When Job’s life fell apart, he asked the same questions human beings have asked for millennia: Why me? What did I do to deserve this? How could God allow this to happen to me? Maybe you’re in Job’s shoes—feeling abandoned, rejected and hopeless. Maybe you are demanding answers from God. But as Job discovered, knowing the God who created you is better than knowing the answers to all your questions. Because when you know and trust his love, you’ll find the freedom and hope that will enable you to trust in God’s control over all things, even your suffering.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” —Proverbs 3:5
Proverbs 3:5 says we are to trust God with all our heart and in all circumstances. But do we… even in the difficult times? In these sermons, Alistair Begg reminds believers that our response should always be to put our faith in God, for He knows what’s best for us and can use even hard experiences for His glory and our good.
Everyone experiences disappointment or sadness to some degree. In Psalm 13, David demonstrated what it means to trust God in tough times. Feeling forgotten, forsaken, sorrowful, and subdued, David cried out for God’s consideration and illumination. As he prayed, his perspective changed, and he was able to rejoice—even though his circumstances remained the same. Alistair Begg teaches that when we face difficult times, we must resist self-pity, trusting that God knows what’s best for us and can use even our hard experiences for good.
As pilgrims made their way up the path to Jerusalem, they raised songs to the Lord in worship. Studying three of these Psalms of Ascents, Alistair Begg reveals to us what they meant to travelers then—and what they can teach us today. Even if others ridicule our beliefs, we, like the pilgrims, can focus on the living Lord’s mercy instead of on the scoffers along the way. We can trust in His protection and our eternal security with Him.
When a tempest broke on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples’ boat was swamped with water, their hearts flooded with fear. In their distress, they called to the Lord. Though Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the stern, He had compassion for His disciples’ doubts and questions, stilling the wind and the waves. Similarly, Alistair Begg teaches, though the Christian life will contain trouble, we too have access to the one who created the world, whose power can still any storm.
We can fail to trust God’s daily provision by becoming greedy and expecting more or by overworking to provide for ourselves. Throughout Scripture, however, He promises to give us “our daily bread.” In this sermon, Alistair Begg reminds us that our heavenly Father knows what’s best for us and is deeply concerned with our personal and practical needs. Because of this, we are able to work hard, live in security, and be content in God’s perfect providence.
Seasons of sorrow are common, even for those who love and serve the Lord. As Alistair Begg reminds us, crying out honestly to God, just as Jesus did on the cross, is not sinful, but supported by biblical example. Psalm 13, for example, begins in pain—but by the end, the despairing psalmist is able to look beyond his circumstances and trust in God with a joyful heart. Through Christ, that same victory is available for all who feel forgotten.
Quote: “Our kisses far outnumbered our reasoned words.”
Peter Abelard (1079 – 1142) was a freethinker by twelfth-century standards, not bound by the wisdom of archbishops or saints. He challenged philosophers and theologians, including Anselm and his theory of the atonement. Christ’s death, he insisted, revealed his infinite love more than anything else. Abelard’s views on the atonement are as controversial today as they were in his day.
Abelard combined philosophy and theology and turned Anselm’s motto—”I believe in order to understand”—upside-down. In his volume Sic et Non (Yes and No), he set forth his guiding principle: “The first key to wisdom is the constant and frequent questioning. . . . For by doubting we are led to question, and by questioning we arrive at the truth.”
From his youth, Abelard had been an inquisitive student. He debated the best teachers of the day, turning academic rivalry into a sport. From rhetoric and debate Abelard moved on to theology. Soon he was challenging and besting his theology professor, and his reputation soared even higher. The peak of his teaching career came in his late thirties, at the Cathedral School of Notre Dame. His future looked to be brilliant—but for Heloise.
Canon Fulbert, uncle and guardian of Heloise, was Abelard’s superior at Notre Dame. He may have set aside his own better judgment when placing the sparkling teenager under the tutorship of the handsome teacher. Abelard conceded that he had more than dialectical discourses in mind. “I . . . decided she was the one to bring to my bed, confident that I should have an easy success.”
