At Gateway Church in Austin, we began the Life Apps series. Week one dealt with becoming emotionally healthy. Ted Beasley spoke at the McNeil campus, and I spoke at the South Campus and the Central Series.
Here are some of the thoughts we shared:
“Today we’re starting a new series applying the frameworks of Scripture to the issues we face every day. Apps help us do life. In this series, we’re asking, how can I access more of God’s power and wisdom every day?
Jesus gave a very powerful and practical message called the Sermon on the Mount in which he gave a picture of what it looks like to do life everyday with God – relationships, money, work, worry. At the end of the message, Matthew writes:
The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29)
Do you want real life? Then listen to the teacher who lived it himself. Jesus is competent to talk to you about matters of success at work, happiness in relationships, purity in your character. Look at your own life . . . do you really believe that Jesus knows what he is talking about? You’re going to get a chance to decide in this series if you are going to invite Jesus’ teaching into some of the most basic elements of your life, if you’re going to trust what he says.
The ability to manage emotions leads to the kind of life we desire. Jesus teaches us how to express our emotions in a healthy and godly way.
#1 Honest. The first thing Jesus teaches us is that emotions are not meant to be hidden, they should be brought to the surface honestly.
Jesus was honest with his feelings. ‘When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept’ (John 11:33-35). Jesus sees Mary and the others suffering needlessly without hope. He sees them carrying this burden on their shoulders, not knowing there is a solution. He sees the human condition. Alone. Scared. Broken. Angry. Grieving. The language that John uses to capture this moment mixes Jesus’ anger and grief and frustration and sorrow. He is deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘It’s not right,’ Jesus groans under his breath. It’s not right that death and suffering has this kind of power. It’s not right that people are blinded by despair. It’s not right that death haunts people from cradle to grave. He grieves when we grieve.
God is not freaked out, disappointed, surprised, or frustrated by our emotions. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. Suppressing our emotions, not giving voice to them, is – in a very real sense – attempting to lie to God and ourselves, something that is contrary to God’s design. Be utterly and truly honest with God about something in prayer. Tell him the whole truth about how you feel about something. Imagine him listening to you. Then imagine what he has to say in response. And also, take a baby step this week with someone you trust. Confess the emotion you’ve been holding in. Explain that it’s hard for you to talk about, but just take a small risk and be honest about it. See what God does with that.
#2 Meek. Here’s the second descriptor of healthy emotions from the life and teachings of Jesus. It’s that our emotions would be meek. Now, meek has a bad reputation. To a lot of people, meekness means weaknesses. All lowly and humble. But Jesus says in Matthew 5:5: Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. The biblical word for meek means, ‘Power under control.’
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive. (2 Peter 1:5-8) Being out of control makes you ineffective. God says, be meek. Have a reservoir of emotion, but channel it the right way.
It’s not a sin to be angry, but look at this verse from Ephesians 4 that says that out-of-control anger or any emotion can become sin. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (26-27) Whenever you experience intense emotion, there’s a moment of control, a choice as to whether you are going to give God a foothold or darkness. A researcher named Labat studied how long it takes the body to respond to an emotion like anger or some other thought. When there is an impulse formed in the brain, it takes a quarter-second to start making the mouth move or to tell your hands to do something. This has been called, ‘The life-giving quarter-second.’ A quarter-second doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but in terms of your capacity to assess, rethink, and process your situation, that is like an eternity. This is enough time between stimulus and response for you to choose another action.
Give God a foothold. In any situation, when the fight-or-flight response hits you have at minimum a quarter-second to invite God into the process.
#3 Selfless. Some of us think that our emotions are an end, in and of themselves. As a result, expressing them becomes self-indulgent. Just because we have an emotion, we think it deserves to be expressed. We get bad advice like, ‘If it’s in your heart, you should probably say it. Go with your emotions. Keep it real.’
Paul tells us that ‘keeping it real’ pushes us further from God. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence? (Galatians 5:17-18)
When Jesus expressed his emotions, he never used them to get what he wanted. He showed emotion to reveal more of himself. Remember the night he was arrested, he took a few close friends to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray? What must have been going through his mind? This was the end. He knew he was going to the agonizing and humiliating cross. He could imagine the horrors. The weight of the entire world is on his shoulders, so as is his custom, he goes to the Father in prayer. ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ This is intense emotion. He acknowledges that the Father is able to change everything in the snap of a finger. Our savior is not expressing himself to get what he wants. He’s doing it to reveal his heart. He says, not my will but yours be done.
Maybe this week, when you are about to express your emotion to someone, just do a little check, a little prayer. Not my will, but yours be done, Lord.”
To listen or watch Ted share this message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.