Emotions are a funny thing. We all know what they are, but where do they come from? They seem to flow from the core of your being, from deep down inside. And if you’ve developed the pattern of denying or hiding your feelings, you’ll lose the very sense of who you really are—who God created you to be. Don’t believe me? Consider the prophet Jeremiah.
When you read the Old Testament book of Lamentations, which Jeremiah wrote, you’ll see that you have nothing to fear about bringing even your most raw or maybe what you think are embarrassing emotions to God.
Jeremiah was intensely honest in sharing his broken heart with God. But what follows his grief? When Jeremiah finished his grieving, he turned to God to seek forgiveness. The book ends with a question of remorse: ‘Are you angry with us still?’ the prophet asks. Have you ever asked that question? Behind this question is Jeremiah’s humility, coupled with his hope that God will start the process toward reconciliation and forgiveness. Jeremiah knew God’s heart, so he knew that God would forgive. If you truly repent of your sin, you can be sure that God will forgive you too—no matter how great your sins and failures. You need to come humbly before him and place your life in his strong, gentle hands.
Do you have an older sibling? It can be difficult to live up to the high standards set by older brothers and sisters. It can be equally difficult, and sometimes more painful, to live down the reputation of a notorious or embarrassing older sibling. James and Jude are two men in the Bible who had to deal with both challenges. Their older brother Jesus was both perfect and, in their minds, embarrassing.
Jesus must have been a hard act to follow, don’t you think? It may have been difficult for James, Jude, and the rest of their siblings to feel close to their wonderful, though different, big brother.
After Jesus’ public ministry began, his brothers James and Jude seemed to take a stand-back-and-watch attitude. One day Jesus would do great miracles and be acclaimed as a hero. The next, he would present a convicting message and offend the powerful religious and political authorities. In the end, he angered too many people and was sentenced to death. He’d claimed to be not only the promised Messiah but also God himself! No doubt, James and Jude thought their brother had gone off the deep end.
Yet the resurrection of Jesus overcame the doubts of his younger brothers, who later became leaders in the early church. Both brothers are remembered for the letters in Bible they wrote.
This same power that transformed James and Jude can transform you, too, and turn you from an unbelieving cynic to a faithful follower of Christ.
Not only do you search God’s Word, but it searches you. Not only do we seek to understand God’s Word, but we need to stand under its authority.
As you read the Bible, you may be tempted to draw back from it soul-searching power. You may argue with its teaching, resent its discipline, or question its assertions. But these reactions simply alert you to the fact that God is searching you heart. At times like these, spiritual renewal comes as you stop and examine not only God’s Word but also your response to it.
Why are you feeling upset when you’re challenged? Why is the Bible affecting you in a particular way? What specific attitudes or behaviors is it addressing? How does the teaching of God’s Word differ from your way of living? Questions like these can move you beyond impulsive reactions to spiritually productive reflection. The psalmist wrote, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life’ (Psalm 139:23-24). That’s a pretty brave prayer, isn’t it?
When you surrender your resistance, you find the grace of Jesus Christ sustaining you. The very Word that exposes your sin also reveals the remedy for that sin’Jesus, your great High Priest. Through him you find mercy that removes your sin and power that works through your weakness.