Men especially have difficulty paying attention to their emotions. Some men would admit to having only two primary emotions: Anger and Hunger. But when I pay attention to my heart attitudes and emotions, I realize that the Holy Spirit and my brain are sending SIGNALS to my consciousness that there’s something going on deep inside of me. Emotions, like those red warning lights on the dashboard of our cars, are often the means that the Lord uses to bring about change and repentance. So I am learning to pay attention when I feel anger or anxiety. I’m learning to notice when I feel too confident or arrogant. And I’m starting to wake up to myself when I’m tempted to lose self-control or when I feel depressed and hopeless.
Here’s what our emotions could be telling us about our lives:
- Anger = often reveals an inordinate and yet unattained goal that your heart feels worthless without.
- Anxiety = often reveals an exaggerated need for security.
- Arrogance – reveals an inordinate confidence in a human attribute that in your heart makes you feel superior.
- Tempted to lose self-control – reveals an excessive appetite that your heart needs satisfied to be happy.
- Despair – reveals a false reliance on something that you once possessed but now you’ve lost and your heart thinks there’s no hope for you.
So when we find these emotions present in ourselves, it is a signal that I need to spend some time with God, His Word and His People. We need to talk about these things to someone (God and/or a trusted, wise Friend, or counselor) who can understand and empathize with our situation. Paying attention to the emotions and seeking to understand their source is a big part of keeping short accounts with God, confessing our sins and living a life of repentance.
Holy Saturday is the time in between John 19:41-42 and John 20:1: Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there…(INSERT HOLY SATURDAY HERE)…Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb…
Holy Saturday is the day between the Good Friday Dusk and Easter Sunday Morning Dawn. It consists of over 30 Sabbath hours of time between Friday Sunset and Sunday Sunrise in which the gospel writers give us no details, it is just EMPTY SPACE and DEAD AIR. We know what Good Friday feels like: despair, darkness, defeat and hopelessness. We know what Easter Sunday feels like: joy, light, victory and hope. But does Holy Saturday have a feel?
Recognizing that the Passion Week represents a continuous historical narrative, churches typically pause to enter into emotion of Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday or Tenebrae) and some pause to remember the journey of our Lord on the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday. But then we enter into Holy Saturday, a time when the sanctuaries of the old churches are stripped bare and lay in darkness. No services are scheduled, no sermons are preached, no one gathers for fellowship and there is no Lord’s Supper in order to commemorate the non-event of Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday is a dead intermission, an empty void between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ when His body lays in the tomb. I’ve never heard a message preached about Holy Saturday and I don’t recall singing a Hymn where Holy Saturday is given more than a sentence. But in the sentence of Holy Saturday (or more accurately, the parenthesis) there is an eerie feeling of familiarity to me.
I see that we live every day in a similar yet post-resurrection tension as we wait for the King to come back to consummate the Kingdom he inaugurated 2000 years ago. In between His two advents, we sin, we feel guilt, anxiety, shame, restlessness, we deny Him, sometimes betray Him, life sometimes feels dark and we often wonder what to do next just like the disciples on that First Holy Saturday. The difference living parenthetically on this side of Easter is that we can always turn back with understanding to the significance of the Cross to find forgiveness and mercy and embrace the life and certain hope imparted to us through the Resurrection.
(Inspired by Alan E. Lewis: “Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday“)
Earlier this week, I heard from a missionary friend overseas who privately commented regarding my blogposts from Monday and Tuesday. With his permission, I will relate some of our conversation. He said that he has seen that particularly the generation of younger 20’s and early 30’s seem to be struggling with an inability to build true relationships with others. He and his team felt that young people are substituting social networking for real relationships and that because of this they lacked the real ability and skills to connect with each other on a personal basis. The effect of this substitution is that so many more young people are feeling lonely and isolated. He also said that the irony seems to be that this generation craves community but they turn to social media as their source of community which is no real community at all and they are left wanting.
This is not to completely debunk the social media phenomenon which has great potential to connect people in ways that we were never connected before. (i.e. – my friend reads my blog from a link on a social media website and sends me a message about it via the same social media.) But my friend and I agree that social media is not intended to replace normal relationship building and emotional bonding. It is not the primary way to connect us to others, it is only an add-on or a layer of connection.
I love technology and I love social media. They are not the problem. The problem is that our hearts turn these media into a counterfeit for koinonia so when we look to facebook to be our relationships, we miss the real thing. Could it be that once again our own hearts are our downfall and that we are naturally moving to lesser desires not greater ones? Could it be that we are becoming satisfied with the “relational connections” and “friendships” that social media provides and we are losing our appetites for the real thing? Likely this is one more example of what CS Lewis said in His Weight of Glory address,
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
We translate the greek word, koinonia using words that have become almost meaningless to us today. We use words like “fellowship” “participation” or even “partaking.” Sometimes we will use an even more ambiguous word, “communion” These words don’t really do justice to the meaning. I have attempted in the past to draw attention to the word and even attempt to re-define it as “communion by intimate participation,” which might temporarily arrest us to look again but I admit that my definition has only minimal impact on how we could view our connection with God and each other.
But the Biblical writers intended a greater inter-connectedness and mutual experience for us in the use of this word. And to a world that experiences life, relationship, connection and even church from behind a firewall, grasping the intended experience of koinonia with God and each other is crucial lest we continue down a path to a surrogate society of isolation where we are only virtually connected to God, church and others. We are living in a reductionist society of ideas and virtual realities and while we can explain our realities better than we ever could we have a lesser experience of them.
Julie Canlis in her book Calvin’s Ladder cites Owen Barfield in saying,
“When a Greek person living in the classical world experienced the world around him, he did not do so via a system of ideas about his experience but instead felt an “extra-sensory link” between what he saw and his own self… The participation of the ordinary man was a livelier and more immediate experience… . This was due to the koinonia-consciousness of the classical world (which persisted in varying forms right up until the scientific revolution).”
