as well as in sorrow. They should not be a certain way when they feel refreshed and cease to be so when they feel dry. If the believer cannot overcome different feelings in his life, he will not be able to overcome different environments.

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 29, by Watchman Nee)