Before You Pray Them Away
This weekend I had the wonderful honor of being one of three speakers at our annual Women’s Spring Conference. The theme, “Emotional Freedom.” Deep topic. Challenging topic. A topic of opportunity.
When I was introduced, I came from the back of the sanctuary pulling a child’s red wagon heaped high filled with suitcases and bags. Tied to the back of the wagon was clanging cans and bells. Each bag was tagged; Anxious, fear, anger, sorrow, insecure and bitter. Some had pretty bows and others with clothes recklessly hanging out of stuffed bags. As I walked down the center aisle (cans noisily bouncing along) I stopped to chat with gals along the way (while my wireless mic was on). At one point I handed the handle of my wagon to one gal to hold while we chatted. Taking my wagon, I moved on, when the gal who introduced me (from the pulpit) reminded me I was needed up front.
We all have emotional baggage of some sort. Most of us are draggin our wagon full of them. Our emotions can be messy and noisy. We can attempt to decorate them—hide them and sometimes we even try to hand them to others, forcing them to hold them. Emotions can distract us and delay us.
Our emotions can be like the Oregon weather, we have a saying here, “Just wait, it will change.” Some days you get them all (sun, rain, hail, wind etc). And some days you get them all—at the same time.
Emotions are not bad; they are God given. There is plenty of emotion expressed in the Bible. King David and the apostle Peter are prime examples. David was an intense man. He played hard, was a violent warrior and a passionate man (which at times got him in trouble). Peter was a man of outbursts. He jumped out of the boat, told Jesus “NO!” and cut a man’s ear off.
In our attempt to control these often wayward and chaotic feelings we laugh them off with a wave of “That is just how I am.” Or throw up a pleading prayer “Oh God take it away!” But we rarely REALLY want to address them. Before we pray them away (in Jesus’ name) may we first consider “Why?” we are feeling what we are feeling.
Perhaps we feel alienated and lonely. We are agitated, angry and cranky. Maybe we are dissatisfied and find nothing (absolutely NOTHING) satisfies us. Could it be—perhaps maybe—it is due to sin? Is what we are feeling a result of disobedience? We don’t talk much about the “S” word—sin. Yet it needs to be the first place we look. Our relationship with God is first and a priority, “Have I broken fellowship with Him?
Genesis chapters 2-3 (Briefly paraphrased). Man and woman are in the Garden, naked and unashamed. Then they disobey (sin) breaking fellowship with their God. They attempt to cover themselves. God comes to the Garden. They hide and are afraid, NOW they know shame. Disobedience births shame. Shame turns to fear. Fear motivates hiding.
I noticed something, as God speaks to them, addressing their disobedience, as He declares consequences (Adam and Eve) and curses (serpent and the ground), He does NOT properly cover them until—UNTIL they are being sent out of the Garden, out of His presence. In their makeshift attempt to cover themselves, they were still truly naked before God.
He doesn’t pamper them. He doesn’t coddle them. He doesn’t waver in the disciplinary process and give them a coat (yet). His actions (or lack of) conveying (if you will) “You stand right there. Just as you are—in your mess, WHILE I address your disobedience. ALL in love, the love of the Father.
When God came to the garden and asked, “Where are you?” God knew where they were. The question was for Adam to consider his position (hiding, wearing makeshift fig underwear) and his condition (broken fellowship with God). Broken and hiding, God had purpose in keeping them “in” their emotional discomfort without covering them. Please know, He did NOT hold them “in” their sin. It was the consequence of the sin—He allows them to stay in their discomfort for the learning process.
It’s like in Exodus when the narrative says, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Pharaoh’s heart was already hard. God knew his heart. God kept his heart hard. In doing so, making them experience ALL the plagues. They needed them all. If Pharaoh stopped the process short, they wouldn’t have experienced all God wanted them (and Israel) to learn. Each plague addressed the “gods” Egypt worshipped. God doesn’t take away Pharaohs free will, He holds it—strengthens it, “So, you refuse to let My people go? Fine. I’m going to allow it. I’ll even help reinforce your stubborn will and watch you go through the whole pack of plagues” (DeDe’s paraphrase of the event). It’s kind of like if we catch our kids smoking, to teach them a lesson, we make them finish the WHOLE pack. God needed Egypt to experience the whole pack of plagues. With Adam and Eve, they need to experience the whole package of shame. What it meant—what it felt like (shame and fear) to be in broken fellowship.
Sometimes our discomfort, our pain-filled emotions are meant to cause us to become aware of our sin. Sometimes we are not aware or have a blind spot or we may just be ignoring it. It’s like if we step on something, by design, the pain makes us stop and look. All these could point to what we have put in His place, making “it” or “them” more important. When God said in Exodus 20:3 to “have no OTHER gods before” Him. He was serious. He is first—He is only.
Disobedience. How do we address it? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9*). In today’s culture, “confess” tends to convey we are getting caught and owning up to it. But biblical confession is MORE. It literally means “to say the same thing”—to concede. When we confess, we are coming into agreement with God. It isn’t necessarily our “wrong” (although VITAL we declare it) but the rightness of God. “I am wrong — YOU are right.” The emphasis is the rightness of God. HIS standard is right. HE is right. Confession (and repentance) is re-agreeing and re-aligning to the rightness of God. And as this verse points, Oh the wonderful and beautiful forgiveness and purifying of God!
Folks, it’s time to get real. Time is short and there are people who are depending on our obedience. May we stop and look.
(Above is Part One of “Before You Pray Them Away”)
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).
*1 John 1:9 is written to the Christian, the Jesus follower. If you haven’t come to the wonderful saving power of Jesus, please know, YOU are loved. Jesus took care of the distance between you and our Holy God. All you have to do is accept His sacrifice, His blood to cover you. It is the INITIAL agreeing and aligning to the rightness of God. Ephesians 2:8 tells us we are saved (made right with God) it is God’s gift to YOU. You can’t earn it or have to work for it—just believe and receive it.