emotions sermon

ok, so i preached last sunday night at my church’s college-aged service. they’re in a series called “stories”, and i was asked to tell the story of a biblical character that in some way paralleled or had some similarities to some portion of my own story. well, i figured i could tell some witty and succint and super-teachable story from my past; or, i could be honest about what i have been going through these past few months. and, of course, then, i knew anything other than the latter wouldn’t have integrity (at least it wouldn’t feel like it for me).

i did something completely different than i’ve ever done in a sermon before. i had five of david’s more emotional psalms (5 that i chose because they seemed to capture, or be written with, the 5 emotions i wrestled to the ground on my time in the desert). then i interspersed that with selections from my own journal, on those same emotions, which i framed as my own prayer-psalms.

it was also pretty amazing that a guy shared a testimony a bit before i preached about how he’d gone through a few years of completely shutting down his emotions, and then the process he’d gone through to re-engage them. it was pretty stunning stuff, and totally set up where we were headed.

the basic flow was:
– about 10 minutes of set-up, and talking about some of the reasons we have learned to supress or “dishonor” our emotions.
– the bulk was a reading of a psalm (the readers all their psalms with the particular emotion, and they were AMAZING), followed directly by me reading a selection from my emotional journal.
– then i spent another 7 minutes or so at the end offering a couple thoughts.

David and Emotions

Ill: “I’m gonna club the f out of you, mikey” (a time i completely lost control of myself on a golf course and experience true rage, which scared me)

For whatever reason, I’ve always struggled with being in touch with my emotions (or expressing them at all).
– upbringing
– gender
– wrong notions of the person and leader I want to be

my journey, over the last 6 years…

Guys aren’t good with emotions
But, this isn’t just a gender thing – Christians suck at emotions. We’re suspicious of them.

Why? 2 ‘isms:
• the lingering scent of Gnosticism (spirit = good, material = bad)
• the church’s love-affair with modernism (reason = trustworthy, emotion = not trustworthy)
[train illustration]

these are a distortion of how God views emotion.

Story time (here’s where i set up the davidic psalms and my journal, and how we were going to proceed)


Psalm 109 (David is pissed, and calling down curses on someone)

(my journal selection)


Psalm 69 (David is hurt by all the people wrongly maligning him)

(my journal selection)


Psalm 22 (David is lonely and sad – this passage is also one Jesus quotes on the cross)

(my journal selection)


Psalm 56 (David has been captured by the Philistines, and is afraid for his life)

(my journal selection)


Psalm 16 (David expressing happiness)

(my journal selection)

So, what’s the truth about emotion? A few quick thoughts:

1. I think, in the past, I would have tried to build a case for emotions by saying, “God invented emotions, so they must be good.” But I don’t think that’s an accurate reflection of the creation story. God is an emotional being, and we are made in the image of God, so we have emotions.

God didn’t “invent” emotions as a component of creation! God invented us, and made us with emotions, because that’s a key part of what makes us like him!

2. God is not freaked out, disappointed, surprised, or frustrated by our emotions. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. Suppressing our emotions, not giving voice to them, is – in a very real sense – attempting to lie to God and ourselves, something that is contrary to God’s design and desire.
something i found on a blog this week:

In the past, I have tended to restrain my prayers out of respect for God. I am now coming to realize that my in-authenticity is actually an insult, not respect. God knows my heart, and my prayer should not be a facade. If it is, I am only fooling myself.

(i actually skipped this 3rd point, for time)
3. The scriptural caution to us is NOT about having emotions, but about what we do with them. “Be ye angry, and sin not” has lead us to believe that the ONLY valid anger is this thing we’ve made up called “righteous anger.” Whatever. No – Be Angry, express your anger – especially to God; don’t stuff it or bury it. Just be watchful of the actions that flow out of that.

Bottom line: our emotions are a massive gift from God, and learning to be present to them is part of our created design.

Isn’t it totally cool that God gave us emotions? Can you imagine life without them?

8 thoughts on “emotions sermon”

  1. This post couldn’t have been more timely for me. Just a few hours before reading this I had to break off a relationship with somebody who isn’t willing to open the door to his closet. You know the one I am talking about; the closet full of jumbled-up emotions, the one where we toss anything that we don’t feel we have the time or energy to deal with and that is SO hard to enter because it is such a huge mess. I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me and that is the way it always will be, after all, I am a continuous work in progress. But at least I have entered my messy closet and have made a commitment to work on it. I feel that trying to stay with somebody who isn’t willing to go there will only lead to waste of energy and heart-break in the end.

    I am really glad to hear that you are talking to young people about emotions. There is such a need for it.

  2. Marko,

    Thank you so much for sharing this, I too have trouble staying in touch with my emotions. Thanks!

  3. sorry, no, matt — no recording. even if they normally recorded that service, i don’t think i would have let them for this one. too much VERY personal stuff in the journal entries i read.

  4. Marko, if only men and women could better understand and respect one anothers emotions….ESPECIALLY in the workplace. As a female in ministry, I’ve had to learn to better “protect and temper” my emotions in the workplace. I’ve also had to go to my husband for help to decode the emotions of my male co-workers. I am curious about your thoughts on dealing with this in ministry with co-workers? How does one maintain professionalism and authenticity in a productive way in the workplace?

  5. I find it funny that my emotions are a way for me to fully engage the moment I am living in. To hold them back is to retreat from my present. The moments that change my life are moments that I am fully engaged in my present. And these moments are coincidentaly moments that I release my emotion in the form of tears, and great big belly laughter. Why do I cry to be present and then when God gives me the oppurtunity I look for the way out by the way I surpress my emotions? Great article made me think allot.

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