Recently we dealt a little with the issue of emotions in our series “Messy Faith or Sloppy Faith.” Because this is such a critical and current issue in our world, I would like to “unpack it” a little further as Mark Chandler would say.
Today we live in an age and a world that almost worships our emotions. Yet it would generally not be of direct interest to us as children of faith if it were not for the fact that these days we can’t seem to avoid the ‘tides’ of the world rolling through the church also. In so many issues today it seems the world is guiding the church instead of the other way around… which was, by the way, the plan of Jesus for His church! Let’s not forget that!
The fact is, there are some of us that periodically, like clockwork, have a “meltdown.” Just what ‘fires up” these folks seems to me to be a mystery. (is it the moon?) Surely if I knew when, where and why, I would be there next time waiting around the corner with a baseball bat. But alas, I have no idea the catalyst or the timing for these times of personal crisis! No doubt it doesn’t matter anyway, because everyone is likely motivated in this area by different issues.
The damage that occurs because of these dramas can be extensive both to the individual in play as well as all those within range of the storm. Marriages go into crisis mode. Ministry and service gets abused or neglected. Friendships are strained, communication…vertical and/or horizontal, becomes non-existent. Jobs get lost, and finally people go “AWOL” as isolation sets in in the aftermath of the storm.
James 1:8 speaks of the “double-minded man,” and says such an individual is “unstable in all his ways." Note the language there; unstable in ALL his ways.” Such a precarious walk affects every aspect of our lives and touches every issue of our faith. How can we ever expect to “wait upon the Lord” as He calls upon us to do, if we exist in such a volatile state? We eventual become like Jacobs boy Reuben in Genesis 49, and are known by those around us as one "unstable as water."
Certainly God is not trying to make us into little religious robots. We don’t have to surrender all our feelings and our emotions at the door of Christiandom. God made us, and He made us beings with emotions. But is that the same as being “emotional beings?”
No doubt God wants us to have emotions! But from a scriptural student’s viewpoint – it is His emotions we are to emulate! He wants us to weep over the lost, be moved with compassion for the oppressed, be outraged by injustice, provoked by idolatry and angry at the hardness of the hearts of men.
The fact is, the Christian life, properly lived, is riddled with emotion! However, those emotions are not to be merely sentimental, or trite or unstable. Christian emotions are to have a ‘majesty’ about them. They are to ring of the Kingdom and participate in and agree with the Truth. But many of us are instead consumed, immobilized and thus controlled by how we ‘feel.' Such may seem to be a small thing and perhaps even inconsequential. But we must remember that when we are controlled by our feelings, we are not controlled by the Holy Spirit!
Because of our tendency to ‘worship’ our emotions, we then sooner or later naturally come to believe that such is not only permissible but even somehow God's supreme communication to us! But the fact is, God's direction and will for our lives is often quite contrary to how we feel. Allowing our emotions free reign over our lives is a sure disaster.
When we read of Christ in the gospels, do our emotions respond as He did? Because He is still the 'bar' in this whole Christian thing right? He remains the 'mark' we are to hold as the model. So the central question we need to ask ourselves is whether my emotional life seeks to emulate that of the life of Christ. While I will never match the life of Jesus, such must still be my passion and my goal. If I am falling short, am I willing to be honest with myself and acknowledge that I have a problem? “Can I be more like Jesus than I am now?” and further “What even is my actual working model of the Christian life? Is it what Jesus meant by the 'Christian life?' Or am I just flyin-by-the-seat-of-my-pants?
The bottom line is this: Can we personally acknowledge that scripture reigns supreme? Because no emotion or feeling ever rules over the written word. Not ever. In a life lived through faith, scripture must be the baseline. The end of all discussion!
Hebrews 12:12-13 says : “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” We could translate this passage in plain language: “Get a grip on yourself…pull yourself together. Walk in such a way that your consistent lifestyle will encourage and assist those who are young and weak in the faith to do and be the same.”
This is not simply a matter of denying that our feelings exist. It is not a matter of "mind over matter' or the "little engine that could." But we need to face the music on this issue! Even maturity in secular life itself is being able to function beyond our fickle feelings, and certainly maturity as a Christian is the same. That's why we are called to stand on scripture not emotions. That's why God calls upon us to "know Him" more and more, not 'feel Him." Because sometimes frankly I simply don't feel Him. Sometimes it seems quiet, and all I have is my trust in His promises and the warranty of His Word.
Revelations 3:10-11 "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown…”