Emotionally Healthy Spirituality 1 Surrender

Starting a new series – Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” (Matthew 26:36)

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. (Matthew 26:37)

Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)

Jesus’s soul, this deep part of him is suffering and sorrowful. He is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” This is days before Jesus’s execution.

But even from early on Jesus is marked by all sorts of emotions.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. (Mark 6:30)

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

So here we see Jesus exhausted by all the crowds and commotion and looking to get some rest.

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:32)

But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. (Mark 6:33)

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, (remember he was hoping to get away from the crowds) he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:34)

So what a human emotion, hoping to get away from people, but not being able to get away from people but still being moved with compassion for these people who needed him.

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. (Luke 7:11)

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. (Luke 7:12)

When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” (Luke 7:13)

Here with see empathy for this woman who has lost her only son.

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. (Luke 10:21)

Here Jesus is spilling over with joy. Real authentic, human joy.

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! (Luke 12:49)

I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! (Luke 12:50)

Jesus here is talking about his death, and it says that he was stressed! Isn’t that great?!

He knows his death is coming and dreading it. How many of you have had the experience of knowing future and it’s not good, it’s not an if, you know it’s coming and you are DREADING IT. Not an anxiety of ‘if’ an anxiety of I know it’s coming.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (John 2:13)

In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (John 2:14)

Long story short – This has to do with the oppression of the poor by the rich, and the religious elite.

So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. (John 2:15)

To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16)

His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17)

Here we see Jesus consumed with righteous indignation. – Because of his overwhelming zeal or passion for justice.

This is definitely a story we tend to skip in Sunday school. When I was a kid we had flannel board. Now we do iPad stuff, but back in the day we had flannel board. Never had Jesus with a whip. “Here’s Jesus with his crazy eyes.” This isn’t Mr. Rogers Jesus for Sunday School.

John 11:33-36 @ funeral – friend Lazarus -graveside

When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. (John 11:33)

He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” (John 11:34)

Jesus began to weep. (John 11:35)

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36)

Love, loyalty, grief, pain, trauma,

Jesus was an emotional being. – HIGHLY

I would argue that Jesus was a HIGHLY emotional being. A lot of think of Jesus more like Spock. – Cold, distant, unmovable.

Jesus was an emotional being. Why? B/C he was a human being.

That’s not to discount his divinity, Jesus was 100% God but he was also 100% human. But even God is an emotional being. Jesus as a human experienced the whole palette of human emotion. Pleasant and unpleasant. Positive and negative.

To be human is to feel.

Robot Think of science fiction. A running theme is the difference between a human being and a robot is what? Emotion. In fact, to call someone a robot is to say “You don’t feel anything!”

And we, being made in his image, are deeply emotional.

So we as humans experience a whole range of emotion.

Some are positive, that we enjoy, like :

  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Hope
  • gratitude
  • relief
  • calm

Some are negative that we don’t enjoy.

  • Anxiety
  • depression
  • fear, terror
  • sorrow
  • disappointment
  • bitterness
  • jealousy
  • hate
  • rage

All of these feelings.

So, for most of us, we know what to do with the positive emotions: make them last as long as possible, and enjoy them while they’re here.

Savor the moment, put it on Instagram. A lot of us have no idea what to do with the other emotions.

We all experience pain. All of us. Some of you have a TON of it. But we all have it. And most of us have no idea what to do with it,.

The Book

Which brings us to the book we’re talking about this series: It’s called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. It’s by this guys name Peter Scazzero. From New York,

Short version: he plants a church in queens, NY City, 5 or 6 years in, it’s not going well, there’s a church split, and the church is super unhealthy, and the opening story is that he’s in a fight with his wife, epic crisis and she says “I quit. I’m leaving your church. I don’t want a divorce or anything, but I’m leaving your church. You’re not a good pastor, it’s not a good church, I’m leaving, and going somewhere else.”

And this starts him on this huge journey of doing spirituality but in a way that is emotionally healthy. And if you want to know what happens, read the book,.

But he talks about his wife and there was no like huge epic sin in his life – he wasn’t having an affair, he was serving God and caring for people, but he was emotionally immature and emotionally unhealthy.

So at home, he was grouchy, tired, and worn out, and emotionally unavailable. And his relationship with his wife wasn’t good, his relationship with his kids wasn’t good, but HE WAS PLANTING A CHURCH.

