Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Dealing With Emotion

John Piper writes:
The following quote is from my journal dated November 6, 1986. I had been at Bethlehem 6 years. If you have ever felt like this, remember this is 24 years ago and I am still here.

The point is: Beware of giving up too soon. Our emotions are not reliable guides.
[emphasis added]
What follows is a prayer of extreme discouragement. But it was his admonition that emotions are not reliable guides that really caught my attention. I think most of us are consciously aware of that about negative emotions like loneliness and discouragement. Many understand that fear is an emotion that should not guide our actions and it often comes in the wake of loneliness and discouragement.

But I wonder how many people keep such behavioral checks on positive emotions? We get swept up in the positive and declare, "God is here TODAY!" because we "feel" His presence - and we act with a boldness that can be dangerous.

I know of a church ruling board that acted on the overwhelming sense of hope they had and the church now lies in financial ruin. I cannot tell you how many broken relationships are in my life because of people, caught in a rush of positive emotion from what they perceived to be a miraculous and direct encounter with the Holy Spirit (I have my doubts because I do not think the Holy Spirit breaks relationships) they declared that I was apostate. I could go on.

God has made us whole creatures. We are not to be Vulcans, hiding our emotion. But we are not to be victimized by them either. God acts in and through our emotions, but they are no more or less reliable than the other means by which He acts in our lives. They must be subjected to our reason and to verification by others and by scripture as would any other "push" that we might feel.

That's a tall order, sometimes emotion does not wish to be subjected to reason or analysis. And that is the hardest part of all. Sometimes, we must simply let it run its course - and trust God to meet us at the other side. We just cannot let it make us do something stupid while the journey proceeds.

That is an act of faith. Do we have enough?

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