When I was in my early 20s, I went to a prayer meeting where the preacher said, “Isn’t it wonderful to be a Christian. We don’t suffer from the ups and downs of emotions like neurotic people.”
I’ll never forget sitting there thinking, “My emotions are up and down. Am I neurotic? Is that what is wrong with me? He is saying it means you aren’t a Christian! Is that right?”
This happened in the 1970s. I would bet most pastors now realize most of their congregation is neurotic in some way or another. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:
Neuroticism is one of the Big Five higher-order personality traits in the study of psychology. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness. People who are neurotic respond worse to stressors and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification.
I don’t know, but it sounds like most of us to me.
I confess, I have done what that preacher did: assume. He assumed none of us in the room had those up and down emotions because he didn’t. He assumed all Christians were like him. He assumed Christ had taken care of all that in everyone.
I have assumed things about people. I have often said, “Well, they weren’t real Christians if they could do that!” You know what? That was wrong of me. I was actually saying they had no relationship with God at all. I don’t think I had the right to say that.
Our lives are a journey with God; we learn on this journey. We walk, fall, get up, run, crawl, get up, walk… The times we fall may be when we are closest to God, who knows? Not you, not me. I am so guilty of the sin of judging people. I’m ashamed of myself and pray I will quit doing it. I hope I can just love people. Just love them. Let God worry about what they are doing. Let him clean them up and clean me up in his own time. I know very well there are people who think I am not a Christian.
In closing, on my last post I mixed up which quotations I was putting together. I left out a really good quote by Thomas a Kempis about feelings that I still want to post. So here it is:
MY SON, trust not to your feelings, for they will quickly be changed into something else. As long as you live you are subject to change, even against your will; so that you are at one time merry, then sad; at one time quiet, then troubled; now devout, then worldly; now diligent, then listless; now grave, and presently light-hearted.
But he that is wise and well instructed in the spirit stands firm upon these changeable things; not heeding what he feels in himself, or which way the wind of instability blows; but that the whole intention of his mind may tend to the right.
So, I guess that pastor was wrong. We can have emotions that swing all over the place and still be Christians.