INTRO: Emotions and the Complexity of systems:
*So let’s imagine that I was a farmer and a certain insect was eating my crops, this caused me to have fewer crops (a bad thing for me as a farmer)
*I discovered that increasing the application of pesticide decreased the number of these insects which increased the number of crops (good thing for me)
*So elimination of these insects eating my crops, solved my problem (at least in the short term)…so now killing bugs has become my goal (rather than increasing my crops)
*First year, bugs are dead, crops increased.
*But in the following years the crop damage worsened…I had fewer crops.
*The pesticide that killed the insects eating my crops also killed insects eating those same insects…so more of the original insect is now at work in my fields and they have developed resistance to the insecticide.
*Bottom line: the action intended to solve the problem actually made it worse by way of unintended side effects.
*Our problems are often complex but our solutions are often driven by a desire for simplicity and expediency.
*Who doesn’t want to solve their problems easily and quickly?
*This desire for simplicity and speed is understandable, but not always helpful.
*This month we are going to examine our emotions from the Book of Psalms.
-We will of course be looking at specific Psalms and in addition I will use categories and quotes from Dan Allenader and Tremper Longman’s book “The Cry of the Soul.”
*Emotions are one of the least reliable yet most influential forces that guide our lives.
*Emotions are pursued and avoided…they help and they hurt.
*We can long for feelings of well-being and delight, then despair when we have them because we become afraid of when they might go away.
Rom. 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
*In this life, living in the “already/not yet” kingdom of God we “groan”
*What does that mean? It means its hard, it means its painful…though we have experienced life in Christ we do not experience it yet in its fullness…so we “groan”
*This is not pessimism…just a few verses later is the famous optimism of Romans 8:28
Rom. 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
*God is at work in all things (in the context, things that are now challenging for us) for the good of those who love him.
*The good, in context, is not…a better job, better opportunity to advance yourself…but the good is conformity to the likeness of Jesus.
*God is now, working through the groaning to make us more like Jesus…which is the goal of our sanctification…our lives now as Christ Followers.
*The analogy Paul used here for creation is a woman in labor…all creation is groaning with us, because of the impact of our sin.
*For us, the analogy he used is the pain of an orphan…who has been adopted but is waiting for the process to be finalized…we are waiting to realize our full rights a sons and daughters…rights not earned but given.
*We have the firstfruits (the down payment of the Holy Spirit) but we wait for the fullness of our salvation to be realized.
*In the meantime, life is going to be marked by this inward “groaning”
*The “groaning” reminds us of and points us towards the goal but so often it, itself, becomes in our minds the problem.
*The problem is…we are not there…so we groan.
*But the problem becomes…we groan…life is hard.
*So the problem is the “groaning” the resulting negative emotions that we feel about life now.
*We must get rid of them: I will do what I can to eliminate, to cover, to medicate the “groaning”
*You could argue that most of human folly could be described as misguided attempts to deal with the groaning…to stop it.
*Of course you could also say this folly flows from idolatry…the attempt to find life apart from God.
*Either way this becomes like the farmer whose goal was to maximize the harvest but focused on getting rid of the insects: the consequence was a diminished harvest.
*Buddhism was a human attempt to deal with the fact that life is “groaning” by eradicating feeling or caring…my description of Buddhism is simplistic…but its not inaccurate.
*According to legend the Buddha was a wealthy, sheltered prince who had an experience of looking out over the wall of his privileged living space and seeing a: poor man, a sick man, a dead man, and a monk (the monk was detached from his surrounding and therefore at peace in the face of suffering)
*So the Buddha left his wife and children and went in search of personal enlightenment.
*He devised the four noble truths.
*Four Noble Truths:
- Life is suffering
- Suffering is caused by desire (we want something…like the removal or pain, or relationship with someone who dies, or food when we are hungry)
- Eliminate desire, eliminate suffering
- Eliminate desire through the 8-fold path
*The problem individually and systematically (when this worldview applied to a culture at large) is like the farmer losing sight of the goal: more crops, and focusing on one part of the problem: too many bugs.
*The result is much greater problems, much less harvest.
*Life is full of suffering and it is true that if we can train ourselves to not care whether we suffer…we do not feel suffering.
*But its also true that desire is not the problem…wrong desire is.
*And suffering is ultimately the result of sin…not simply desire…desire can drive good and bad actions.
