Recently I have been thinking on the subject of emotions and how they are dealt with in the church. What are the ingredients of the emotionally healthy church? It seems like that the church either swings to one side of the pendulum or the other. Either they are so emotionally inhibited that no one would dare express any type of emotions in a church service, or they are on the complete polar opposite of that and don’t feel that God showed up at a church service if people did not express certain types of emotions publicly. So I have to ask myself the question. Is the church I pastor one that could be called the emotionally healthy church? I am going to try to answer that question by looking at 3 key questions concerning emotional health in the life of a church.
What is the emotionally healthy church?
The emotionally healthy church is one that understands that God created emotions.
One of the things I never understood about churches that frown on the expression of emotions in a church service was the fact that they will give lip service to the fact that God created man as an emotional being yet will not allow those emotions to be expressed. I think this stems back to a traditional mindset that believes that attending church is something that you do to please God. It is the mentality that going to church is part of performing your Christian service. The key word there is performing. It is a performance rather than an integral part of your real life. In your everyday life, when you are not trying to “perform” you express all kinds of emotions. You laugh, you cry, you celebrate, you mourn, you get angry, and you may even shout. These are normal and God given emotions. But when we go to church, heaven forbid if we allow people to express honest and sincere God given and God created emotions. I do not believe that this was the intention of our Creator nor is it a healthy atmosphere to have in the church. When we stifle who we have been created to be, when we make our churches and church services places where people have to perform, we turn the church into an event rather than a community. We are not called to be an event or activity, we are called to be a community that operates as a body expressing the heart of Jesus to our world. The only way we can do this is if understand that emotions are not bad or undesirable but instead are part of the emotionally healthy church.
The emotionally healthy church understands the purpose of emotions.
Emotions have a purpose. They are not meant to be what controls us, or what we base our faith on, but they still have a God given purpose. The Biblical model for Christian living is to live a Spirit controlled life. This means that we are led by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God directs our mind, will, and emotions. The mind, will, and emotions were all created equal and make up what is called the soul. Most churches emphasize the mind or the will, and leave out the role of the emotions. Emotions are designed to express what our heart is experiencing and feeling. They motivate us to certain actions. When we feel righteous anger, we are motivated to seek justice. When we feel pain, we are motivated to get healing, and when we feel love, we are motivated to please the one we love. Emotions have a purpose. They are how we express things that are unable to be expressed with the intellect and will alone. In the emotionally healthy church, people understand that emotions have a valid and rightful place in the mix of how we relate to God and how we relate to one another.
The emotionally healthy church is authentic enough to allow the expression of emotion
When you have a proper understanding of who created us as emotional creatures, and understand the purpose of emotions, then no longer do emotions signify something negative or bad. When that restriction is lifted then people can become honest and authentic enough to express emotions. The emotionally healthy church will not fear the expression of emotions, even though sometimes emotions can be messy. It is not always easy to deal with someone who is expressing anger at God for what has happened in their life. It is not always comfortable to walk next to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one but when you understand that the emotions that the person is feeling is something that needs to be expressed before it can be released, you can do it without fear. God knows that the person is angry at Him. It doesn’t ruffle His feathers one bit. He wants to gently and kindly lead them to a place of healing and understanding. He doesn’t need us to defend Him. He needs us to love the person expressing the emotion enough to walk with them whether it be something that makes us uncomfortable or not. The same goes with exuberant expressions of joy or happiness. If they feel like dancing, or shouting the victory or praising God at the top of their lungs. That is okay too even if you are not a demonstrative person yourself.
Examples of emotionally healthy people in the Bible.
Here are just a few examples of emotionally healthy people in the Bible.2 Samuel 6:14 And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. John 11:35 Then Jesus wept. Acts 3:7-8New Living Translation (NLT) 7 Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. 8 He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them. 2 Samuel 6:8 David was angry because the LORD’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today. Mark 10:14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.
It is my prayer, for my own church and for the churches across the world, that we will be emotionally healthy churches that allow the freedom for people to express what they are feeling in their hearts. Christianity is not meant to be an intellectual exercise but instead it is meant to be a relationship of the heart. Any relationship of the heart expresses itself with emotion. Heaven forbid that the day would ever come that we would not see people celebrating at church, shouting the victory at church, and especially people crying at church because the goodness of God’s grace has touched their heart.
Now that is something to think about!
- The Shortest Verse in the Bible – Jesus Wept (taberstruths.com)
- The Love Of Christ For The Church (taberstruths.com)
- Helping Someone With Depression – A Christian Perspective (taberstruths.com)
- 3 Types Of Healing – Spiritual, Emotional, and Physical (taberstruths.com)
- The emotionally healthy church (www.amazon.com)
Reference: Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.