Thursday, July 21, 2011

Whoa there, feelings!

I've been trying to understand emotion's place in my faith life. The Bible is full of commands to action and obedience, but as far as I can tell, the only emotion You recommend to me is joy.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds--James 1:2
Shout with joy to God, all the earth!--Psalm 66:10
Be joyful always--1 Thessalonians 5:16
Be of good cheer--John 16:33

You are not nearly as keen regarding other emotions:

Do not be afraid or discouraged--2 Chronicles 20:15
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath--Psalm 37:8
Do not be anxious about anything--Philippians 4:6
Do not sorrow--Nehemiah 8:10
Brothers, we do not want you to...grieve like the rest of men--1Thessalonian 4:13

Emotions, evidently, are not my friends. And yet, they constantly drive me. They prompt me to act. They lift me out of the realm of the ordinary. Hmmm. Maybe that's the problem.

Emotions elevate everything, and often falsely. They can make me believe something is important when it may be trivial or foolish. They can manufacture false relevance. They can cut off experience and wisdom. They can cancel rationality and obedience. They can make me believe in the necessity to act in a certain way, even when I know better. They can cut off my clear vision to You.

Emotions can have legitimate uses, too, but only if I discipline them in the same way I discipline everything else in my life. I need to form and use reins for emotions in the same way I would need to rein in a wild horse. You give permission for only one real emotion--joy in knowing You.

The joy of the Lord is your strength--Nehemiah 8:10


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