This post might be a bit of a rant. I’m okay with that. It might have very few scriptures to back up the stream of consciousness. I’m also okay with that. After all, I’m not a pastor or a theologian. I’m a Christian who is exploring faith, turning it over, turning it inside out, and examining all the different ways the light can refract.
I have an issue that I want to throw a little light on myself. This week I listened to a new song by a band I just love. And it well and truly pissed me off. The song was titled “Joy.” Its catchy. Its not untrue. But it sends a message I think can be a little harmful, because it is so often repeated in churches across the globe and it can create unhealthy pressure.
The opening scene in the video clip showed two news anchors covering a mega-storm that was devastating the nation. One anchor was presenting the negative side of the story. The other was frustrated that she couldn’t find the upside. Spoiler alert: the one who was trying to find the brighter note was the ‘right’ one. Because he was choosing joy.
Fair point. Learning to choose joy is a good thing. Learning to have faith in God when the situation seems dire is wonderful as it can take the lid off the pressure cooker of life. If you can choose joy, then you should. Good for you.
But for heavens sake (pun not intended), if there’s a mega-storm coming at you, threatening to level everything around you, you don’t have to be happy about it. If you are happy about it, I’m really worried. Or suspicious that you have a dishonestly inflated insurance policy and you’re getting a windfall out of hurricane whatever.
Negative emotions are ok. They are fine. God made them. They shouldn’t be what we build our lives on, but they are an essential part of the process of life. If we can’t embrace the full spectrum of human emotion, if we only allow ourselves to express “Christian” emotions of peace and joy, then we almost guarantee the other God-designed emotions will become bottled, fermented, and explosive. I remember when I was young, my mum used to make non-alcoholic ginger beer. It was relatively uneventful until one batch fermented too far and blew up. You should have seen the mess. Wow. It covered everything in the shed.
It’s a decent picture of what can happen when we deny ourselves the honesty of sadness, anger, grief etc. you know, when we just choose joy. Those other emotions become all-encompassing. They then have the potential to derail things.
If you are going through a mega-storm in your life, don’t feel pressured to feel joy.
Grieve, if you have faced loss. God made grief. He turned His head away when His son was crucified. He couldn’t look. I think He felt grief then.
Be angry, if you have been wronged. Didn’t God invent anger too? Didn’t Jesus express anger in the temple? Didn’t God tell us “be angry but sin not?” The emotion is not the sin, friends. Keying your ex-boyfriends car, or rage-spending on a credit card that doesn’t belong to you is the sin. (Insert a million other possible examples)
Be sad, if you are facing sadness. Didn’t the Bible give us enough examples of God feeling sadness when he looked at the human race? Why do we lump these emotions in a basket marked “Bad?” They’re human. And given the fact that God is no stranger to these emotions, I’d even say they’re divine.
I refuse to use the term “negative emotion” any more. Emotions are necessary for us to process life. But if you want a key to peace, and indeed joy, then the trick is to let God in the troughs with you. Don’t force yourself to always appear is if you are on the peak. He sees all your grief/anger/sadness already. Why not let Him share it?
I kinda blame the faith movement for this maladaptive approach to human emotion. There were a lot of good things about the faith movement, but this one stinks. You don’t have to be up all the time. Gosh! Even God isn’t.
I’ve been a little curious looking around churches and seeing a lot of depressed and anxious people. I don’t know what the statistics are for the church globally, but I suspect that in some cases, our statistics on depression and anxiety could actually be worse than the unchurched world. Why?
I have a theory (Okay… a few). One of them is that we think Christianity demands perfection of us, and perfection means faultless emotional “upness”. But my goodness that is so inauthentic.
In the last couple of years, I’ve given up faultless emotional upness. I’m happier than I ever was. I used to think, like a lot of Christians think, that we need to let our light shine constantly so a dark world can see and be drawn to our faith.
But newsflash. Candles flicker. Stars twinkle…in that things get in the way of their light so they are momentarily more dull. Clouds get in the way of the sun. The only light sources that are constant and unwavering are artificial.
Lets not be artificial. It hurts us. It makes us inauthentic. It makes others wary of what we are hiding.
You don’t have to choose joy all the time. Sometimes you need to choose a good cry, a session with the punching bag, or a journaling session when you pour out your broken heart. Do this, and joy will be easier the next day, or the day after that. Do whatever helps you process the hurt and then you’ll be able to find the sunny side again in time.
I hope joy is always easy for you. If it isn’t, you are in good company, friend. Jesus, most of the world, and me are right there with you.