“It is not possible for a Christian to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”

And he lists a whole bunch on examples:

  • You can be a dynamic, gifted speaker for God in public and be an unloving spouse and parent at home.
  • You can function as a church board member or pastor and be unteachable, insecure, and defensive.
  • You can memorize entire books of the New Testament and still be unaware of your depression and anger, even displacing it on other people.
  • You can fast and pray a half-day a week for years as a spiritual discipline and constantly be critical of others, justifying it as discernment.
  • You can lead hundreds of people in a Christian ministry while driven by a deep personal need to compensate for a nagging sense of failure.
  • You can pray for deliverance from the demonic realm when in reality you are simply avoiding conflict, repeating an unhealthy pattern of behavior traced back to the home in which you grew up.

This Class

Take us first to emotional maturity and then emotional health.

I’m not up here teaching this as someone who has this dialed in. I started reading these books for ME.

I don’t want to talk too much about being a pastor, but I’m the only example I have, and the principle still applies.

People miss Outlet. – Everyone has an opinion on me.

Lunch today. I was talking at lunch with my friends. And this transition that we’ve made from our 5pm Outlet service to the new 12:30 service that I lead, well for some people, it’s been really great, they’ve been really happy with the transition. Others, shall we say, MISS the 5pm Outlet service. And that’s all totally cool, and everyone has their own preferences not only about what they prefer but what I OUGHT to do. Leading can be such a challenging thing. One way I didn’t realize is this sense of constantly disappointing huge groups of people. Because I have to change something that was really precious to this group of people and so they’re sad about it. And then you have people on the other side who have spent the last 3 years sad that they couldn’t come and now they can. And it just feels to me sometimes like everyone has an opinion on who I ought to be, and what I ought to do. And it can be so unfun that it’s crazy. Especially if you’re someone like me who hates letting people down.

And I don’t want this to sound to promotional, but some of the things that we’re gonna talk about in the comings weeks are the very things that have helped me navigate my own internal life in ministry.

So this is a journey that I want to go on together. A bunch of us – need this. If you can figure some of this stuff out, it will make you life 1,000 times better. It will help you at school, at your job, in your relationships, in your marriage, with your family.

I know there’s a bunch of us that need this. Some of you are like “It’s too late!!!”

3 ways – people deal – emotional pain:

There’s 3 basic ways that people deal with emotional pain. And they are all at play in a city like Albuquerque. But more than that, all 3 are at play in this room.

1. Eastern Spirituality


In my opinion, it’s more of a way of life than a form of spirituality. God isn’t even a person in Buddhism.

And let me say this: There’s actually a lot of good stuff in it. A lot of goes right along with the teachings of Jesus.

My primary issue with Buddhism, besides it’s take on God is it’s take on Evil.

The difference is this:

The Buddha said that all suffering is the byproduct of desire and attachment. And Jesus in the sermon on the mount says essentially the same thing: We feel emotional pain b/c of something we care about.

Buddha says that the way we deal with that is by detaching from all desire. – Very Jedi Knight. – Let go, be free, transcend, rise above.

2. Western Spirituality


It’s the worldview of “Jesus is alive, the tomb is empty, we’re a part of the family of God, and we’re not alone anymore. And we’re the head and not the tail, and we’re above and not beneath, and if your emotions tell you otherwise, well you just tell your emotions to take a hike!”

So, is all that good stuff I said about the Christian faith true? Yes. Absolutely. And is there a time to tell your emotions to take a hike? Yes.

The problem is, what happens when you preach that little sermon to your soul, and you tell your emotions to take a hike, and they say ‘Well who cares what you think? We’re not going anywhere.’ – What do you do then?

Well for a lot of Christians, the answer is: You fake it. You suppress it, you ignore it, you put on the new Hillsong record, confess positive stuff and just hope that your feelings are going to shut up.

3. Secularism

Which is the anti-spirituality.

The idea: Suffering is real, and there’s no much we can do about it. It’s like the the man in black in Princesse Bride – “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” “Yeah that’s called suffering, get used to it!” The thinking is this: The only thing you can is escape it.

Distract yourself:

  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Video Games
  • Movies
  • Books
  • Music
  • Work
  • Learning
  • Money
  • Shopping
  • Relationships
  • Sex
  • Your phone

And you never having to be alone with yourself, not even for 30 seconds. The idea is this: Emotional pain, that’s horrible, distract yourself.

Here’s what’s interesting:

  • Eastern spirituality – “detach”
  • Western spirituality : Put on – worship CD & ignore it.
  • Secularism: Get Drunk. / Play phone

All have in common: Running away from emotional pain. All 3 world views are alive not only in Albuquerque, but even in this room. You might even be able to see yourself in it. “For me, it’s Game of Thrones, I’m on season 5.” Or “I’ll just go to an extra bible study that week.” Or: I just learn to ignore my feeling. I detach. I’m a robot. It’s all the same thing: Running away. We don’t know how to deal with disappointment, or fear, or anger, or sadness. So we run away.

