Make the Great Commandment a source of prayer. Focus on God’s presence while you repeat several times its words, “I love you Lord; With all my heart. With all my mind. With all my being. With all my strength. I love you, Lord.”
(Mark 12:30 CEB)
I Thessalonians 2:8
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
God and Our Hearts’ Connection
Emotions are tricky things. Some of us have been raised with the idea that emotions need to be suppressed or ignored. When feelings arise, they are quickly shut down so that the rational can prevail. Unfortunately, when we shut down powerful and painful emotions, we also shut down joy.
Some of us have allowed our emotions to rule over us, with every feeling taking our thoughts captive. In an effort to be “authentic,” we express them to any and all that will listen – and to some who don’t even want to hear.
So how do we deal with our feelings? In his book, “Emotionally Healthy Relationships Day by Day.” Peter Scazzero tackles this issue.
More than 450 years ago, Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, developed a set of guidelines that respected the important place of our emotions in discerning God’s will. He rightly emphasized the foundation of a complete commitment to do God’s will, obey Scripture, and seek wise counsel.
Yet, in addition, he provided excellent guidelines for sorting out how God speaks to us through our emotions. The issue is not, he argued, to blindly follow our feelings, but to acknowledge them as part of the way God communicates to us.
He quotes author Arthur Green for a deeper explanation:
It is essential to spiritual discernment that we be in touch with our feelings. How many of us, however, are really so in touch? How many can “name, claim, tame and aim” the feelings within us which are the raw material of discernment?
Many say it is very difficult to know God since we do not see him, hear him, or touch him as we do another human being. That is true, of course, but I have become convinced that the greatest obstacle to real discernment (and to genuine growth in prayer) is not the intangible nature of God, but our own lack of self-knowledge—even our unwillingness to know ourselves as we truly are.
Almost all of us wear masks, not only when facing others but even when looking in the mirror.
Scazzero then concludes:
Taking the time, then, to remove those masks so we can feel deeply does not hinder our discernment, but actually positions us to hear God’s voice of love that calls out to us through our emotions.
Relationships, with God and others are built out of self-knowledge. That knowledge includes not just our thoughts and actions, but also the emotional foundation from which they spring.
Emotions are a gift from God to be used in connecting. That includes not only our “good feelings” but those that are distressing as well. We can only share ourselves to the degree we know ourselves. To love means to know oneself.
The early Christians knew this. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that they shared “not only the gospel but also their own selves.” Why? “Because you were very dear to us.”
The early church grieved deeply for the first martyr Stephen at his death. One might think that a church so close to the Resurrection would focus on only the certainty that the risen Savior had shown them.
There are some today who given the same circumstance would reject any expression of sadness in favor of true, but dismissive doctrines. This church understood, however, that sadness was not a rejection of faith but an expression of the love which is at the core of faith in Christ.
The importance of grieving goes even deeper. In their expression of sadness those early Christians were not only living out what it means to love and believe, they were also following the example of their Lord.
Jesus, fully aware that he would raise Lazarus, does not scold those who are mourning His dead friend. Instead, He joins them. We are told simply that He “wept.”
In doing so, He set the example of how we are to love God, others and ourselves – with ALL of our heart, mind, soul and strength. To do that is to know Him more deeply.
Questions to Consider
- What am I glad about today?
- What am I sad about?
- What am I angry about?
- What might God be saying to me amid those feelings?
- How might HE feel about those same things?
Speak to me Lord, through my feelings and lead me beyond them to a closer walk with you and others.
Rev. James R. Needham, PhD, MDiv