Reclaiming An Emotional Faith
By Fin Sheridan
“And so we decided that we’d send you all off on a holiday, completely paid for, so you can get some well needed rest!” exclaims the presenter as the family of 5, with 2 disabled children, all burst into tears. As do I.
“This is George. George is a golden retriever puppy but he was abandoned on Boxing Day…” says the solemn voiceover as black and white shots of George sat in the rain flow across the TV screen. I quietly sob into my hands.
*A little boy hugs his dad as “Father and Son” plays in the background. It is an advert for bread.* Weeping, I try to change the channel but cannot see the remote through my tears.
How emotional do you get? One of the unique elements about each individual is our emotions; our capacity to feel them and our willingness to express them. You might be someone who cries all the time – adverts, shows or moments like the ones above are enough to move you to a sobbing mess. You might be someone who rarely shows emotion – weddings, funerals and when you hit your finger with a hammer.
“Jesus is our blueprint for perfect human living and he experienced a whole range of emotions.”
Emotions are very fickle; friends one moment and foes the next. Our capacity to feel is one of God’s greatest gifts but can also hijack our lives in very damaging ways. Emotions are like fires: great in the right setting, destructive in others. You want a fire in the woodburner, you don’t want it on your duvet.
Faith doesn’t contradict emotions; it’s meant to compliment them. Our emotions and feelings should be expressed in our faith and our faith should steer our emotions. Jesus is our blueprint for perfect human living and he experienced a whole range of emotions. He wept. He laughed. He sighed. He shouted. He expressed himself.
Romans 14:17 says “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. What’s fascinating is that Paul is saying that it’s not what we do (e.g. eating and drinking according to the old code of the religious law) that defines what living in God’s kingdom means. It’s about more than that and two thirds of that ‘more’ refers to our emotional state: our peace and our joy.
With our tendency towards extremes, we sometimes think that we should exchange an emotional spirituality for a formal piety but that couldn’t be further from the truth. God wants to live with us, in our emotions, as they are steadied by the presence of his Spirit. Jesus modelled a life lived with full emotions. His kingdom is a kingdom where we can experience the fullness of human ‘feels’ as he makes us more and more like him.