Have you ever been so mad you could just spit nails? I was there this week. Bottled up anger fueling a stubborn streak that is still trickling through my veins. If nothing else this introvert will always win a battle of the cold shoulder. Trust me. On the other side of the coin, I just got off the phone with a friend who was engulfed in a mix of grief, frustration and sadness. Tears flowed and she simply didn’t know how to function. Still another friend expressed her feelings about the current state of affairs in Afghanistan’s Taliban take over with shock. How can human beings be so fearful that they would risk hanging off the landing gear of a moving plane?! “Unbelievable” she writes. Last week we witnessed a blushing bride and groom goo goo over each other in the innocence of newlywed bliss. (Yes, goo goo is my official word for that). We humans were made with emotions as part of the package. They are literal parts of our physical make up. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been overcome by some sort of emotion… heaven knows our first cries are emotional outbursts! Which has led to my muse this week: How do Christians deal with emotions?
I read a thought-provoking article on the subject, which made some interesting points and comparisons. Obviously, our emotions — the feelings that drive our passions, our interests, and our pursuits, are stemmed from some sort of emotional response to “things” in our environment. What we like and dislike dictates how we live. Yet, many of us view emotions as problematic. You can’t trust your heart. Emotions are irrational and unreliable. You need more faith. Just trust in God. All will work together for good… Heard any of these before? But our emotional baggage is not simply feelings floating around in our heart… they are influenced by our culture, our experiences, and the time and space we live in. Our culture in 2021 is, I believe, so much more open to expression, interpretation, and mental awareness of our “emotional state” then any other time in history. The question becomes… is this good or bad? Do emotions threaten us in the church? If we have the “joy of the Lord” in our hearts should we shy away from anger, sadness, guilt or depression? Is a feeling of pride good or evil?
Obviously the Bible gives us many examples of “emotional wrecks”… characters who acted (seemingly) irrationally to some emotional trigger. Heart responses to outside stimuli. Humans acting the way humans do. Joseph, David, Sarah, the prodigal son, even Jesus and the disciples. So, what should our response be? And here I will credit the aforementioned article for enlightening my answer… because that trickle of anger is slightly tarnishing my views at the moment. Number one: the Bible makes it clear that we are broken people living in a fallen world. We are not perfect. This world is not perfect. We will not be perfect this side of Heaven. It is a loosing battle to pluck out a set of circumstances and rely on that circumstance alone. Our friends will fail. Our tradition, culture or family background does not make “all things right”. Even our church, our pastor, or the Bible teaching we hear is not foolproof. We can misinterpret and twist things. One just has to look at church history to see the results of that path. Our heart responses are not always correct, but they are a part of how God made us, so we must consider them as valid parts of our existence.
As Christians, what we can be certain of, is that our faith will profoundly impact our hearts. The end story of the gospel is what drives us. The hope we have is what allows us to see a different reality, if you will. One that is not always obvious, but “imagined”, or allowed to be seen, eventually. Jesus’ emotional outbursts were examples of always having God’s gospel goal in His vision. God’s character must give us an answer to our emotion. Because He is merciful and loving, we must be comforted in our grief. He is slow to anger, but still just and holy. We must therefore be diligent in not sinning in our guilt or in our anger. We are not the final judge, He is. So. Are we perfect? No. Is God? Yes. Seems like a perfectly logical answer to all our problems, right? Yup, cheers to you, my fellow emotional wreck. Here’s to one more step on the journey.