So we are working through this book, “The Heart of the Artist” by Rory Noland, and we come to the chapter about handling our emotions. This should be good!? There’s nothing I love better, except the chapter on handling criticism, than getting a genuine handle on my emotional state! Ha!
(Insert understanding and definition of sarcasm here)
There is no way that I should be writing any comments on handling one’s emotions. In a pinch I can handle serious crises pretty well, but anything less than major is a struggle for me. If your lungs are lying on the floor next to you I will come help you and run you to the doctor without too much emotion. But you forget to put something back in its place and I may come completely loose into a perfectionist fury that marks the heart and mind of a spiritually inept person. I’m sure none of you can relate.
Emotions do weird things to people. They make logical people seem daft and sweet people appear demonic. You all know what I’m talking about. And the strange thing is that emotions are really all about perception and not about reality. Yet, they tend to control our reality. When our emotions control us we become a detriment to ourselves and to those around us. When we allow the Holy Spirit to control our emotions then we will have life as God intended with a reasonable emotional experience and rational decision-making.
Does the baggage you carry from life experiences make you a emotional wreck? How good are you at allowing the Holy Spirit to be in control of your emotions? What should we do to give up our emotional lives to God? Here are some ideas I’d like to share.
1. We need to grasp that God gave us emotions for higher purposes. It is healthy to be happy and sad. We need to sense loss and fear as well as joy and ecstatic things. I believe our response to God in worshipping Him should have an emotional element. If a person is “dead” emotionally then they are not living they are just alive. Now, this is not to be judgmental of people who are not as in touch with emotions as others. There are some actual, psychological and physiological conditions that inhibit the emotions of some people while exacerbating them in others. Either way you can probably find some good “meds” to help you out.
Most of us are not there, however. Most of us are living “normal” life, and a big part of “normal” life is an emotional response to a great and awesome God. David responded to God’s greatness by dancing almost naked before the Lord. The children of Israel cried out to God in joy and in sorrow. God, who gave His Son’s life to save us and have relationship with us, was so emotional at the cross that He darkened the skies and shook the whole earth. His anger and love burn and fervent temperatures emotionally speaking. We should learn to accept that emotions are a part of everyday life. They are important and should serve us in our purpose to glorify God.
2. It is okay to be sad. A lot of Christianity in modern times has been about getting happy and the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. Our kids songs, hymns and theology often fluctuate between the great joy of the Christian life and the “woe is me I’m a Christian” mentality. Real joy only comes from Christ, but real joy is not just emotional. In the same way sadness is a natural part of living life, even the Christian life. Jesus was not always happy. Jesus was tired and even angry at times. Jesus went off alone to regroup his thoughts and talk with the Father God. Jesus was probably feeling some anxiety when he sweated drops of blood in the garden. We need to embrace the sadness of life so that we can get into the compassionate heart of God. BUT - we need to not stay there for too long. Sadness can make us useless to the Kingdom of God. Sadness can push us into a never ending depression of funk. Embrace sadness carefully but come out of it as Jesus did with “not my will by Thine be done.” Then get back to living the life of joy in Christ.
3. Rory Noland says we should learn to live in the Psalms. Why would anyone say that? Because the Psalms are songs and poems written by worshippers of God through good and bad. A Psalm of David can help lift your thoughts to God when it seems you have no hope. A Psalm of the sons of Asaph can express your hearts cries and fears to God when you can’t even think straight. No matter what the situation God’s Word as expressed in the Psalms can give us cohesive answers to the splintered issues of life. Reading a Psalm a day and really committing it to meditation and memorization will add coping skills and worship skills you can get no other way.
4. Rory also suggests that we learn to respond to emotional situations and issues with grace. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” We may not be able to avoid emotions that come into us, but we can hold our tongues or our fingers and allow God to work in us. We can avoid letting Satan and our human side when the fight to lash out or condemn or spew on others. It takes a lot of time and maturity to begin mastering our emotions in the power of the Holy Spirit. But, after all, it is His power that can be released in us. It is His power that can free us from emotional bondage. It is His power that is the only fountain of grace in our life. We have none of our own – we are sinful creatures. Yet we have all of His own, because we are made complete and forgiven in Christ. Tap into that “power” as often as you want. It never runs out, even when we feel depleted and empty.
Well it is obvious I have not written you all in a while since I seem to have rambled quite a lot. The last two months have been filled with writing sermons instead of devotions. The holidays are a perfect time for all of us to deal with the issues of our emotions. We will experience a plethora of them over the next several months – some pleasant and some not. Maybe this is the serendipitous timing of the Holy Spirit, preparing us for the performances and platefuls of life that Christmas brings. My prayer for you and I is that through all this we will Renew and Be Renewed. Peace, Pastor Tim