There is an emotional health crisis brewing in some of our churches that many of us aren't aware of yet...
“What is this crisis?”
The crisis is that half of our emotions are missing.
“What are these emotions and where have they gone?”
They have been re-labelled as lies and marked as unacceptable in our churches!
The whole foundation of the universe was defined by emotion; God created the world with a freedom that allowed men and woman to experience the emotion of love. When things went wrong it was the love emotion that led that same God to sacrifice his only son for our rescue (John 3:16).
During his life on earth Jesus (God incarnate) was the most emotionally complete person to ever inhabit the earth.
• He shed tears (John 11:35)
• He was filled with Joy (Luke 10:21)
• He grieved (Luke 23:28)
• He was angry (Mark 3:5)
• Anguish and sadness came over him (Matt 26:37)
• He overflowed with compassion (Luke 7:13)
• He showed astonishment and wonder (Luke 7:9)
• He felt deep emotional distress (Mark 3:5)
You would have thought that the church that he established would therefore be comfortable with the emotions that He himself displayed. Sadly they don’t seem to be anymore.
The circle of complete emotion below reflects the outline classification of every emotion. The top half of the circle denotes the ‘yellow’ emotions, generally acceptable within churches. However the lower half or ‘purple’ emotions are often prohibited. More than that, I am increasingly reading Christian healing programmes and manuals that classify these ‘negative’ emotions as ‘lies’ from which you can live free!
I rarely serve up a strong warning on the pages of Mind and Soul, but I have to be clear that this practice is desperately misguided and has the potential to cause untold psychological damage to our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we have any care for their wellbeing, (particularly for those with mental health problems), we will desist from what can only be seen as un-biblical and anti-human.
Emotions are never lies. Emotions do not have the power of reason; they simply express the internal or external stimuli that provoke them. As someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder I can tell you a thing or two about misappropriated fear. Does the hypersensitivity of my Endocrine System mean that the emotion is lying to me? No, of course not! That would be like saying your dog is lying to you for barking at the wind.
To deny or even worse, to demonize, sadness, fear, anger or despair is an offense to God (See Mat 12:24). God created emotions and Jesus felt them (without sin) so surely they should be good enough for us.
Without acknowledging their value how will we ever understand what they are pointing towards and find healing from the causes of our fear, of our depression or despair or anger. To make certain emotions prohibited in church is like tearing up the road signs to the places you don’t like, in the hope that, if they aren’t signed, you will never travel there!
Christian leaders are rightly concerned about the self-determined emotionalism of the world: 'If you feel like it, do it." Of course we are not suggesting for one minute that the Christian life should look like that, it often involves standing up to our emotional drives. However, there is a huge difference between seeing and resisting you own emotions and calling them 'lies' or denying their presence all together! We should be asking the 'why?' of emotion, not creating cultures that are emotionally hostile.
The sad fact is, most of the people who experience benefit from the thinly veiled NLP techniques used by these ministries were never that unwell in the first place. Those who were and don't 'recover' often find themselves excluded or their faith scrutinized. It can take years to recover from the subsequent compounded shame and guilt.
Leaders, help us. This isn’t the way to go. Your churches should reflect the full spectrum of emotion; if it doesn’t something is going wrong not right! The presence of depressed people in your congregation is a credit to your ministry and the freedom of people to 'be emotionally real' before God and alongside His church is a precious gift. Ultimately people who are feeling emotional distress need to be comforted, listened to, and prayed with, not have their emotions discredited.