Sunday, January 8
In one of my favorite books, one character is shocked that someone could feel so much emotion at the same time. This leads him to say “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.” This comment makes his friend (a girl), chidingly reply “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have”.
At certain times or in certain churches, it feels like there is only one acceptable way to come to God, only one emotion that is allowable before the Almighty. There was a Baptist church that I visited in South Carolina that was grim and dark and full of hellfire preaching. It seemed that they believed only sorrow and repentance were acceptable before God. Other churches demand happiness, chipper-ness, cheerfulness; no matter what are your actual day-to-day circumstances, put on a smile (or else).
However, God doesn’t demand that from his people. As you read today’s reading, you will be greeted by the soaring highs of Psalm 81 (v1 “Sing for joy…shout in triumph”) and 84 (v12 “Happy is the person who trusts in You, Lord of Hosts!”). Approaching God with joy and shouting is something God admires and inspires. But this is not the only way the authors write these psalms. Psalm 79:5 reads “How long, Yahweh? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy keep burning like fire?” These words are full of sorrow and pleading. It is what the broken, the hurt, the oppressed cry out to God, and it is in the inspired writing of the Psalms. But the very next verses give us EVEN more emotions, namely anger. “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that don’t acknowledge You,” because they have devastated your people. Normally we think anger is wrong; no ifs, ands, or buts. However, the inspired author is allowing his anger at the unjust system of the world, the anger at the sins that people do to one another, to be expressed to God.
If you are always happy, awesome! I’m usually a pretty happy guy myself. But if you experience emotion like a human, and if you experience some right side-by-side, the psalms provide avenues to express yourself to God and prove that you are not alone. God doesn’t demand that you come to him in only one particular way. Instead, he invites you to come as you are.
Jake Ballard is a pastor of Pine Grove Bible Church in Brooklyn Park, MN, where he lives with his wife, Amber and daughter, Melody Grace. He is a gamer (board, card, video, etc.), a geek (currently watch Star Trek: Deep Space 9) and a student. He is in his third year studying to receive his Master’s of Divinity at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, which he hopes to complete in May 2018. For questions, comments or game or show recommendations, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Psalm 80 photo credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/psalm-80-reverse-parallelism/)