By: Audrey Masterson
Scripture: Psalm 77
A few years ago I was consistently reminded of how deep my emotions ran. It seemed as though everything I touched was a product of a negative reaction to some type of way I was feeling in any particular moment. I was controlled by my emotions and allowed them to dictate my actions. It was a pretty destructive practice. However, around the same time, I was going through a major transition in my life, and in that season, I heard Barry preach on emotions from a wildly different perspective. Instead of seeing my emotions as negative, I was able to instead see that the way I was reacting was an indicator that I was really just emotionally unhealthy. The emotions series at New Circle Church changed me in a profound way though-- where I once saw emotions as a reactionary, I now see that emotions are the product of the inner workings of our souls given to us by God and they are common, expected, and very important for our lives.
This sermon series has been one that I often refer back to especially when I am sad. Sadness can appear in our lives for many different reasons, but to be unaffected by our sadness, to shut it out, to say “we’re fine” when really we are experiencing something deeper “shouldn’t be a christian virtue” (Barry). Our emotions should affect us. Jesus, in fact, is sorrowful, but He is also the most excited person in scripture. If Jesus experienced emotions then we are free to feel them too.
One of the most profound things I remember about Barry preaching on this topic is that our emotions have the ability to lead us to the deepest joy and gratitude in God-- where we can better worship Him, follow Him, and be enamored by Him.
In Psalm 77 we learn that sadness will challenge our faith and cause questions to be raised in our minds (“has God forgotten to be merciful/ has he in anger withheld his compassion?” v.9), but we also know that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18) so, with Asaph, we should lean into them, asking and discerning the source and severity of our sadness with friends and with Jesus.
Think about it. Are you experiencing sadness in your life now? What grieves you?
For me, it’s the reality that young girls are being taken advantage of, manipulated, tortured (both physically and mentally), and exploited for sex in our city and around the world every day. This tears me apart every time I walk into my office. Whether I’m working on a project with our interns, helping develop our mentorship program, or preparing for a group session with girls who have been sexually abused and mistreated, I’m reminded that I am not entitled to the life I have been given and that there is a whole host of things that can and do make me sad in this world. I can get caught in cycles of sadness and oftentimes when I do it will lead me to a deeper, more personal place of sadness if I’m not habitually handing it back over to God.
Sadness is real, sadness is to be taken seriously, and it is deep for those who are experiencing it no matter what the cause. There is no one particular way that sadness manifests itself in our lives, but we are allowed to be sad and to ask the hard questions during hard seasons. It’s not that God wants us to be sad-- He didn’t create the world for sadness-- but because we experience things in a fallen world, sadness is a byproduct and we have been given the permission to feel it. God is not offended by our brokenness. God is grieved too. So when you are tempted to dismiss these feelings, remember that our emotions should lead us back to God.
I know that it’s the most difficult when you are in a emotional spiraling pit to look to God, to find the strength to talk about it with others, and see emotions as a way to worship God more intimately, but Barry offered us three pathways to finding comfort in these times. So I highly suggest to take a listen to the playback of this sermon and hide these three comforting tactics in your heart.
Recall past blessings “You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years of long ago. I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search…” Psalm 77:4-6
Redirect your thoughts “Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Lord’ yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:10-12
Reorient your view of God “Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.” Psalm 77:13-18
I know that there isn’t a quick fix to coming out of feeling sad and sometimes sadness consumes your life, but when you’re surrounded with bad news or you’re feeling like a failure or whatever it is--big or small-- that makes you sad, I would encourage you to recall times in your life where you have felt God’s faithfulness and blessings, redirect your thoughts to something that is encouraging and uplifting rather than something that is untrue, and remember that our God is the Most High God and that he is present in times of trouble (Psalm 46).
When I find myself weighed down by the constant beating of the realization of what’s going on in our backyards across America, I recall that time that just one girl was rescued from a life of misery; I remember, too, that it’s not even up to me to save each and every girl trapped in slavery today, but that it is God’s work and He has invited me into love and care and walk alongside of them-- and that’s a beautiful blessing; and instead of thinking that God is losing this seemingly never-ending battle, I remember that God has already won and stands victorious over all the evil schemes of this world.
God is good, friends, seek him in your sadness.