Emotions; September 12, 2022

Psalm 95:10-11 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.”
So I declared on oath in my anger,
“They shall never enter my rest.”

This Psalm starts with joyful praise that is often sung in churches even today, but it ends on a very solemn note that is quoted repeatedly in Hebrews 3:7-15. It is very good and appropriate to rejoice in praising God, but we must not let feelings be a substitute for obedience. Emotion is a wonderful gift from God, but we must not seek it for its own sake, but rather seek God Himself. When we are close to Him, we will have plenty of the emotion we enjoy. Unscrupulous people have often used religious emotion to manipulate others, but we are not to fear emotions themselves. Josephus reported that Jesus had the reputation of being quite emotional, and that is borne out by the Gospel record. However, we aren’t to let the emotions themselves be in control. For example, love is generally closely associated with emotion, but Jesus said clearly, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Obedience isn’t emotional, and at times is in direct contradiction to how we are feeling. Emotion is subjective, centered on the person feeling it, whereas obedience is objective, centered on the one giving the command. Perhaps the ultimate example of that was Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where His emotion was so intense as to rupture some of His capillaries, making blood mix with His sweat, but He still chose obedience to His Father for the sake of our salvation. (Luke 22:44) The theme for our readings at this point is The Joy of the Lord, but we must not let the devil hijack our joy and twist us away from obedience.

This naturally applies to me. Being fully human and not suffering any emotional handicap, I have felt and feel the full range of emotions, and I am grateful. I have seen and understand that a failure to feel emotion is pathological, and also that emotions are often delayed, hitting after what would be considered the trigger for them. That last fact is often a blessing, allowing us to function in times of emergency without being disabled by overwhelming emotion. I’ve experienced some of that myself. As a minister I am often involved in the emotions of others. I am not to try to manipulate those emotions, but I am to seek to point people to God who is above all our emotions. I am to keep my own obedience primary, ahead of whatever my emotions might be, and seek to help others do likewise. In direct relation to this passage, the Lord has told me personally to rest, relax, and rejoice. Failure to do so is being disobedient! I am not to allow circumstances, present or potential, to distract me from being obedient to my Lord.

Father, thank You for this clear, timely reminder. This morning we will be going to the orthopedic surgeon to discuss treatment options for Cathy’s pain, and frankly, there’s a lot of emotion involved. Help us both hear You clearly and be fully obedient, whether that obedience agrees with whatever the doctor says or not. Thank You that Your plans for us are good, whatever they take us through. (Jeremiah 29:11) Help us rest in that assurance and be at peace, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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