Emotions are core to human experience. Because we are created in God’s image, we are made to respond from the depths of our heart to his creation, as He does. Because of this our emotions are a central component of both our worship and our identity. Yet this also makes our emotions a vulnerable target in both our sins and our sufferings. Both the church and the culture often try to resolve the tensions inherent in our emotions by denying either their beauty or their danger. So how then do we stand up to our emotions without treating them as an enemy? How do we express them well without being led away by them? How can we learn to worship in every emotional state? Listen as we study God’s word and how it teaches us to engage the expressions of our hearts.
8 general sessions and 20 breakout sessions.
Feeling Bad about Feeling Bad? (Winston Smith)
Christians often feel like failures when they experience negative emotions like anxiety, anger, or grief. But the Bible demonstrates that experiencing fullness in Christ calls us to connect with the pain of life in a fallen world in order to experience the joy we have in Christ. We can’t really feel the good without learning to feel the bad. The gospel demonstrates and empowers us to do both.
Emotions in the Face of Suffering (Joni Eareckson Tada)
In this plenary, Joni will share the journey of her own emotional life through the suffering she has experienced, and consider the ways she engages her emotions before the Lord in the midst of her suffering. In doing so, we can get a sense for what the Lord may be up to in our own emotions when we face suffering.
Why Do I Feel How I Feel? Understanding Your Emotions (Alasdair Groves)
Emotions are complicated. Each of us has a knee-jerk style of responding to our feelings, but rarely do our instincts run where the Scriptures direct us. In order to handle our emotions in godly, constructive and personally effective ways, we need to first understand what emotions are and how they work. As we gain a perspective on emotions in general, we are much more able to approach our own experience of emotion wisely. This session will lay a conceptual foundation on which to stand for the times when our emotions are not what they should be.
What Do I Do with My Feelings? Engaging Your Emotions (Alasdair Groves)
Once you understand what your emotions are, what do you do with them? Knowing is, after all, only half the battle. This talk will cast a vision for handling our emotions that doesn’t begin with trying to change them. Instead, we will focus on how toengage our emotions by engaging God in a variety of ways. We will especially focus in on learning to nurture and strengthen what is good and right in our emotions and learning to resist what is harmful and wrong.
Entering In: Emotions and Relationships (Winston Smith)
We know that love must be more than a feeling, and yet the Bible teaches us that emotions are a very important element of loving one another. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” is more than just good advice. It is rooted in the very nature of Christ-like love.
Fireside Chat: A Conversation between David Powlison & Joni Eareckson Tada
David and Joni will have an intentional conversation about emotions in their own lives. And they’ll consider how God is with us in our emotions for our good. This session will seek to personalize and further impress the realities we’ve been learning on our hearts and lives through David and Joni’s reflections together.
For Better or For Worse: Emotion in Marriage (Aaron Sironi)
From the very beginning of time, God described marriage as a cleaving to one another. Yet marriage is a place of strong emotion. It can be a place of emotional extremes—either emotional volatility or emotional cold war— that threaten to separate rather than unite. In our own lives and in the lives of those we minister to, it is important to learn how to enter into and express emotion in a way that fosters a God-honoring clinging to one another.
A Walk with the Shepherd (Ed Welch)
We will close our conference by having both our emotions and imagination aroused. The terrain is familiar. It is Psalm 23. Our goal is to be brought into the psalmist’s walk rather than simply observe it.
Engaging with God in the Midst of Anxiety (Deepak Reju)
How does anxiety make our life harder? In a fallen world, there is a lot to worry about, so how do you continue to pursue God in the midst of your worries? Join us as we consider how and why engaging with God in the midst of your anxiety is vital for survival.
Taste and See: Cultivating Godly Desires and Emotions (Mike Emlet)
Do you find that your passion for Christ doesn’t match your intellectual grasp of the gospel? Or that there is a persistent (or growing!) gap between “head” and “heart” in your experience of the Christian life? Taking its cue from Psalm 34:8—“taste and see that the LORD is good”—this breakout will explore practical ways to stir up desires, affections, and emotions for the living God. Bon appetit!