But in Jesus, we see another way….

Matthew 26:36-42

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” (Matthew 26:36)

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (3 closest disciples) along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. (Matthew 26:37)

Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. (No this is not a teenager, this is Jesus, in his 30’s) Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Jesus – thick – emotional pain.) (Matthew 26:38)

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, (So he’s on the floor) “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. (Metaphor for suffering on the cross) Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. (And he’s frustrated!) “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40)

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

Jesus does not deal with his emotions in an eastern spirituality way: Where he just has a zen moment, where he detached from reality. – And he doesn’t eliminate all desire “I don’t care if I live or if I die.” – No, he WANTS to not do this! His desire is to avoid this.

Jesus does not deal with his emotions in an classic western spirituality way: Where he just puts on his favorite Christian CD and says “I am the head and not the tail! Get away from me feelings!!!”

Jesus does not deal with his emotions in an secular way: Yeah I’m about to die. Life is pain! Get used to it! Where my flask?

No, Jesus deals with his emotions. He FEELS and he EXPRESSES his emotions. He enters into the pain and sits in it. Why? B/C Jesus was emotionally healthy.

We’re disciples of Jesus. That is to say that he’s the master and we’re the apprentice. So that means that for us, the life of Jesus is the template for how we are to live our life.

So often, especially Christians, we can focus on our spiritual life and neglect our emotional life. Jesus didn’t do that.

In Church – Teach “spiritual stuff”.

Here’s the fact: In the church, we usually teach people to do spiritual stuff. – That’s certainly true of this church too.

We teach you to read the Bible, and to pray, how to live in community, how to do justice, how to preach the gospel. And that’s all great, but often times we don’t teach people how to FEEL, and how to FEEL well, and how to navigate emotions.

So we have all these Christians walking around that appear to be mature, but they’re not. B/C they’re emotional babies.

People who love Jesus but are not healthy people :

  • They love Jesus, they’re just really mean.
  • They love Jesus, they’re just passive aggressive.
  • They love Jesus, they’re just insanely insecure and needy.
  • They love Jesus, they’re just don’t know how to stay in a relationship.

Whatever that is for you. And the author would say that if you’re not emotionally mature then you’re not mature at all. B/C being a follower of Jesus isn’t just about the spiritual life. It’s about being a follower of Jesus in every area. And Jesus was emotionally healthy.

Doesn’t mean happy all the time

Just to be clear, emotionally healthy doesn’t mean happy all the time.

Sometimes the healthy feeling is sorrow.


One of the hardest parts of being a pastor is doing funerals for your friends. Especially, when they’re young. A few years ago we had a funeral for a 25 year old girl who was murdered. So an emotionally healthy person doesn’t go in to that situation laughing and high-5-ing everybody. No they’re enter into the pain.

Jesus was not emotion-less, nor was he on a constant emotional high. He had highs and he had lows. But what I want to point out is how he dealt with them. Particularly emotional pain.

How Jesus Deals with Emotional Pain

1. He gives God his feelings

… “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38)

Blaringly honest. / Uncut. No edit. He tells God (and his community BTW) how he feels.

Psalms Think about the Psalms. The Jewish prayer book. They’re there to teach you how to pray. Some are incredibly beautiful and spot on. Others though, are violent, angry, barbaric, a little racist. / Some have no faith, no trust, blaming God.

Some are in absolute odds with the teachings of Jesus.

Psalm 137 for example. David is praying for vengence on Babylon, b/c of their war w/Israel:

Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. (Psalm 137:9)

So to be clear, that’s genocide. And it’s horrible. And it’s in Bible to teach you how pray.

Why would God hear that prayer and say ‘Hmm. That’s good. Make sure that makes it into the bible for the rest of time.’ – Why?

Maybe B/C God is not nearly as scared of honesty as we are.

Hiding from God is such a ridiculous idea. But it’s something we’ve done since he beginning of human kind. If you can picture Adam and Eve hiding in the garden with her fig bikini. Or whatever. Ever since then, we have been hiding from God. Hiding how we really feel, hiding how we really think. Which is so stupid. HE’S GOD.

He sees EVERYTHING in you. Your skin is like a wall of glass that he sees right through. He’s more aware of what’s inside you than YOU ARE. “I’m 21, I’m not even self-aware yet.” – Yes. We agree. Just keep coming.

Why do we keep hiding from God? And not just that, hiding from our community. ‘How are you?’ – ‘Blessed brother. Blessed.’ We even hide FROM OURSELVES sometimes. Which is so insane.

But we’re scared. That if we look under the bed, if you crack open that chest, who knows that horrors will come screeching out of the dark.

