By Justin Rossow
Emotions are simply part of who we are as human beings; which means our emotions are “beautifully and wonderfully made,” and part of a fallen creation, both at the same time. Biblically speaking, the heart can be deceitful or misleading; but it can also be the place where God dwells or the Spirit takes up residence. So–kind of a mixed bag.
The mindset of our common culture isn’t much help. We tend to glorify emotions we see as “good” or “positive,” and then run after them. (As if “pursuit” were ever the way to find something like “happiness”!)
Emotions we recognize as “negative” get marked with social taboos–which means you aren’t supposed to feel them, and if you do, you should stuff them down; unless you need to indulge yourself (which you are also supposed to do), and then you let them out with no regard for the people you are venting at.
Almost any emotional outburst can be justified if A) you tried to hold it in, at least for a little while; and B) if you are being honest or authentic. In other words, feeling something hurtful is typically grounds for saying something hurtful in our culture. So, yeah; we’re not very good with emotions.
But emotions by themselves aren’t good or bad. Or perhaps better said, you are both fallen and redeemed as a whole person. The “good” or “positive” emotions you experience aren’t automatically sinless–and the “bad” or “negative” emotions aren’t automatically unholy or off limits for your relationship with Jesus.
You are loved and saved (and you need loving and saving) in your joy as well as your grief; in your optimism as well as your anger. You are a whole, beautiful, fallen, redeemed, and not yet perfectly restored human being. Your emotions are an appropriate mix of all of those things.
The following videos walk through a Faith Experiment I run with congregations during some of the Next Step training workshops. It’s a companion to material found in the book My Next Step: A How-To Companion for People Who Want to Follow Jesus (But Sometimes Get Stuck) Volume 1: Getting Started. I’ve been working on this Faith Experiment with my friends from BreatheLife Ministries for some time, and it is still growing and maturing. But it is also ready for you to use.
You’ll want to print the single sheet handout and have something to write with. And, as always, this Faith Experiment is better if you do it with a friend. Either run this Faith Experiment together, or do it separately and then debrief: we follow Jesus better when we follow him together. The goal is to notice your emotions with Jesus, and then invite Jesus to be present with you in your emotions, rather than trying to ignore them or stuff them down. See what you think!
Exploring Your Emotions Faith Experiment
Step 1: Print out the Exploring Emotions sheet.
Printing at home on white 8.5×11 paper should be fine. If you choose to use a color, make sure it is light enough to write on.
Step 2: Follow the directions in the following video.
You’ll be asked to pause this seven-minute video along the way to do the actual Faith Experiment. Plan on about 20 minutes total for this step.
Step 3: Debrief with a friend, and this next video.
After you have noticed emotions both “above the fold” and “below the fold,” take some time to debrief what you noticed. What did this Faith Experiment bring out in you? What was Jesus doing? If you are processing this live, make sure you both have time to listen and ask clarifying questions, and time to share what’s on your heart. Before you are done with this Faith Experiment, watch the following six-minute wrap up.
Step 4: Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
Give yourself a couple of days or a week and try going through this process again. Use a clean sheet. Notice how many things were different, and how many were the same. Do you see any patterns or themes? Use this practice occasionally to invite Jesus into your ordinary, everyday experience. You’ll be developing regular dependence on Jesus in all things. After all, isn’t that what following Jesus is all about?
To explore bringing a Next Step presenter to your group or congregation for a workshop, retreat, or training, contact Innovation@findmynextstep.org.