Taking advantage of her eagerness to learn, he laid his snare. Heloise resisted, but Abelard was not easily dissuaded. “Under the pretext of study we spent our hours in the happiness of love,” Abelard later confided. Heloise soon discovered she was pregnant. Fulbert was outraged not only by her pregnancy but also by Abelard’s dismissive response of putting Heloise in a convent while he carried on with his successful academic career. Though both sides tried to resolve the situation, it eventually exploded, ending in Abelard’s castration at the hands of Fulbert and his friends.
Abelard recovered from his terrible wounds, later reasoning that what happened was God’s means of setting him aside as a monk at the Abbey of Saint Denis. For Heloise, God’s mercy was not nearly so evident. Although she became a highly acclaimed abbess in her own convent, the Paraclete, she couldn’t deny her love for Abelard and never fully came to terms with their separation.
Frustrated with his monastery’s worldliness, Abelard tried to live as a hermit, but, constantly interrupted by eager students, he continued to teach, using philosophy as bait to interest students in theology—”true philosophy.” His popularity exacerbated the fury of his enemies, who charged him with heresy and incarcerated him at a monastery in Soissons.
On release he retreated to a remote area, but again he was inundated with students. Fearing persecution from church authorities, he fled to another monastery. But he couldn’t escape the clutches of critics—the most vitriolic being Bernard of Clairvaux, a leading reformer of Cistercian monasticism. Bernard was angered by Abelard’s explanation of Christ’s atonement and persuaded the pope to summon Abelard to appear at the Council of Sens in 1141, where his teachings were condemned. On his way to Rome to petition the pope, he was taken ill and died soon afterward. His body was interred on the grounds of the Paraclete abbey, where the grave was tenderly watched over by the abbess, Heloise. Some two decades later she was buried beside him.
The grave was not the end of Abelard, however. Although his writings had been condemned by the church, there was no going back on his “liberal” methodology. He, more than anyone else, introduced questioning and doubting of the sources—even the church fathers, who had been presumed authoritative.
Abelard’s nemesis, Bernard of Clairvaux, desperately sought to hold the conservative line, ridiculing this new method as stultilogia (stupidology) but the current was too strong. Abelard’s ideas would win the day in academia, while Bernard would go on to become a saint.
Simply mentioning the word itself can invoke the very thing it describes. Chances are you’ve heard the saying “faith over feelings”, but have also read about Jesus’ intense emotions in the Bible. Because of this, it can be confusing to try and find the proper place for your emotions in your life.
As imperfect humans, everyone has had the experience of being heavily influenced by their emotions at various times. But when your life is ruled by emotions, they control your decisions, actions, and your mental health.
When this happens, it takes God out of the driver’s seat of your life, and puts your emotions there instead.
Letting God continually lead your decisions and actions requires a daily and life-long practice of placing His Way and His Word first. This can be a struggle, but it’s a struggle worth engaging in.
Here are 7 things that you can do to help you in this battle.
1. Give Yourself Grace
Self-judgement can be a natural response when you start to feel what are often categorized as “negative” emotions, especially ones that don’t seem to line up with Christian living, like anger or jealousy. Both enjoyable and difficult emotions are part of the human experience, so it’s important to change the way you think if you view emotions as being either positive (like joy and happiness) or negative (like anger, sadness, shame, or jealousy).
All of your emotions are given to you by God and have a purpose. If you condemn and judge yourself for feeling a “negative” emotion, it’s going to make those emotions feel even worse by adding shame to them. So remind yourself that it’s never wrong to feel and experience a difficult emotion.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”Romans 8:1
2. Acknowledge and Express your Emotions (Don’t Stuff Them)
Difficult emotions can be hard to endure, especially if you grew up in a family where you didn’t feel safe to express them. This can cause you to fear fully leaning into them because nobody likes to feel sad, angry, or hurt.