*So the solution is salvation not detachment.
*In the meantime we are going to groan, there is no temporary solution to this fact.
*The best of human relationships will prove insufficient…maybe fulfilling but not completely so.
*The best of times will fall short of perfection and even if they feel perfect in the moment…they are short-lived and we know it.
*Our goal is not to not groan, our goal is to be transformed into the image of Christ.
*This is the work God has both started in us and has promised to complete…our goal is cooperation with him not the pursuit of a “groan free life.”
*So for the Christ-follower, godliness is not the ability to handle difficult trials with detached calm.
*This can be the result of hardness or arrogance or ambivalence about life and others.
*Godliness is movement toward Christlikeness…God uses all kinds of challenging things to accomplish this.
*He uses the inherent “groaning” that is part of our existence now.
*We must not miss this…or we will set out to do what we can to mask, or eliminate this longing in ways that creates larger problems.
*Chasing relationships, chasing chemical solutions, chasing churches, jobs, thrills, dulling the pain through wrong diversions.
*Recreation is often an attempt to silence the groaning.
*Recreation at its best is just that…re-creation…it is a gift of diversion from daily life, it is respite, rest from our normal toil.
*De-creation is often what people engage it…a movie may be recreation…wrong types or wrong amounts of video leads to de-creation.
*Moves or TV is just an example…any number of things that are neutral in themselves become negative in their impact because of how and why we use them…to escape from or dull the longing, the groaning.
*Recreation becomes idolatry as it is used as a means to dull or eliminate the pain…then like a drug…we become addicted and the cure becomes the curse.
“We must view the ups and downs of our emotional life not merely as a problem to be resolved, but as a cry to be heard”
Ps 42:11 “Why, oh my soul, are you in despair.”…The Psalmist is pondering, questioning.
*What is the question we should be asking when we feel deeply?
“Am I moving toward God or away from Him? Am I turning toward God with awe and gratitude or away from him toward false gods of my own making?”
*When I feel angry, lonely, depressed, shame, contempt, despair, joy, fulfillment…what does this mean?
*I am not advocating spending our lives as naval gazers caught up in introspection.
*However, we must pay attention to what is happening in our hearts because as Proverbs says, it is the wellspring of life (from it all the other issues of life flow) Prov. 4:23
*We cannot be like the foolish farmer creating bigger problems with our solutions
*its is a bad path to believe…I must pursue good feelings at all costs and eliminate bad ones at costs
*Because often the result are unintended second and third order bad consequences.
*Instead I must pursue Christ and eliminate idols that try to steal his place in my heart and life.
*”Emotions are like messengers from the front lines of the battle zone. Our tendency is to kill the messenger. But if we listen carefully, we will learn how to fight the war successfully.”
*”The absence of tumult, (groaning) more than its presence, is an enemy of the soul. God meets you in your weakness, not in your strength.” Allender
*We are prone to run from doubt, from struggle… the Psalmist wrestles with it…until it gives way to hope.
Remember: There are significantly more Psalms of complaint, confusion, heartache than the Psalms of pure joy.
*We cannot escape “groaning” in this life…but much of our struggle is the result of trying to find life apart from God…to dull or deny or medicate the groaning inherent in living in the “already not yet”
John 12:24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
*Most of us here want to grow in Christlikness: however we often don’t want to get into the ground and die in order to see that happen.
*We struggle with wanting the life only God can give but not wanting the process that leads to that life…death to our own self-will.
*At times our Emotions can be like the check-engine lights in our cars…they can signal a deeper problem.
*We can disconnect the light and believe the problem is solved…no more warning…no more problem…but of course that is no real solution.
*Not every fleeting feeling has deeper meaning…but you understand what I mean…the emotions that drive or attempt to drive our thinking, believing, choosing…tell us something about our hearts.
*In times of crisis I have encouraged people to “feel what they feel but to guard what they think and do.”
*I have said there is “no right or wrong way to feel right now but there is a right way to think.”
*That is not completely true but my point in those difficult settings is to help people pay attention to right thinking when they are flooded and not be overly concerned with all the emotions that swirl around, ebbing and flowing.
*But the fact is, no part of us has escaped the Fall…so its probably more correct to say that what we feel is not any more or less wrong than thoughts, desires, behaviors
*But again, feelings can be warnings…causing us to take a look deeper into our lives…why do I feel this so strongly…what does it indicate?
