Lent Day 6 Reflection
Today’s reflection comes from Jared Brandt.
Jared and his wife, Courtney, became covenant members last fall
and have helped launch a new Life Group for young marrieds.
Jared is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at Baylor University.
– Psalms 63:1-3 –
O God, You are my God;
I shall seek You earnestly.
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
to see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
my lips will praise You.
In my life, it has often been the case that I could not say, with the Psalmist, that “My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You.” It can be a struggle to wake up in time to meet with the Lord, or to go to church when I know I have so much to do. Oftentimes, I have to force myself to pursue spiritual things, while it is so easy to pursue the things of this world.
I assume that I’m not alone in this struggle. In fact, this has been something that Christians have struggled with, thought through, and written about for centuries.
Throughout that time, human emotions have often been labeled as the enemy. Many Christians perceive the Christian life to include getting one’s emotions to submit to what we know by faith. Therefore, the mature Christian is believed to be the one who has beaten her emotions into submission.
However, does this seem consistent with what David says in Psalm 63? It looks like he has strong positive emotions toward God. Was David just lucky enough to receive emotions that were well-ordered and drew him closer to God? Are we destined to struggle against errant emotions until heaven?
I think the answer to both of these questions is “No!” Our emotions are not static traits like height or hair color that we are born with. Instead, they must be cultivated.
Our emotions are an important way we perceive value in the world. Because of this, they are closely tied to our concerns and desires. So, when our concerns and desires point us away from God, then we will have positive emotions toward worldly things, and we will end up feeling indifferent (or worse) toward God. This is part of what it means for us to be fallen creatures. Our sinful nature shapes our desires and inclinations, which in turn, shapes our emotions.
However, that is not the end of the story. Christ has set us free from that old nature! We are no longer slaves to sin. Still, we have to continually decide to put off the old nature, as Paul says in Ephesians 4. Our emotions do not change overnight, but must be cultivated. Just like the Israelites struggled to trust God in the desert after leaving Egypt, we can struggle with unruly emotions. However, God desires the redemption of our whole persons: our hearts, minds, desires, actions, and emotions.
We can reshape our emotional life by engaging in spiritual practices. Through corporate confession of sin we can come to feel the appropriate guilt and weight of sin in our lives. Through fasting we can begin to feel a strong sense of dependence upon God. Through helping fellow believers endure trials and tribulations, we can come to feel joy in the face of suffering. And lastly, through consistent worship, we can begin to feel the thirst and yearning for God that David mentions. Of course, it is ultimately God’s grace that enables this transformation in our emotional lives, but we often encounter that grace in these spiritual disciplines.
So, take heart. Even if you aren’t “feeling it” right now, there is hope. God is redeeming our emotional lives along with our spiritual lives!