We feel entitled to our emotions. Someone cuts us off in traffic, we get angry. Our hard work is passed over by our bosses, we get vindictive.
We experience a break up in a relationship, we get sad.
The way we feel about situations, seasons, or circumstances is natural, understandable, even reasonable. And it seems equally unnatural, confusing, and unreasonable to us whenever we encounter someone who doesn’t seem to understand, empathize, or match our emotional energy.
How often have we snapped at a well-intentioned comment from a spouse, friend, or family member who only wanted to cheer us up or to remind us of the bigger picture? Despite their good-will towards us, our entitlement to our emotions chokes out the opportunity for encouragement and joy.
We often relate to God in the same way! Our response to Him is often something like: “How could His Word command me to praise Him” (Psalm 103:1) we ask ourselves – especially when “My soul is downcast?” (Psalm 43:5).
Even though He has given us every reason to be joyful and to be full of celebration! We want to feel what we want to feel purely because it’s ours to feel. Our default entitlement sends us down to our subjective preferences and away from the reality of joyful celebration.
We observe the Israelites falling into this temptation in Nehemiah 8. In verse 9 we’re told that the people’s immediate response was to weep at the reading of the law. And yet, Nehemiah and the priests exhort the people to respond in joy – as is the right response to this beautiful reunion between God’s people and God’s covenant. But we all require that same reminder. Whether it’s proper joy or proper mourning, God often calls us to the response and posture that isn’t natural or easy. We are like the Jews of Jesus’ day who complained because: “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn,” (Matthew 11:17).
God’s call for us is to intentional celebration – away from our human default of our own feelings – and towards the objective reality of His goodness and love.
Pastor Ryan Lunde
Young Adult Ministry