Created in God’s image, man was given among other things, the gift of emotions. Can you imagine life without feelings? It would be flat, colorless, gray, robotic, boring beyond measure. But with anticipation, excitement, hope, happiness, fondness, caring, love, satisfaction, and joy we feel fully alive, participants in the world around us.
The Bible reveals God as having some emotions, but not nearly such a long list. He is described as having joy, delight and satisfaction with his creation, anger at sin which twists and defiles that creation, and love which is a constant – the fabric of his being.
All the negative emotions in mankind are the result of our fallen nature. Here we find the source of most of the earth’s troubles. Anger, hatred, greed, domination, anxiety, fear and dread, desire for power and recognition, hopelessness, despair, jealousy, the pain of rejection plus a host of others contribute to the breakdown of relationships and eventually every society.
It seems only natural to conclude that if there is to be any hope for our society and mankind in general, we must deal with those negative emotions at their root, bringing our lives more in in line with those of the One who created us. Or, in short Bible-speak, be conformed to the image of Christ.
This has to happen, I submit, before the Christian world will have any impact against the forces of the secular world. With our unhealed emotions our behavior is often no better than the world around us, and is made worse by the addition of our self-righteousness.
How is it that people can spend years of their lives as Christians without dealing with the root causes of their negative emotions?
One major reason is simply unawareness that life could be any different than what they have known. Their lives are shaped by the box of their experiences. The box contains their original personhood as designed by the Creator, but it is also filled with memories, events, emotions, pain, teachings received from the culture around them, and their interpretation of all this. All of the box is considered normal, the way things are, the way they are. It is all they know, and it is real and true to them. Accepting Jesus Christ and the message of the church becomes an addition, an external, much like a coat of paint on the outside to make the box more attractive. A common phrase used by them to explain or justify their more negative behavior patterns is “That’s just the way I am!” The idea that there may be another way to see things, another way to live, has not been received or believed, often because it has not been taught. “You mean to say I don’t have to live in fear? Or with this short fuse? Or this shame? How can that be?”
Another reason for the continuation of the status quo is the deception of pride which says “I’m cool the way I am. If you don’t like that, there is something wrong with you. Certainly not me!”
This line of thought is akin to those who have grasped 2 Corinthians 5:17 as a shield against any need to change. Declaring that verse without reading it in its full context is to misunderstand it. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things are new.” Or as the NIV has it: 2Co 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The next several verses expound on that by saying it is all about being reconciled to God, from whom we are estranged until Christ enters our lives. That’s it. Reconciled, yes. Healed from our bad selves, no. If we were all totally cleaned up from our emotional pain and ungodly reactions there would be no need for all the Scripture admonishment to “put off the old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude if your minds.” Eph.4:22. We are told to renew our minds, work out our salvation, become mature, not babes. That means taking our “perfect” selves and doing something about them!
One major blockage to dealing with our boxes of negative emotions and pain is the fear of looking within. We don’t know what is in there, but we have a pretty good idea it could be too nasty, or scary or shameful to bear coming to the light. There be dragons and beasties, things that go bump in the night! The fear of revelation with its accompanying shame makes us keep a strong lock on the tight lid of our boxes.
At base, the failure to deal with these pesky emotions reveals a lack of trust in the goodness of God. Not entirely sure that He really has our best interests in mind, we stay safely on the perimeter of life, putting up with our “normal” and never coming to that place of peace, joy and abundance Jesus talked about.
Want high adventure living? Take the risk. Dare to pursue dealing with your issues. You know you have them; so, sadly, does everyone else. The end result will be a delight to all.