We like to think that we are a pretty open and honest culture. Yet emotions are often expressed and handled poorly. We see it in the rants on social media, the breakdown of relationships, and the everyday outbursts in traffic or in line at the store. Quite simply, we often don’t know how to handle our emotions. The response for many of us is to put on a mask, to bottle it up, or to simply make excuses.
But our faith tells us something different. It tells us that God made us as emotional beings and that our emotions can be signposts pointing us to something real, deep, and authentic about ourselves and the world we live in. In their book The Cry of the Soul, Dan Allender and Tremper Longman write:
Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality. Listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God…Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice… However, we often turn a deaf ear – through emotional denial, distortion, or disengagement. We strain out anything disturbing in order to gain tenuous control of our inner world. We are frightened and ashamed of what leaks into our consciousness. In neglecting our intense emotions, we are false to ourselves and lose a wonderful opportunity to know God. We forget that change comes through brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.
Our emotions can provide us with an opportunity to not only get in touch with ourselves but more importantly to get in touch with God.
That is the reason we are going to look at the book of Psalms. You see, the Psalms are the place in Scripture where emotions are raw, unrelenting, and messy. And, as such, they are the perfect resource for exploring, more deeply, our inner worlds. They provide us with a mirror into our own lives and how we handle (or fail to handle) emotions. But more than this, they are prayers, they are songs sung to God. And as such, they teach us what it means to be fully human before God.