Emotionally Healthy Spirituality 2 Eremos

Last week, if you were here was essentially the setup.

Short version is we’re looking at what it looks like for us to be an emotionaly healthy human being in an emotionally healthy church community.

Last week – compliment Last week after class a friend came up to me and said ‘You know, that’s one thing I’m really grateful for this church for. Is that you always encourage me to be personally healthy. And for me that was such a profound compliment. For me, as a pastor, years ago, I decided in my own life that if doing ministry resulted in me being having a less healthy interior life, that I wanted out.

Any religion or faith structure that ultimately makes your life worse is deeply flawed. The Christian life is not an easy life, but it’s a good life.

One thing we talked about last week was that our discipleship to Jesus involves emotional health, because Jesus, who is our template for how to live, was emotionally healthy. So part of becoming more like Jesus is becoming more and more emotionally healthy.

Luke – 1st century gospel – geography – Jesus.

Luke is first century gospel, which is to say a geography about Jesus. And it’s one of 4 in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Luke is unique because he was not one of Jesus’s disciples. He was a doctor and a historian, so his book more than any others wants to be absolutely precise and in-depth. It’s almost 20k words, which makes it not just the longest gospel but the longest book in the New Testament.

The 1st 3 chapters are about Jesus’s genealogy, and his birth, and his upbringing, and finally in 3:23

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry… (Luke 3:23)

This word ‘ministry’ is not in the greek, so it just ‘Jesus was about 30 when he began’.

And then there’s this long geneology, and let’s skip down to the last line

… the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:38)

Ok cool.

Now chapter 4:

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan (region around a river in Israel) and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, (Luke 4:1)

where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. (Luke 4:2)

Isn’t that strange? He was led by the spirit to a place where he was tempted by the devil. It’s important to note that it wasn’t the devil who leads him into the wilderness, it was the spirit.


Tonight: Introduce you to a greek word. For those of you who don’t know, the majority of the new testament was written in greek.

Wilderness in greek : “erémos”

Really the meaning on that word is “desolate” – Emptiness. Other times in the Bible it’s translated “The solitary place.”

Why would the spirit lead Jesus in the the erémos? The wilderness, to solitude?

First off, it’s to have this big clash with ‘The Satan’. He had to succeed where Adam and Eve (and all huminity) failed, if you know the story of the garden of Eden.

But in addition to that, there’s something else happening here: Most people when they think Jesus out in the wilderness they think of weakness, he doesn’t eat for 40 days, all by himself.

What if the erémos is not a place of weakness, but of strength.

“Most to whom I have spoken about this matter are shocked at the suggestion that the “wilderness,” the place of solitude and deprivation, was actually the place of strength and strengthening for our Lord and that the Spirit led Him there – as He would lead us there – to ensure that Christ was in the best possible condition for the trial.

In that desert solitude, Jesus fasted for more than a month. Then, and not before, Satan was allowed to approach Him with his glittering proposals of bread, notoriety, and power. Only then was Jesus at the height of His strength. The desert was His fortress, His place of power. Throughout His life He sought the solitary place.” (Dallas Willard) Dallas Willard

He’s right. Through the life of Jesus, we see Jesus ‘getting away’, sometimes slipping out in the middle of the night – to the erémos.

For Example: Skip down to the end of chapter 4.

Most of Luke 4 is this brutally long day in the life of Jesus.

  • In the morning he’s preaching in the synagog
  • A little later he does an exorcism.
  • At noon, he’s at Simon’s house, healing his mother-in-law.
  • At night, look at v40:

At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. (Luke 4:40)

Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah. (Luke 4:41)

So here Jesus is doing a healing and exorcism service into all hours of the night.

Look at v42:

At daybreak (in Marks version it’s ‘Very early in the morning, while it’s still dark’. We’re talking balloon fiesta 30 here), Jesus went out to a solitary place. (Anyone have any guesses on this greek word? You’re right, Eremos. He went out to the solitary place. He’s out there for 1 maybe 2 hours.) The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. (Luke 4:42)

So the people still reeling from the night before are trying to keep Jesus from leaving their town.

But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” (Luke 4:43)

This is Jesus for “No.”

And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:44)

This is so interesting. That after a brutally long day of caring for people, Jesus who certainly seems to be on the extroverted side of things, wakes up early in the morning and heads to the ‘eromos’, to the solitary place where he’s all alone, and praying and centering himself for the coming day.

He comes out of the eremos with 4 things:

1. Clarity about what he’s supposed to do.

“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

This is Jesus saying “I’m not here just for you, I’m here for all of these people.” – Which is not an easy revelation for those of us in ministry. – Jesus has the super clear picture of who he is and what he’s called to do.