*This month we are going to look at emotions from the Psalms: that was an introduction to the month.
Anger: Louie Zapernini the subject of the book and movie “Unbroken”
*WWII bombardier whose plane crashed in the pacific.
*He was adrift on a raft for a record 47 days…picked up the Japanese and taken to a POW camp where he was tortured terribly.
*His prime nemesis was a guard nicknamed the “bird”
*The bird made it his mission to break Louie.
*Against all odds Louie survived his imprisonment and returned home…there he spent his days numbing the pain with alcohol and his nights running in his dreams from the “bird”
*He was both kept alive by his hatred of the Bird and was being slowly killed by that same hatred.
*Eventually with his life and marriage in shambles he attended a Billy Graham crusade where he heard and responded to the gospel…there he was forgiven and was able to forgive.
*The hatred, the anger, was transformed…he went to Japan in 1998 to run a leg in the Olympic Torch relay…while there he tried to meet with the Bird to offer forgiveness…the bird refused.
*Louie lived a free man to the age of 97 and died a free man in 2014…not just free from physical prison…
*If anyone had reason for anger it was Louie…but that same anger was destroying him.
Unrighteous anger is a refusal to wait for justice…it is the demand that life and God get on our schedule.
What provokes anger?
- It could be anything that interferes with our satisfaction
-Could be a slow car in the wrong lane
-A loud patron in a theater
-A cruel spouse, a defiant child, a hard to deal with co-worker
*These things get in the way our satisfaction…they impede our demand for a smoother, easier, groan-free life.
*They make us mad.
- Unjust assault
Psa. 109:1 O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, 2 for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 3 With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.
*Injustice makes us angry, as it should.
*But this anger can energize our hatred of sin…or it can be ugly and vindictive…consume us as we try to play God’s role in the world.
*Unrighteous anger desires to consume and to control…attempting to force submission to our will.
*An angry child demands compliance to her little will…and she howls like an injured animal if her large servants do not submit…but that’s because she is a child…she has to learn.
*We must move from being children to becoming spiritual adults…we cannot live with the demand that nature (the physical world), God, others submit to our will.
James 1:20 “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
*So this kind of anger (man’s kind of anger) is not helpful…but what do we do with our anger?
Eph. 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”
*Clearly not all anger is unrighteous.
*Allendar: Unrighteous anger demands for the self a world under our control…we cannot wait for God’s redemption…we do not want to groan, to be put out or put off…our timing is what matters…justice now is our demand…when that demand is not met…anger is our response.
*This kind of anger attempts to consume others and goes about condemning others…ultimately we are furious at God for not fulfilling our demands now.
Psa. 2:1 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. 3 “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” 4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath
*People, ultimately, in their unrighteous anger…take their stand against God himself.
*Furious that he does not comply with their demands, with their will and ways, with their timing.
*Human anger is no threat to him…he is not intimidated…his first response is a “laugh”
*”Terry, I don’t know about all this…I just get angry when my boss is a jerk…no theology involved, no deep meanings.”
*You don’t think?…theology is involved in everything.
*Did your boss get his job without God knowing about it?
*Was your boss a jerk and God missed that?
*Does God not care about how you spend a good bit of your life…does he care if you are miserable at work…if not then what does that say about him or you?
*Do you not wonder…why doesn’t God do something?
*Yea, there is deep meaning if your boss is a jerk…theological implications.
*We all struggle at times with God’s timing, his seeming inactivity in the face of injustice.
*Where is God’s justice?…this should be making him as mad as it does me…and he should be able to do something.
*Ellie Wiesel holocaust survivor died this year wrote a book called “Night”
-Very disturbing book, but in one scene a young boy is being hung for stealing a turnip or something and the prisoners are forced to watch.
-A man cries out in anguish “where is God?”
*What is asking? How can he be powerful, good and not be angry at this…how can he not act to stop this.
“What does it say about God if he is silent and indifferent to injustice?”
-He is not good, he is not able, he is not there…classic theodicy.
*In Psalm 2 man’s injustice does bring God’s righteous anger.
Righteous Anger: An Assault against Injustice
*Its troubling to see the protests around the country, some are misguided some are not.
*But people get frustrated, impatient, angry with injustice…real or perceived.
