Advance to a place where there’s something more than your emotions.
Many years ago, a man ran for Mayor of a small town. He had friends put up little signs in their yards. He even got pencils with his name on them to hand out. He did the best he could on a limited campaign budget. Then he lost. I remember how his daughter cried about it at school the next day. She loved her dad and wanted for him what he wanted. I’ve never forgotten those tears.
Sometimes it seems God doesn’t get what He wants either, at least in the short term. I’ve rarely shed tears over it, mainly because my default theology says that God is no more emotional than a block of concrete.
For sure I don’t think God can be manipulated, victimized, or held hostage by mere sentimentality. There is a kind of Hallmark Card theology we’ve often seen preached and promoted that says this very thing. However, we can’t discount the way the Bible describes Him as having the highest emotional intelligence in the universe—“God is love,” John tells us (1 John 4:8). And since He is holy, it is a holy love. Since He is righteous, it is a righteous love. Since He is glorious, it is a glorious love. When we add His further attributes of faithfulness, goodness, kindness, mercy, and compassion, the powerful sensitivities in Him are off the chart.
The Bible then, is backed by the strongest, highest sort of emotion, but I rarely feel much of it. I’m usually too busy feeling my own feelings, which are not so holy, righteous, pure, or even reasonable.
That’s why the Psalmist presents a pleasant change when he says,
“O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture? Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt. Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!”
Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters” (Ps. 74:12-13).
The prayer here emanates from someone who is in sync with the beauty and glory of what God did in the past–salvation through the parting of the Red Sea. And also with the grievous desolation of his present time.
Remember! He cries to God, although he himself is the one who forgets. God remembers in a fresh, timeless present. It was He who called the psalmist into the wonder of moments that happened before the man was born, when the blood of a lamb and a parted Red sea saved a people, when the glorious God moved with them into the land He gave them. The Psalmist thus gets to the point where God’s feeling becomes his—all through hearing and meditating upon the fact of it in Scripture.
And we New Testament folk could join this cry of wonder as well, citing a bloody cross, and emptied tomb, a triumphant ascension, an indwelling of the Spirit unparalleled since the beginning of the world. Just as quickly we could feel God’s grief over a largely unsaved world, and a church that acts as though it is a mere religious organization.
Why do we care, since this has nothing to do with getting what we want?
We care because God cares.
A cultivated empathy with the heart of the Father, makes us beautifully spiritual. Just like the freckled young girl with braces, who wept that day for her dad.
Get into the heart of God, but beware; this isn’t some spiritual gimmick, another Pray of Jabez workaround, promising if you cry or repeat certain words, you’ll get a special blessing. Instead, if you forget yourself for five minutes, and prayerfully immerse yourself in His truth, you will really start to feel the way He does.