Starting a new series - Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
Jesus was an emotional being
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.”
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
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?!
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)
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 anger. You could even say ‘Rage' - because of his overwhelming zeal or passion for justice.
This is definitely a story we tend to skip in Sunday school.
Sunday School - Flannel Board
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 angry eyes.”
This isn’t Mr. Rogers Jesus for Sunday School.
At 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 & grief.
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.
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,.
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 wasn’t 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.”
So he’s talking about his life - “It is not possible for a Christian to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”
And he lists a whole bunch on examples:
Here’s the fact: In the church, we usually teach people to do spiritual stuff. - That’s certainly true of Outlet.
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 :
Whatever that is…
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.
I’m not up here teaching this as someone who has this dialed in. I started reading these books for ME.
I was laughing with Brad the other day how I had written over 5000 words for just this one sermon. And my goal is about 1000. So even in preparing this sermon I think I was guilty over obsessing not being spiritually healthy.
I know there’s a bunch of us that need this.
Some of you are like “It’s too late!!!"
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.
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.
The difference is this: My primary issue with Buddhism, besides it’s take on God is it’s take on Evil.
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.
The undercurrent the worldview that 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. 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 you’re feelings are going to shut up.
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." This is secularism in a nutshell.
"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:
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….
Just to be clear, emotionally healthy doesn’t mean happy all the time.
Sometimes the healthy feeling is sorrow.
Funeral We had a funeral this past Wednesday 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.
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.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, (Luke 4:1)
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 failed, if you know the story of the garden of Eden.
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.
Spiritual disciplines Spiritual disciplines (been written about for 2000 years, 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.
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.
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.
Me Morning Person 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 me and David Goldman are just way too in to racquetball and squash. 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. I’ve also gone through seasons where in the evenings I’ll go into my garage, I have a chair out there and I’ll read my bible, I’ll pray and I just slow down enough to notice what’s going on.
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.
That’s the idea :
And that’s the idea. To “Look beneath the surface":
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.
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.
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. 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 mad, 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.
Why? B/C Jesus was emotionally healthy.
Whenever I hear - “Sorry, - moody RN.” Awesome!
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.
“May this 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 elses fault.
People - driving stupid. - 2 responses. 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.
The first thing we do is we become aware of how we’re feeling.
And secondly, 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.
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.
SOMETIMES emotions are just stupid, and you need to get over them. That’s totally true.
Some 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.
The prayer NOT ‘Take away - emotions.’ -- "WHY" 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.
What if our emotions, good and bad, are placed 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)
Wherever you’re at tonight.
Maybe you’re at the top of the world right now! You’re on date 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.”