Grief Undone: Walking through Grief alongside the Spirit (Elizabeth Groves)
How do we survive the powerful, unpredictable, sometimes scary or even debilitating emotions of grief? Suppress them? Abandon ourselves to them? Vent freely? Drawing from her own painful experience of losing her husband to cancer, Elizabeth Groves will explore another option: taking our grief to the Lord and processing its tumble of emotions moment to moment with the friendship of the Holy Spirit and the courage, help and hope he gives.
Parenting a Disabled Child: Engaging Your Difficult Emotions (Darby Strickland)
When a family cares for a disabled child their lives change in countless ways. Often times the path is both isolating and intensely demanding. It is no wonder that a wide variety of emotions—including anger, grief, denial, shock, guilt, and sorrow—appear and reappear along the way. In this session, we will explore ways that we can express and engage our emotions that lead us to the Lord’s comfort and understanding, provide encouragement to love well when the cost is so high, and identify practical ways the church can encourage these families.
Seeing Red: Learning from our Experience of Anger (Robyn Huck)
Human beings, made in the image of God, are capable of anger just as God is. God’s anger says much about him, and our anger says much about us. In this session we will use several passages of Scripture to illuminate what our anger teaches us about ourselves. You will be equipped with tools for counseling someone who struggles with anger. You will also be asked to consider the anger you have as a counselor in the context of counseling relationships. And we will think about whether it is appropriate for a counselor to express anger within a counseling session. Come walk with us through some uncomfortable but common situations.
Thriving in a Failure-to-Thrive Marriage (Julie Lowe)
Many of us are witnessing the demise of marriages around us. We know spouses who feel misunderstood, alone, indifferent or disinterested. We must encourage individuals to find hope in their ability to thrive in the midst of difficulty, even a difficult marriage. This breakout will look at how a spouse can personally thrive, love and live in a godly manner within a marriage that is under duress.
When Life Implodes: Helping Others during Tragedy (Ray Ortlund)
We don’t need to go looking for it. Sooner or later it will come find us. The horrible, the unthinkable, the unimaginable—it will show up in our lives and change everything. And what then? This breakout session will equip us more fully to help others during the inevitable tragedies of this life. The key concept will be simple: “Gospel doctrine creates gospel culture, where sufferers can start to hope again.”
Cultivate a Quiet Heart (Kellie Sironi)
God reminds his people that our strength comes “in quietness and trust” (Isa 30:15). Quietness? Are you kidding? The noise of a fast-paced life, the frenetic need to keep up with what everyone else is doing, and the crushing worries of the world around us can easily overwhelm any hope of cultivating a quiet heart. So how do we do it? How do we help those around us do it? Is it just a matter of changing our circumstances or making ourselves less busy? Or is there more to developing a heart that truly rests in the Father? These are the questions we’ll answer in this breakout. Through the study of time-tested truths from the prophet Isaiah, we’ll delve into what it looks like to grow a heart that finds the strength of quietness and trust.
The Experience of Self-Hatred and the Voice of God (Todd Stryd)
The emotion of shame tells us we are bad, gross, inadequate, and, at best, tolerated. Not only that, but since the the experience of shame is such a convincing one, we often end up agreeing with it… and hate ourselves. The author of 1 John is not unaware of the dynamics of shame and condemnation and in this epistle he argues for the certainty of a different interpretation—that we are children of God.
Emotions and Sexual Escape: Reframing the Rescue (Michael Gembola)
Christians who are trying to stop using sex to escape have heard it all—learn this new insight (cognitive focus), find the right accountability (relational focus), use this strategy (behavioral focus). The answer, indeed, is as multifaceted as the problem. But these answers often neglect the emotional distress of temptation. And yet it is the intense, negative emotion in temptation that sexual escape ostensibly solves. This session re-frames temptation as an experience of emotional suffering, and explores the ways this framing changes our entire approach to the issue—what insights we look for, what strategies we employ, what help we ask from friends, what help we seek from God. Strugglers and helpers alike will be challenged to expand their emotional vocabulary to give voice to pain, with God and others, and to faithfully endure, rather than escape.