To the Greek world of the first century, Koinonia was the way to experience the world now. Koinonia was originally understood in the context of a historical setting when individuality and the boundaries of self were not harshly drawn and we cared more about what we experienced than merely about the ideas that described our experience. George Hunsinger underscores the importance and elusiveness of koinonia for us today.
“Koinonia means that we are not related to God or to one another like ball bearings in a bucket, though a system of external relations. We are rather, something like relational fields that interpret, form, and participate in each other in countless real though often elusive ways. Koinonia both as a tern and as a reality, is remarkable for its range and flexibility and inexhaustible depth.”
Have you ever had a friend or spouse approach you with the words, “I have some good news and some bad news, which would you like to hear first?” This is common phraseology in our culture which is sometimes simply employed to communicate an outlook that is mixed with positive and negative elements, but in my experience is most often used to cushion impact of Bad News. Why is there always SOME bad news? Well, our reaction to receiving Bad News says a lot about where our trust rests. Psalm 112:6-8 says: “For the righteous will never be moved…He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” (ESV)
In Mark 5, while Jesus was still speaking to the woman with the chronic bleeding problem, the desperate dad/ruling church elder named Jairus, who has been waiting on Jesus to come to his home to heal his dying daughter, received some Bad News from the home: “Your daughter is dead.” This Message produces an even greater level of despair in the Dad. It saps his courage, his faith sinks like a punctured tire and a pit grows in his stomach the size of a basketball. This is perhaps the worst news a parent can ever receive, he has lost his pride and joy! His little girl, whom he loves is gone. Seemingly death places the concern outside of Jesus’ ability to help. But with instant access to the dad’s thoughts, feelings and blood pressure readings, Jesus hears the desperation, gives the deepest empathy and says to him, “Don’t fear, just believe.”
Can you imagine Jesus, with His steely eyes looking right into yours then with absolute knowledge of you and your life circumstances, can you hear Him speaking those strong yet tender words to you “Don’t fear, Just Believe”?
“Let nothing trouble you, Let nothing frighten you, Everything passes, God never changes, Patience Obtains all, Whoever has God Wants for nothing, God alone is enough” –Teresa of Avila
Tomorrow: “Fear Constricts the Flow of Grace while Faith Opens its Hydrant”
Many of us are effective at ignoring the warning signs of our emotions and attitudes when we should be paying attention to these God-given alerts that something is amiss deep down. Often, if we will look with God’s help, we will see something connected to the emotion or attitude that needs to be confessed, repented of and healed. Today I want to write about the emotion and attitude of depression while not getting into a clinical diagnosis. If someone is clinically depressed he needs to seek an appointment with a healthcare professional. Some people experience post-traumatic depression after a military engagement, going through a traumatic event or after the death of a loved one. These feelings are completely understandable and the loss or trauma needs to be grieved by the individual and supported by loved ones. Personally, during my year in Sweden, I battled seasonal depression, when I endured a long, dark winter. But we all feel depressed sometimes and our depression is neither clinical, post-traumatic nor seasonal.
Often, we feel depressed because we had something that made us feel great and for some reason we don’t have it anymore so we sink into a despondency or discouragement over the loss. This depression is the result of the loss of something or someone whom we cognitively and emotionally inflated to divine levels in our hearts. When we are depressed like this, deep down our hearts are saying, “God, I had that thing and it was life to me but now it’s gone and nothing else can help me.” You know that you are involved in some worship-oriented depression when you have lost something that was too important to you and now you feel that your life is over and you can’t move on. We get depressed when we have elevated some finite value to the centerpiece of our lives, bestowed upon it an ultimate source of meaning and then we lose it. Augustine defined this heart attitude of depression revealed by loss as idolatry. He said, “Idolatry is worshipping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshipped.” We know that our hearts have created an idol when we can’t imagine a happy or meaningful life without it. The idol, which is usually a good thing that our hearts have inflated inordinately, becomes so important to us that when circumstances threaten to rob us of it, we would consider turning our backs on God for He is negotiable but this thing is not.
Pray: O Heavenly King, I confess that my depression comes from the fact that I have magnified some earthly thing to be more wonderful and powerful than it really is and now it’s gone. Thank you that your providential removal of this idol from my life is your loving attempt to console my heart with a deeper, richer satisfaction in you. Thank you that I am no longer under the influence of that false functional savior who controlled my emotions and often disappointed and even devastated me. Satisfy the deepest longings, hungers and thirsts of my soul through your tender compassion and extravagant generosity. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Most Christians won’t be surprised to hear that our hearts are not inclined to easily and naturally trust in God. In recent years, I have been much more aware of the anti-faith protective posture of my heart which leads me away from trusting in God but instead relying on my own independent resources. When I pay attention to my heart attitudes and emotions and realize that they are SIGNS that there is something going on deep inside of me, I can confess, repent and trust God.
An event that triggered me to pay more attention was when a helpful old friend reported back to me after asking to borrow my car that every warning light was on glowing on my dashboard. I had grown accustomed and even comfortable with these warning lights and over time I had even forgotten about them. My friend being forced to drive MY car was not accustomed to these warning lights and was quite alarmed by them. Like a good pastor, I thought, “there’s an illustration here.” I had often thought that our emotions and heart attitudes are signs or warning lights that show that there is something going on “under the hood” so to speak. But like with my car, I chose to ignore the warning lights in my own life and kept pressing on.
Tomorrow I will begin to unpack some common heart attitudes and emotions like anger, anxiety, boredom, laziness, indifference, cynicism, despondency, and discouragement. The goal is to reveal what these attitudes and emotions can tell us about what’s going on deep down under the hood.