*What is more troubling for a nation or an individual than anger against injustice is when injustice is treated with indifference.
*The stories of people turning a blind eye to the extermination of whole groups of people or a person being beaten, killed in a busy street with no one stepping in has always been troubling to me.
*Injustice means nothing to them…one way or another.
*When injustice happens, the lack of anger is a sign of something being terribly wrong…in a society or in a heart.
*But righteous anger…grieves and struggles with God…”What are you doing? Why are you not doing something? When are you going to do something about this?”
*Look at Ps 77…first the Psalmist struggles with God…then he remembers to remember.
77:6 I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: 7 “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? 8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Selah 10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
*For the believer…we remember the Cross…that is where our questions of evil and suffering and God’s power and goodness must take us…that is God’s clearest, more powerful answer.
*It is right to be angry with injustice, it is right to take that anger to God…them move out into the world in ways that are God-honoring.
*I know some say “We are tired of waiting, we are not waiting anymore.”
*But what is the other option?
*Give full vent to our anger and be destroyed by it?
*Its the toxic response…a solution that leads to a greater set of problems.
*I am not smart enough to know what anger and whose anger is righteous and what is unrighteous.
*I am convinced that most of our anger and most of our responses do not flow from or go to good places
*There should be tears, demands for justice, desire to protect, dismay over the injustice we see and experience.
*But the Psalms demonstrated how we begin to deal with this anger…we turn to God…honestly…but ultimately in trust…this trust requires waiting for him.
*I knew a Man whose anger on the highway (justified) led to a series of choices (unwise and unjustified) that cost him a job, humiliation and resulted in criminal charges.
*His “freedom” to pursue unrighteous anger led to a significant loss of freedom in his life at many levels…always does.
*We can be farmers whose goal is a harvest and whose instinct is to “kill the insect”
*Simple, quick solution.
*”You have wronged me, you will experience my wrath.”
*Works well in the very short-term, even feels good…but never works in the longer-term…always leads to a loss of freedom, less of a harvest.
*Look at these Psalms:
Psa. 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Psa. 33:20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
Psa. 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
*Here and in many places, hope in God and willingness to wait on God are linked.
*What can we do when we are angry?
*Denying anger can be toxic and giving vent to my anger can be destructive.
*What do we see in Psalms regarding anger?
*What did we hear in Ps 37?
- Refuse: To fret yourself.
*Fret=burn with anger. “Do not fret yourself”…allow yourself to burn with anger.
-“God talk to me…tell my soul you are my salvation.”
-“Soul, listen to me…God is your hope…hope in him.”
- Reflect: Get perspective.
-Our lives are like smoke and dust
-The powerful and unjust…can seem like they escape justice…then their lives go up in smoke.
-I’ll never forget the images of Sadaam in power (murderous, cruel man) standing proud then crawling like a spider from a hole as he was captured.
-But before we gloat over the wicked getting what is coming to them…we must remember that because of Chris…the wicked, like ourselves, do not have to experience God’s justice.
- Wait: Be still before the Lord.
-Wait patiently for him…refrain from anger and turn from wrath.
-Waiting is not denial, it is not passivity…its active trust that allows us to not act foolishly.
*You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.
*Wait…be still…be quiet.
*Don’t do more harm by acting foolishly.
- Delight: Delight yourself in the Lord.
-Ponder your desire…what do you really want to do? What is your anger telling you about your own heart?
-Are you demanding to control, consume, win?
-Are you refusing humility…to get into the ground and die…even though Jesus said that is the way to life?
-You think giving vent to your anger will be a delight…has it ever, and for how long?
-What do you really want, who is your heart made for?
*”Delight yourself in him…and you will get all that you desire…him.”
*Anger wells up…its not automatically wrong…but what is it telling you?
*What is it saying about what you believe you really need…what you must have to be fully alive?
*So many scenarios, so many complex situations in our lives…have I implied the solution is simple?
*I hope not and I hope so.
*Surely the gospel is the solution and at the same time what it means to live the gospel in the world as it is, is not at all simple.
*We don’t have to pretend the anger is not there, we don’t have to allow the anger to control our lives either.
Heb. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. 6 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
*The command says…”You must not give full vent to your anger.”
*The gospel says…”You do not have to give full vent to your anger.”
*You can approach God with confidence that you will receive mercy and grace to help in your time of need.