STEP TWO: Spot the Signs (Missing Emotions)
One of the largest tragedies in my life is that in my attempt to avoid the stereotype of ‘craziness’, I began to despise emotions.
At some point I began to believe the lie that emotions were the root of ‘craziness’ and the source of disobedience in my life. I began to trust in the heretical mantra: ‘just obey, it doesn’t matter how you feel‘. It’s a great victory for the enemy when we begin to see emotions as the problem. Our distorted view leads us to fight our emotions as if they are sin in and of themselves. We begin to see moments when we are ‘unemotional’ as victorious when the reality is, our lack of emotions can be as sinful as our over emotionalism
Emotions are the grace of God. They are the root of obedience. They are part of His glorious design and where emotions are absent, our ability to reflect God’s glory is diminished.
As my man JE says:
“Without holy affection there is no true religion; and not light in the understanding is good which does not produce holy affection in the heart…no eternal fruit is good which does not proceed from such exercises…where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing truly divine in that light.”
Bold. Edwards says that where there is knowledge of God without a heart affection there is no true ‘knowing’ of God. The Bible says that our hearts testify to our treasure. If God does not move your heart, it can therefore only be said that He is not your treasure. The mark of a spiritual man vs a natural man is that a spiritual man can ‘appraise’ or value God rightly. The demons know a ton about God. The difference between us and them is that we treasure the things we know about God – they taste good to us. God tastes good to us. He stirs our hearts.
So, what are we to do with our barren hearts? How are they a product of ‘craziness’ or insecurity?
If our hearts are deeply rooted and found in Christ, if we place our security in Him, then it will certainly spill over into our emotions.
A heart that is never moved is a heart that does not care deeply. It is a heart that is locked away.
It may just be that out of pride or a need for security we have locked our hearts away. Maybe you dislike emotions because they make you feel weak or out of control or foolish. Maybe in places that are too deep for you to even recognize you are unwilling to trust God with your whole heart.
Here’s the deal. A lot of us have shut down. Somewhere along the way we began to confuse cynicism with a realistic view of the world. We have become hardened. We have become cynical with the world and cynical with God. We no longer pray with tears. We no longer experience joy like children in His presence because too may people and too many things have failed us. In places we won’t talk about, we have a sense that God has failed us.
We see hope as a symptom of the naive; we see joy as a disease of foolishly optimistic people. A heart that feels things deeply about God is not foolish or naive. It is obedient and faithful.
I’ve been going through 1 Peter (and loving it fyi). He’s talking to a bunch of people who are going through some pretty rough persecution and suffering. his counsel to them is this:
“have…a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
He doesn’t call them to ignore the evil in others. He says – look at the world in all it’s brokenenss and instead of hardening your heart, keep it soft.
I think we’re afraid that if we go through this life with a tender heart we are foolish and will be destroyed, but the call from Scripture is that we find ourselves so deeply in Jesus that we are free to be tender with the world without fear. If our security is in Jesus we are free to give to others without expectation. We are free to love those who hate us without fear of being wounded. Our identity is secure. We have nothing to lose – only love to give.
A couple of blog posts ago, a non-believing friend posted a comment that still haunts me with its accuracy. He asked if I even enjoyed being a Christian. He said my portrayal of Christ “comes off like an advertisement for being abjectly miserable, oppressively guilty and constantly confused about your every act and thought”. My first instinct was to delete his comment, or defend myself or justify my heart. But that would have been pretty ironic since the post was about fighting the temptation to do such things. 🙂 sneaky God.
The reality is – my friend is right. So much of the time my life testifies that I believe Jesus is real and true, but not necessarily good; not sweet; not exciting and delightful and a source of unfailing joy.
I am an inaccurate picture of the sweetness of my God. I make Him out to be a burden. May my dear and precious and faithful friend Jesus forgive me. May He redeem my heart so that it can reflect that He is indeed better to me than life. I pray that my hardened heart may be softened. I pray that my inabilities in this area may lead me to worship a God of such sweet grace.
Even now, I imagine the angels gathering around our great God. I imagine the discussion going on as they look down at my heart and my life. I imagine them humbly and curiously asking the Father – Why this one, Lord? Surely this one is too far gone…surely this one can be of no use to you… Surely this one has defamed your name enough!
And I imagine them worshiping God anew as He reveals – through me – just how deep His mercy is and how strong His Spirit and how mighty His grace to redeem even hearts like mine.