In the past, I have personally worked really hard to stuff these types of emotions in my life by rationalizing them and distracting myself with other things because I didn’t want to have to face them. After years of stuffing and denying these difficult emotions, they started to leak out in my life in the form of depression, anxiety, and anger that I could no longer contain. This led me to start seeing a Christian counselor who helped me see the importance of recognizing and actually expressing these tough emotions
Leaning into these emotions and giving yourself the space and opportunity to really feel them is a scary process, but this process actually helps the intensity of the emotions to eventually lessen more and more, rather than hang around in the back of your mind and heart. In addition, when you lean into these emotions, you actually position yourself to experience a new level of God’s comfort and love in your life.
“If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” Psalm 34:18 MSG
3. Find a Safe Place
Determining a safe place to acknowledge and express your emotions is very important and a good place to start is with just you and God. This can be through prayer, journaling, or however you process best. If you feel stuck or struggle to process alone, it can help to also process with a trusted person/people in your life, like a counselor, a good friend, or your spouse.
Working through your emotions and thoughts with God and with trusted people prevents you from doing so at the expense of others. It is typically not a good idea to process your emotions with the person you are experiencing the emotion towards (for instance if you angry at someone), but if it’s necessary to have a conversation with them about it, it is best to do so after you have had time to think about it and process it, and you have prayed about it. This will help you have a healthy conversation and work toward resolution without saying or doing something you will regret.
“A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, but harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 AMP
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4. Explore the Source
When leaning into your emotions, it’s important to explore where they are coming from. God gave you emotions to help you key into what is going on in your heart and mind, so it’s important to listen to what they are saying to you.
“Emotions can guide us to inner wounds we don’t see or understand, and dealing with those emotions in a healthy way is key to healing.” –Why Emotions Matter by Tristen and Jonathan Collins.
I highly recommend reading the book “Why Emotions Matter” if you are wanting to address some root causes of tough emotions in your life. The book tackles six big emotions that people face and where they ultimately come from:
Shame- A signal that your identity is threatened
Fear- A signal you might be in danger
Anger- A signal that expectations have not been met
Sadness- A signal that something needs to heal
Jealousy- A signal of unfulfilled desires
Happiness- A signal that a desire has been met
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” Lamentations 3:40
5. Embrace God’s Comfort and Healing
One of the most precious gifts that God has given us is His Holy Spirit, also known as our Helper and our Comforter (John 14:26 AMP). When we experience strong emotions and explore the source of where they come from, it can be a very raw and painful process, God longs to comfort us through this process. He desires to heal our emotional wounds, but we have to let Him into our hearts and embrace His comfort in order to fully experience that healing.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [healing their pain and comforting their sorrow].” Psalm 147:3 AMP
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6. Look for the Good
While difficult emotions do not feel good in the moment, a lot of good can come from them. Looking beyond difficult emotions in the moment enables us to focus on the value of them. Here are just a few ways that God can use your difficult situations and emotions for good:
They help you grow:
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 MSG
They give you the ability to comfort others:
“He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.” 2 Corinthians 1:4-5
They help you better appreciate the joy in your life:
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3
7. Choose God’s Word
Emotions can cloud your judgment, so at the end of the day, the most important thing you can do to avoid being controlled by your emotions is to resolve to choose obedience to God’s Word over your feelings, no matter how strong the emotion.
Jesus gave a great example of this when he experienced intense emotions preceding His death and yet He chose to prioritize God’s plan over His own:
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:36-39 NLT
One of the most powerful admonitions addressing the balance of emotions and actions is one Paul shared with the Ephesians: “And don’t sin by letting anger control you.'”(Ephesians 4:26a NLT). This verse is a great encouragement because it reassures us that it is possible to experience an intense emotion, without letting it control your actions. Not letting emotions rule you is a discipline and a practice, but it’s one that God will walk you through and will pay out dividends in your life.
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Cortni Marrazzo lives in Spokane, WA with her husband Jason and their two elementary-age sons, one of which has special needs. She has a Degree in Biblical Discipleship and has a passion for ministry and encouraging the body of Christ. You can contact her at Cortni.Marrazzo@gmail.com or on Facebook.