But Jesus, he just flat out says what he’s feeling. ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death.’ – This is the beginning of prayer.

He’s not telling God something he doesn’t already know. But he’s being honest. Which is more than many of us can say.

Tell God how you feel.

2. He gives God his desires

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Cup – metaphor for suffering on the cross.

Jesus : “Don’t wanna do it.”

I find that so funny. The cross is was why Jesus was there. That was kind of his big thing. And then a couple days before it happens Jesus says “I don’t wanna do it. But not as I will, but as you will.”

See this inner conflict. On one hand, he wants to be faithful to Gods call on his life, on the other he thinks about all that it’s going to mean to be crucified. To be beaten, and humiliated, and stripped naked, and spat on, and stabbed, and essentially suffocate to death, and he looks and say ‘Father, I really don’t want to.’ And so those 2 desires are at play.

The key for us:

Bring all your desires before God and not just the good ones.

Here’s what I do. And this is emotional immaturity. I take all my good desires, and I pray about those. “God I want to be a good husband, and a good dad, and I want to grow into someone who can lead this church well.” Bla bla.

But then I take my bad desires. Like I don’t know. – “I wanna go cuss out Carlynn because she’s such a pain.” – Said no one ever. But I keep all those out of my prayers.

And then I have all these middle-of-the-road desires. I want a donut, I want six-pack abs. Sometimes your desires can be at odds.

But with Jesus, there’s no filter. It’s just “I don’t want to go to the cross.”

What I’m trying to get better and going to God and telling him how I feel, and inviting him into all of those, knowing that he knows it all anyway.

What would it look like for you to take all your desires and just talk openly about them with God?

Imagine you’re at the gym. And there’s a girl, she’s a medium, but she’s wearing an extra-small. And clearly she goes to the gym a lot. And then maybe this desire rises up in you that what you want to do is discretely stare at her body and lust? What would it look like for you to say to God in that moment: “God I’m wanting to do something not to great with my eyes right now.”

“God I’ve had a really long day, and I just have no emotional energy for my family right now. I don’t even want to go home.” – What would it look like for you to invite God into that?

Maybe for you, you’re single and you desperately want to get married. Or you married and you desperately want to get single. – Seriously. You want a divorce. – What would it look like for you to just be honest about that before God? He already knows. And you can invite him into a situation by being honest with him.

Maybe somebody hurt you, maybe somebody hurt your family, and you hate them for it. What would it look like to go to God and just tell him that. And give him the opportunity to say something back.

Me – insecurity For me, a lot of it has to do with insecurity. That so much of my life is spent unsure of who I am, and who people are expecting me to be, and who God made me, and all that. What would it look like for me to invite God into that? To pray “God, I don’t know why I’m so gosh darn insecure all that time. But I’m inviting you into that.

You take the desires in you that are good, and you let God grow and expand them
You take the desires in you that are bad, and you let God help them die a good death.

3. He gives God his trust

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

… “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

So Jesus has this desire to not to go the cross, but he also has this desire to do his fathers will. That was the desire that ultimately won out in Jesus. It might not have been his STRONGEST desire in that moment, but it was his DEEPEST desire.

And for some reason I think that’s an important distinction. Your STRONGEST desire and your DEEPEST desire are not always the same.

So let’s imagine you’re at the gym, and extra-small is right next to you, your strongest desire may be to lurk and stare, but your DEEPEST desire, if you’re a real Christian, is I want to be like Jesus.

Surrender is the place where your emotions start to get healthy.

To take everything that’s inside you and just offer it up to God.

I don’t know if you know this or not, but God makes everything better.

What if our emotions, good and bad, are places to meet with God? What if God is waiting there for us?

“Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality; listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God… Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice… However, we often turn a deaf ear—through emotional denial, distortion, or disengagement. We strain out anything disturbing in order to gain tenuous control of our inner world. In neglecting our intense emotions, we are false to ourselves and lose a wonderful opportunity to know God. We forget that change comes through brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.“ (Dr. Tremper Longman III Old Testament Scholar)

Great name. I wonder what he goes by. ‘What up Tremp.’

I love that: Emotions are the cry that gives the heart a voice.

Wherever you’re at tonight.

Maybe you’re at the top of the world right now! You’re on date Number 3 and she’s sitting right there next to you! So all those great emotions – happiness, joy, anticipation, are places for you to meet with God.

Maybe you’re at the bottom – You’re depressed, or anxious, or you’ve experienced incredible pain. All those emotions – are places for you to meet with God.

Well over 2/3rds of the Psalms are lament. Mourning.

Right in the middle of Jesus being in the worst emotional pain of his life, he calls out to God, and what does he say? “My father.”