Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
Whether we acknowledge them or not, deep within each of us our emotions churn away inside us, sometimes in ways that completely baffle us. Anger, fear, sadness, guilt, joy, peace… all these emotions are part of how we experience and process the world.
Scripture is no stranger to these emotions, and especially in the books of poetry, they can be on full display. Sometimes we feel just like what the prophet Jerimiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Not that our emotions are a bad thing, in and of themselves. As the wise teacher of Ecclesaties tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (3:1)) The preceding 7 verses then run the gamut of human emotion and experience.
Sometimes we can think that certain emotions, like anger, fear of sadness should be avoided all together. Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Anger can be completely valid in the face of a true injustice. But as servants of Christ we must not act in ways that compromise our integrity before God, as James tells us, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (1:20) When faced with injustice, we should always take our case before God, and let his righteousness guide us in our actions.
And sorrow, is a natural and healthy response when we experience loss. Paul encouraged the Roman believers to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Celebrating the highs and lamenting the lows of life, especially with others, is part of walking with Christ. Just as we are not to let anger steer us into sin, we have to keep a healthy perspective when we experience sadness. As the psalmist declares, “Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, because I will praise him once again, since his presence saves me and he is my God.” (43:5)
And as our proverb for today tells us, sometimes, contradictory emotions can rise up in our hearts, or we can choose to mask our true emotions by pretending to feel something else. With all the complexities of our emotions how are we to keep ourselves by being overwhelmed and driven by them? Or how are we to respond in the face of strong emotions directed at us from others, or when we suspect they may be being less than genuine with how they are feeling?
Paul offers a very profound insight in Colossians 3:15:
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
At the center of our hearts, the guiding principle behind our emotional experiences should be the peace of Christ. Letting peace be like the “boss” of all our emotions, staying grounded in Christ. This can help us experience our emotions without straying into sin and stirring up trouble.
If we are angry, we can know that Christ has established justice. If we are sad, we can be assured that in Christ, things can be restored. If we are afraid, we can seek refuge in Jesus. When guilt is present, we can turn to Christ for forgiveness. Even in our joy, we can and should remain anchored in Christ, thankful for the blessings we enjoy.
That thankfulness, a genuine gratitude for all God has given us, and allows us to experience, can help us stay anchored as we navigate the storms of our emotions. Job, who faced some mighty trials had reason to ride a roller-coaster of emotion, poetically states this truth:
”For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!”
Keeping our focus on Jesus, no matter what we are feeling, no matter how others may be feeling around us, is always a good idea.
Prayer for Today
Father, thank you for creating me with such an awesome array of emotions to experience. While I may not always understand why I am feeling what I am, help me to always know that I am at peace with you. Jesus, guide me by your example, that I may always do the Father’s will, no matter how I am feeling. By your Holy Spirit, grant me true peace, so I can always keep my focus on you. Amen.