I’m quite an emotional person and find that there’s something cathartic about a good cry. And I don’t just cry when I’m upset. I sometimes cry when I’m angry or frustrated, or every when I’m bowled over by joy.
I went to see Ben Folds performing with the Northern Sinfonia at the Sage last year and it was so jaw-droppingly sublime that I found tears of happiness rolling down my cheeks. I felt alive!
When I became a Christian, it was drummed into me that feelings may or may not follow the facts, but the facts of the gospel were what was important. And in a sense that’s right. God’s still there when I feel down. God’s still there when I feel nothing at all. The truth stays true in spite of how I feel, but that doesn’t make feelings bad or useless. We all have an emotional life whether we like it or not. The question is whether we bring it under the Lordship of Christ, corporately and individually.
God gave us our intellect and he wants us to use it, but he also gave us our emotions and he wants us to use them too. There are times when crying or getting angry is exactly the right response and motivates us to get on our knees and pray. When we see the death, disease and destruction in our world. When people in poverty are treated with brutal injustice. When we have deep, soul-searching questions that don’t seem to have answers. When we long for our loved ones to come to a saving faith in Christ. When we’ve got to the end of ourselves and feel all we can do is fling ourselves at our Heavenly Father’s feet and soak them with tears (Luke 7: 38).
We’re going through Nehemiah at church at the moment. One thing that struck me was Nehemiah’s response to the sins of the Israelites. The first thing he does is sit down and weep, before mourning, fasting and praying to God (Neh 1: 4). Elswhere in the Bible we see what a vital, life-giving relationship with God looks like. The Psalms are full of powerful emotive language as we get to see the ups and downs of David’s faith laid bare.
Jesus himself demonstrated a rich emotional life that was perfectly lived out in relationship with God. I find it immensely encouraging that the shortest verse in the Bible is ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11: 35). He was devastated at the loss of his beloved friend; he got angry when rip-off merchants in the temple were exploiting the poor (Matt 21: 12). When Jesus cried out in anguish on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15: 34) he wasn’t just lamenting the fact of separation from his heavenly father, he was experiencing the agony of it.
Faith isn’t a purely intellectual exercise. It’s not just a rational assent to a set of true propositions. It’s also a heart response to our Father God. If you’re married, emotions will have played a large part in one of the biggest decisions you’ve ever made. If our relationship with God is the deepest, most intimate and personal love relationship we’ll ever know, then there’s something wrong if it doesn’t involve emotion.
This matters for our witness too. We’re not attempting to persuade people of a sterile ‘correct worldview’. We’re inviting them into a relationship with the loving creator of the universe who knows them intimately, forgives them completely and sets them free for a life of meaning, purpose and hope. Now that’s something worth getting emotional about!
In : Reflections
Tags: "ben folds" emotion feeling faith jesus