Ever been too upset to pray? Or maybe too afraid? How can I bring my crazy, convoluted, doubting, rebel thoughts before God? Well. I’ve been learning a lot about emotions and the psalms lately. Tim Keller has several sermons on “Praying Your Tears” (and fears). He says that the “religious” person’s response to emotions is to stuff them–hide, ignore, and suffocate them. (After all, joyful, peaceful Christians wouldn’t feel, like… fear, anger, and despair… right?) Alternatively the secular response is to dump emotions–elevate them, bow to them: emotions for emotion’s sake. I feel this way, therefore my thoughts and actions are inherently validated. Follow your heart–even if it leads you into a pit. But what is the biblical response to emotions?
Praise God, He created us complex, emotional creatures–and the psalms are proof of that. Every human emotion radiates from the 150 psalms: psalms of joy, praise, awe, thankfulness, fear, shame, injustice, anger, grief, repentance, alienation, and the list goes on. (I plan on doing a study of the Psalms soon, I think I’m going to label each one for its appropriate time).
Keller talks about Psalm 39 in particular, where David ends with a plea for God to turn away His face–so he might have a little peace before he dies. What?? We know THAT’S not the right response, we’re not supposed to ask God to abandon us? What’s with that? Keller argues that its presence in the psalms is to prove to us that that’s an okay way to pray to God. “God knows what Christians say when we’re desperate.” –Keller
For in the garden of Gethsemane, Christ himself was “sorrowful unto death”–in dread of the day to come. And on the cross He experienced the alienation and isolation that we, as a result, in Christ are entirely free from. He was a man acquainted with grief, a man of many sorrows. And despite His perfect obedience, it pleased God to crush Him, pouring him out as a guilt offering for our sin. Praise His name.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
The psalms call us to praying out emotions. You think Christians don’t get angry? Read the psalms. That we don’t feel fear? Read the psalms. That we sometimes aren’t so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we say stupid things to our God? Read the psalms. David’s response to emotions is to pour them out before the Lord–for in His hands, and in His ears, reaching His sympathetic heart, there is the safest place for them–for the words we sometimes only dare whisper to darkness.
For don’t we all too often react to problems by retreating with them into our inward chambers–and there stew and meditate? But see, therein lies madness. Really. To choose to remain in the cavern of our self-perpetuating problems is to further grieve ourselves by our own senselessness and hopelessness as we gaze inward on the circuits of our craziness. It is only when we look on Christ that we see rightly. For, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Mathew 6:22-3) With eyes darkened by problems we see in our hearts torrents therein still blacker. To whither will we go with the burdens of our soul? To God.
In the light of His face they will loose their power, and by His grace we will walk through the storms of our heart into endless Love.