Feeling It

For a long time in my spiritual journey, I was led to believe that emotions were bad. Statements like “you can’t trust your emotions” or “what you feel isn’t important; what you believe is important” contributed to the idea that emotions were to be pushed away. It also seemed that any negative feeling like anger or resentment or worry were simply labeled as sinful and needed to be willfully pushed aside in favor of peace or forgiveness or joy. If someone felt angry, you just needed to get a new perspective on things.

All of this contributed to either a denial of any negative emotions or relying upon my will power to try to get rid of the “negativity.” Most often, denial seemed to do the trick just fine! I understand why so many teachers and shepherds tend to denounce emotions. Emotions are tricky and deceptive and hard to understand. However, the denial of emotions does nothing to change the source of negative emotions or the value systems from which they arise. Therefore, either requiring me to fake it or shut down a part of my heart.

While Jesus did say “don’t be anxious,” the context would suggest that He was promising a better way rather than simply eschewing anxiety because of its sinfulness. The fact that Paul in Ephesians 5 says “be angry yet do not sin” suggests that emotions are not bad in and of themselves, but when we follow them to the point of sin. In addition, the statement that James makes in James 1 about anger “not achieving the righteousness of God” once again seems to demonstrate the idea that there is a better way than to live in anger.

In his book, Invitation to Love, Thomas Keating suggests this about our spiritual journey:

“As we begin the difficult work of confronting our own unconscious motivations, our emotions can be our best allies. The emotions faithfully respond to what our value system [actually] is – not what we would like to be, or what we think it is.”

So, I’ve started looking at every emotion or thought in order to understand what belief or value or hurt is underneath. Then, I bring truth to that place in my heart. If I am angry, I ask “why?” And, then look at the truth of who God is and who I am in Christ. As I do that, I am able to see real change in my heart. Hurts can be healed and the values of the gospel truly embraced.

2 Corinthians 10:5 gives us a great pattern for what this looks like:
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

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~ by Ted Wueste on August 2, 2010.

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