2. The ability to say no to good things.

The people come to Jesus and say ‘Hey stay here with us. Everybody’s talking about you. And keep in mind that he’s in capernaum, which is right on the major north/south trade route, so this is a huge opportunity for Jesus to get hugely famous. If you do something amazing at Capernaum, word spreads. Jesus having this opportunity to stay in Capernaum and really prove his mettle, is like your band playing Coachella. It could make your career.

But Jesus simply says ‘Nope. Not why I’m here’.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the quote from Oswald Chamber ‘Good is the enemy of best’. Jesus knew all about this. Nothing wrong with staying in capernium, except it wasn’t what God had for him. Jesus understood that Life is short, and you can only say yes to short list of things. And if you’re always a ‘yes’ man, or ‘yes’ woman, you’ll end up letting other people define that list for you. And that’s a mistake.

I also think that Jesus had this beautiful sense of refusing to be hurried. – He was aware of the danger of busyness. And I’m using that phrase on purpose.

“Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” (Dallas Willard)

For most of us, that’s a bizarre idea. In 2019, to be busy is to be successful. That the busiest people are the best people. But Jesus refused to live like that.

Jesus’s ministry lasted 3 years. That’s it. 3 years. It was the 3 most productive years in the history of the world. You never see Jesus in a hurry. Never. Not once. One of the reasons is that Jesus had absolutely no problem saying ‘No’.

3. Emersion in God’s presence.

Over and over in Luke we read that Jesus was “full of the holy spirit”. He live in God’s presence all day long.

4. Empowering for Kingdom Work.

And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:44)

Even after a brutally long day. There was still grace to do what God had for him to do.

A lot of us are the exact opposite.

  • Instead of : Clarity about what we’re supposed to do. We have confusion about what we’re supposed to do.
  • Instead of : The ability to say no to good things. We say yes to way too much. And not only good stuff, dumb stuff. “Are you free?” “Yes I am. I will be there.”
  • Instead of : A sense of God’s presence. We feel disconnected from God. Like he’s far away. God becomes more of an idea than an actual being that we’re experiencing our day with.
  • Instead of : Empowering for Kingdom Work. Stressed out, on edge, worn down, exhausted.

Maybe it’s because we don’t spend any time in the Eremos.

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” (Blaise Pascal – 17th century Catholic theologian)

Spiritual disciplines

Spiritual disciplines (been written about for 2000 years) It’s essentially a habit. Something you do on a regular basis. And lots of people have different opinions about what should be on the list and what shouldn’t. But there’s about 5 that appear on every list:

  • Silence
  • Solitude
  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Meditation
  • Silence: Quiet. No phones buzzing, no TV on in the background, no children screaming (if you’re me). Silence.
  • Solitude: You’re all alone. Just you and the God who made you.
  • Prayer: Talking with God. Being open with God. And LISTEN to God.
  • Fasting: To even go without food for a time as a way to recalibrate your mind to recognize that God is the source and sustainer of life.
  • Meditation: Become attuned firstly to God and who he is. And also paying attention to how God made you. And notice your life.

I think Americans are pretty much horrible at all of them, but especially SILENCE and SOLITUDE. In fact, I think for the average American, they’re terrified at the idea of these 2.

  • A silent world : No Traffic, no cell phone, no music
  • A solitary world : A solitary world : No other people, you’re not with your friends, or your family, or your boyfriend or your spouse. – Just you. & God.

So we see Jesus going to the ‘erémos’ – sometimes for as long as 40 days, and other times just for an hour or two. So it’s not just this huge leave my world behind, it’s just be and my backpack thing. It can also be this there’s one hour in the morning where I’m not going fast yet, it’s me and God and I’m aware of God, I’m aware of myself.

≠ Compartmentalizing
I’m working to stop compartmentalizing my life into spiritual things and real life things, so part of me going into the wilderness in isolation it’s like me going into the other room and playing a video game. Some of you might be horrified by that but I think for me it’s it’s part of me understanding who I am and what I need to be healthy. I play these super geeky games, I’m not out there blowing people up with grenades, I love games that involve deep strategy, and deep thought, and trail and error. For me, that exercises my brain in a very different way than reading or most anything else that I do in my work life. My wife comes into the room and looks at my game – right now I’m playing a game called factorio that’s essentially a factory builder so you have to plan out your fabrication plan and see what machines build at different rates and get all the different conveyor belts running just the right routes. I love it.

Does that sound like a spiritual activity? No, but I think it is. I think of it as celebrating part of who God made me. And it’s recharging, and it’s energizing to me.

From the book:

Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.

I know of pastors that for whatever reason, they find golfing to be an energizing activity for them. I personally don’t. I don’t enjoy any sport where I can be beaten by an 80 year old lady. I don’t care for that.

