Summary: In the coming weeks, we want to take a closer look at emotions like grief, anger, depression, fear and anxiety--and learn how the Bible says we can be delivered from be held hostage to these emotions and moving into an emotionally healthy life.
This morning we begin a series entitled: “Rollercoaster.” In the coming weeks, we want to take a closer look at emotions like grief, anger, depression, fear and anxiety--and learn how the Bible says we can be delivered from be held hostage to these emotions and moving into an emotionally healthy life.
I don’t think we need to spend time justifying why we’re spending time on this subject. By almost any measuring standard, Americans (including American Christians) are very concerned that they’re not as emotionally healthy as they should be.
On the surface, the subject of human emotions may seem simple. But when you start to look at it closely, it gets very complicated in a hurry. You may start out asking simply, “What are key steps to overcome my anxiety, depression, anger, etc.?”--but you will soon bump into other underlying questions like:
What is emotional health? If we have the wrong definition, we’re bound to miss it. Is it merely the absence of these negative emotions and the presence of positive emotions
Are negative emotions inherently unhealthy? Or do negative emotions have a place in emotional health? If they aren’t inherently unhealthy, when do they become so?
How easy is it to become emotionally healthy? Americans are notoriously into quick fixes. If we are unrealistic in our expectations on this, it may contribute to more emotional unhealth!
Should emotional health be a goal? I know this sounds ludicrous, but what if emotional health is not a worthy goal, but rather a result of pursuing other, more important goals?
This series will seek to discover the Bible’s answers to the main question: “How can biblical teaching help me overcome my grief, depression, anger, etc.?” The Bible is a guide toward emotional health. But before we can hear its answer to this question, we have to listen to its answers to other more foundational questions. That’s what I want to get at this morning by explaining three biblical assumptions that are related to emotional health.
We are deeply broken people living in a badly broken world.
The first thing we need to understand as we approach the subject of emotional health is some very sobering news: We are deeply broken people who live in a badly broken world. We were created for a perfect world, but human rebellion has plunged the whole world, all of us, and every area of us into a deeply abnormal state. Only when Christ returns and re-establishes God’s loving rulership over the world will there be an end to sadness, pain and grief (Rev. 21:4). Until then, we will “groan” (Rom. 8:22,23)(READ).
This does not mean that the Bible is totally pessimistic or fatalistic about emotional health. God can give us substantial healing in this area of our lives. The same passage that insists that we will groan until Jesus returns also says that God’s Spirit begins a real work of healing in this life. But it does mean that we should reject all expectations of perfection in this life. We should manage our expectations realistically.
We are all inherently prone to certain emotional problems. We can see real progress in these areas, but we will probably battle with them throughout our lives.
Some of us have gone through horribly traumatic experiences. These experiences have left emotional wounds and scars. The feelings associated with these past experiences can also flare up in pain when triggered by certain situations. Again, God can and does provide significant healing over time--but the full healing will not come until the kingdom of God comes.
We will continue to be racked by painful circumstances (e.g., death of loved ones; serious illness; aging) as we go through life--and these things will bruise and wound us emotionally.
If you serve Christ, the Bible says you are a soldier in a great spiritual battle--and this brings it own kind of emotional pain (spiritual attack; hostility, rejection & betrayal; confusion; apparent ministry failure). If you know Christ, there is the compensation of his comfort and encouragement--but this comes to us in the midst of emotional pain; it does not eliminate it.
This is a very important point as we think about emotional health. If you expect (as American culture teaches us we have a right to expect) that life should be one long vacation with occasional bumps, you will suffer worse than necessary when this unrealistic expectation is shattered. But if you let the Bible temper your expectations--if you expect this life to be filled with suffering and live it in hope of Christ’s return and in gratitude for his encouragement and partial healing in this life, you will be emotionally stronger and healthier.
The fact that we are broken people living in a broken world also sheds light on how we should view negative emotions. On one level, they are abnormal because we wouldn’t feel them in a perfect world. But on another level, they are not inherently bad either. They are sort of like our nerve endings. They register pleasure, but they also register pain. Negative emotions tell us that we and the world around us are not as they should be. And just as physical pain can spare us from further injury and motivate us to seek medical attention, so emotional pain can motivate us to seek spiritual help from God. This is why Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matt. 5:4). All of the most important spiritual breakthroughs in my life have been preceded by periods of intense emotional pain.