Painful emotions are an invitation to turn to God in faith!
On Sunday, I tried to explain one vital and often neglected part of our journey of becoming more like Jesus Christ: cooperating with God’s work of changing our hearts by experiencing his truth in our emotional lives. Like the proverbial “iceberg” our emotional lives are ignored and remain “under the surface” when it comes to discipleship. I fear that I didn’t do the topic justice because I had not taken the time to focus or to streamline a complex teaching for a “one-off” sermon. I’ll try to get at it by giving an illustration of the principle in my own life and then recommend to you some resources for your own personal study and experience.
After a recent church event one participant lamented that not many people had attended the event. What followed was their fantastic suggestion about promotion and publicity that certainly would have brought more participants to be blessed by the evening’s activities. Though I agreed fully with the suggestion, unfortunately, I couldn’t “hear” the suggestion. I was too busy feeling defensive. You see, I was in charge of the event. I planned it. I promoted it. I prepared for it. So, I took the suggestion to be a personal criticism, felt wounded, and took it personally. Do you see the fundamental problem? I was focused on “I”. I was thinking about myself and not what was true or good. Guess how I responded? You’re right! My response was proud and defensive. I gave excuses that protected me and my reputation.
My feeling defensive was an opportunity for me to turn to God in faith but I failed. Instead, my selfish sinfulness led me to act in a NON Christ-like manner. Later during a time of personal devotion, the Spirit brought the experience to mind. In that time alone with God, I realized my self-centeredness and my sinful pride (guilt). I confessed it to God and experienced his forgiveness. [That’s an experience of God changing our heart—replacing guilt with forgiveness.] Through prayer I was able to identify some of my actions and thoughts that contributed to my being defensive (condemnation), and I purposed to change those actions and to meditate on God’s truth. [That’s an experience of God changing my heart—replacing self-condemnation with his truth.]
When we experience these painful emotions—hurt, anger, guilt, condemnation, etc.—they are an invitation for us to turn to God in faith so that we can receive God’s grace. God is the sovereign Lord of every part of our being including our hearts and emotions. He wants to sanctify us through and through. So, we are to die to pride, defensiveness, arrogance, stubbornness, judgmentalism, etc. We are to experience his comfort, forgiveness, and truth. So, as we grow in awareness of our emotional lives we submit our hearts to the transforming power of God’s grace.
Two resources have been especially helpful for me in this area of personal growth: “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazerro and “Emotional Fitness: Developing a Wholesome Heart” by David Ferguson. Both resources give practical help in managing one’s emotional life as an expression of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit. I agree with Scazerro: “Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable.” Take some time to look through Sunday’s slides (on pastor’s blog) and ask God to change your heart.
May we surrender our feelings, our emotions, our hearts to the work of God’s Spirit so that we become more like Jesus Christ!
Change our hearts, O God!
Scott Corwin, Pastor
Sunday’s Slides: Changing My Heart