Me : Morning So for me, I AM a morning person. My wife and I, our alarm goes off at 5:30 most mornings. So I’ve certainly gone through seasons where I’d wake up and have some time with just me and God first thing. I’m not in a season like that right now b/c that’s when I go to the gym. But that’s certainly the best time for lots of people. My wife has a beautiful time in the mornings that really means a lot to her.

But this is so individual. It has to do with your life and your energy and you commitments, but just having some time in a crazy world to slow down, and find some balance, pray (that’s two way communication), and just see what’s happening beneath the surface.

I know what you’re thinking: I don’t have any – TIME.

I say this all the time. Time is only an issue for stuff you don’t care about. I know that’s mean. But it’s true.

  • How many of you found time to eat a least once already today?
  • I won’t make you raise your hands, but how many of you found time to poop in that last 48 hours. I’m gonna say most of you. And if you haven’t, you might want to call a doctor.

You make time for whats important. And having a small amount of time for self-care is not a selfish act.

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (Luke 5:15)

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)

Guess what that phrase ‘lonely places’ is in greek? – Eremos. Jesus OFTEN withdrew to the Eremos. For Jesus, this was a regular part of his rhythm.

And I’m pretty sure Jesus had a lot to do in those 3 years. I doubt highly that your work is more important than his was.

What’s amazing is that if you track Jesus and the Eremos, you’ll see that the busier he got, the more in demand he got, the MORE he went away. To recharge. To reflect. To reconnect with his father.

Most of us are the opposite of that. That we take care of ourselves only when stuff isn’t too busy, but as soon as things get a little hectic, self-care is the first thing to go.

Practical: This isn’t bible, but I do believe it’s wisdom. So just take this as advice.

1. Get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

To me, I think it’s very important for kids and adults alike to have time in their day or their week that can only be correctly described as ‘calm’.

2. Find an activity (or non-activity) that’s recharging for you and not draining.

I’m a very social person. Except when I’m not. Sometimes people are surprised to hear that when I’m sitting at home, I’m not all “Oh my gosh, is that the most amazing pair of socks I’ve ever seen in my entire life?!” (with my eyebrows glued to my forehead).

No, I love people, and to a certain extent people are energizing to me, but at a certain point, people stop being energizing and they become draining to me.

3. Become aware of God’s presence in those moments.

Notice I didn’t say ‘Invite’ God, because I think that can be confusing. It’s fine to invite God into something as a way of surrendering, but understand that he’s already there whether you know it or not. The question is, are you aware of him.

Like this sounds funny, but sometimes I’m playing my video game, and just like we talked about last week. I just start making some comments to God. I’ll say things like “Wow. Today was really tough. Why was that?”

Legos When I was a youth pastor I often had to sit with a teenage boy and talk about whatever issue they were currently having that made their parent bring then to me. Hardly ever does a 13 year old dude WANT to have a consouling session with his pastor. So it’s ackward because it’s obvious they don’t want to be there, and the feelings mutual. Well after doing this for awhile, I learned that some of these guys were much more comfortable having a little activity and talking. So I got a big tub of legos and kept it in my office between the 2 chairs, and a kid when sit there, and I’d start building something with legos, and he would often to the same thing, and then I’d just casually start to ask him questions and it’s amazing what a huge difference that made.

Fishing You can of course think about a father talking to his son. Not always super easy to just sit there eyeball to eyeball and have a deep conversation, but if you get them out fishing, it’s amazing what kind of conversation can open up just by having a little activity buzzing in the background.

As weird as that sounds, that really works for me and God. There’s probably people who just sit in a quiet room, lift their hands, and just listen to God. There’s probably people like that. At least in this season of life, I’m not one of them. I need something to read, or listen to, or do with my hands, or go on a walk. And I talk to God like that.

4. Look beneath the surface of your heart.

Emotionally healthy Christians are able to take a deep, hard look inside their hearts asking, “What is going on that Jesus Christ is trying to change? They understand that a persons life is like an iceberg with the vast majority of who we are lying deep beneath the surface. They invite God to bring to their awareness and to transform those ‘beneath the surface’ layers that keep them from becoming more like Jesus Christ.” (Peter Scazzero)

I’ll tell you, there’s tons of people in the world today that continually act in a way that is self-destructive, and destructive to their relationships, destructive to their friendships, and they have no idea WHY. Or sometimes that they’re even acting in a way that is literally ruining their life.

Did you know that humans are the only creatures that are able to think about what they’re thinking about. We’re able to do that, but I’d say that most people don’t. But Jesus did.

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)

Notice that

1. Jesus is aware of his emotions.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow”

Whenever I hear someone say “Sorry, I’m just kinda moody right now.” I think “You are awesome for knowing that!” As opposed to “you’re annoying!” And having no awareness that there’s something else going on beneath the surface.

2. Jesus knows WHY he feels the way he feels.

“May – cup be taken away from me.” – Overwhelmed – death.

He’s overwhelmed because of his death. Put some of us in his place, and we just start getting really snippy, and we think it’s everybody else’s fault.

Driving. Sometimes when I’m in the car, people will be driving stupid and I’ll just think “That’s fine, who cares, hope they stay safe.” And other times I think “You are such a piece of crud!” – Same incident, very different response. It’s all about what’s going on beneath the surface in me.

So these times where Jesus pulls away, these times silence, it wasn’t just a time to read the Bible and pray, which is totally cool. But it was also a time to get in touch with himself and ask why he was feeling the way he was feeling.

So this is our template.

1. We become aware of how we’re feeling.

  • Man, I’m really moody.
  • Man I’ve been really down this week.
  • Man, I’m really on edge with my roommate.
  • Man, I’m just not feeling it this week, and I’m just watching a ton of game of thrones.

2. We ask the WHY question.

Why are you feeling like that?

“Man, I’m really stressed out. I wonder why.” Again, only humans can do this. It’s so amazing. And some of you need to do this by the way.

  • I’m really on edge. I wonder why.
  • I’m really sad lately. I wonder why.
  • I’m super sensitive lately. I wonder why.
  • When I see someone who looks really happy online, it mades me feel kinda sad. I wonder why.
  • Why am I always comparing myself to other people?
  • Why am I so short with everybody lately?
  • Why do I hate my job, when all my coworkers seem totally fine?

Some of us are scared to do this. B/C we’re afraid of what we’ll find.

Maybe for you it’s “I’m still mourning the loss of my dad.” And you don’t want to remember that. You’d rather just be mean all the time. But to be emotionally healthy mean that sometimes you have to go to those scary places and b/c if you don’t know what’s going on under the surface, then it’s just going to spill out in the worst places.

Emotions are signals

SOMETIMES emotions are just stupid, and you need to get over them. That’s totally true.

A lot of times they’re signals for something else that’s going on. And even if it’s an unpleasant emotion, it can be a huge help to show you that there’s something else going on underneath the surface that you need to deal with.

Lights – dashboard – car. Think about the lights on the dashboard of your car. It’s not just “How can I get these stupid lights to shut off!!!” No, they’re helpful, they’re trying to tell you that you need to change your oil.

In the same way, the prayer is not ‘God take away these emotions.’ More likely it’s ‘God, show me WHY I’m feeling like this.’ And then he shows you something else that’s going on that you need to fix. Not just take away the emotions, but fix the things in me that are broken.

Girl – Lonely

I remember years ago, on a Sunday night, I had just finished my Outlet sermon, and this sweet young girl, maybe 20 years old came to me and asked if she could talk to me. I said of course, and we walked out into the hallway, sat down. And she began to tell me they she had been battling loneliness. And she said ‘That’s the crazy thing. I have a great boyfriend who I really love, and I have a great group of friends that I live life with, and I have a great family. So I don’t know why I’ve been feeling lonely. But it’s so painful.’ What would you say?

Well here’s what I said. “Are you a Christian?” She said yes. I asked “And how is your relationship with God?” And she said ‘Fine. I think. Well, it used to be better. Now that you bring it up, I don’t think I’ve prayed in probably 2 months. I used to read my bible, I don’t do that anymore.’ And I said ‘I think that’s your problem. Familys are great, friends are great, romantic relationships are great, but none of those are meant to replace your relationship with God. They can’t. And it was a huge revelation for this girl, that no amount of friends and family and boyfriend was ever going to cure her lonliness. It was going to have to be her going to her creator, connecting with him, and getting her life from him.

My point is this: For me to sit across from this girl and say ‘Let’s just pray God will take away those yucky emotions!’ would have been less helpful than me paying attention to how she was feeling, recognize those emotions as a signal, and help her open herself up to the things Jesus wanted to change.

So here’s my challenge for you this week.

Find a time where you and God can get alone and look beneath the surface of your heart.

Gosh, you sure were pretty rude to your husband today. WHY IS THAT? – B/C often times emotional unhealth shows up as something else. It’s shows up in your relationship with your spouse, or your boyfriend, or at work.

Take the time to NOTICE that. And ask God this question, “What is it in me that is producing this?”

  • Some of you are DEEPLY insecure. But you don’t even know that, but it comes across as your being overbearing and rude.
  • Some of you are deep anger issues, and you don’t even realize that, but it just comes across as “Gosh, the people in my life are always doing the wrong thing.” When in reality it’s not about them, it’s about something that’s going on beneath the surface in you.

This is one place where the love of God is so incredibly powerful. 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.”

My point: It can be terrifying to get away to the Eremos. And to clear out the junk, to become aware of God’s presence, and become aware of your own inner world. It’s a scary thing to do. To listen not only to God (which is the first step), but also to listen to your own life. And open yourself up for Jesus to change you