Songs of Praise, Lament and Hope: A Songwriter’s Journey through the Psalms (Sandra McCracken) Sandra McCracken shares her story by way of the Psalms and her experience as a songwriter. The Psalms teach us how to pray and sing our emotions. The Psalms follow us through life, giving words of hope and sorrow and joy in every changing circumstance. The songs we sing help us give voice and inspire us to have a more honest conversation with God.
Too Numb to Pray (Steve Estes)
For David, God’s precepts had once been sweeter than honey. Despite dark times, he could almost hear the heavens “declare the glory of the Lord.” On sad days he “waited patiently” for Jehovah. He reasoned with his downcast soul that “I will yet praise him,” assured that “joy comes in the morning.” But not during the misery of Psalm 38:13–14. On that day, no longer able to hear God’s faintest whisper, he was deaf. On that night, all strength having drained from his pathetic soul, he was wordless . . . mute . . . prayerless. This seminar is about that day and night.
Engaging the Emotional Child (Julie Lowe)
Interacting with an emotional child or teen can feel both exhausting and disheartening. Adults often resort to responses that offer quick fixes or by letting their own emotions take over. Often, the goal focuses on controlling the child’s external behavior and responses without engaging what is behind the emotion. But your relationship with the child needs to be a safe place for them to struggle and grow and see themselves more clearly. This session will therefore discuss: 1) how to thoughtfully understand highly emotional youth, and 2) practical ways to engage and help a child or teen grow in self-awareness.
Don’t We Have a Right to Be Angry? (Cecelia Bernhardt)
When hard things happen, we sometimes react in one of two ways. We become angry with God in the silence of our innermost hearts, feel guilty about it and then deny we’re feeling that way. Or we vent our anger at God, figuring he can take it. But are these our only options? This workshop will explore the question, Am I angry at God? and then consider how to respond. By delving into the story of Jonah together, we will discover how to draw out hidden anger and address it with humility, so that we can move toward God in hardship rather than running away.
Compassion: “Comfort my People,” Says the Lord (Eamon Wilson)
When we pick up a newspaper, watch the news, or walk down the streets of the city or town we live in, human suffering is unavoidable. When you pair the sheer amount of pain we are confronted with and our inability to remedy it, we are often left with overwhelming and futile distress. This sense of being overwhelmed can lead to feeling immobilized, bitter, and jaded. And yet we have a God who is not deaf to the cries of his people. When he revealed himself to Moses a prominent aspect of his self-revelation was his compassion (Exodus 34:6). A distorted human expression of compassion puts suffering, the sufferer, or the self at the center. But the compassion of the suffering servant offers us an alternative. What would it mean for us to be compassionate as Christ is compassionate?
Worship: Where God’s Rule Rightly Aligns Human Emotion (Joe Novenson)
The unpredictable and, at times, unedifying range of human emotion finds a biblical directive, and when needed, corrective within private and public worship. The dynamic of actual interchange with the living God during worship actually shapes the inner person toward faithful and focused emotional expression.
Is Church Encouraging? How the Good News Leaves Its Mark on the Gathering (Matt Mason)
The Apostle Paul refers to God as “the God of endurance and encouragement.” In the same chapter (Romans 15), Paul states that the divinely-intended purpose of the whole of the Scriptures is that God’s people might “have hope.” But how does the gospel bring hope to people who have, as it were, Genesis 3 wallpapered in every room of their experience, people who bring to every worship gathering an impressive list of proofs that the world, the flesh, and the devil are running a thriving business? In this breakout session, we’ll think about the worship gathering as a place where the good news meets people in hard places and gives them hope through Christ.
Down and Out: Feeling Depleted and Discouraged (Robyn Huck)
It’s 6:15 AM. The alarm goes off, and your first thought is: “I can’t do this day.” Life is burdensome and you are emotionally and physically exhausted. In this breakout session we’ll search Scripture for insight into this phenomenon of depression, and find ways to help ourselves and others live through it with integrity and purpose.
Emotionally Abusive Marriages: Restoring the Voice of God for the Sufferer (Darby Strickland)
Though many treat it is as such, emotional abuse is not a relational problem. It is a heart problem, stemming from the abusive person’s un-Christlike drive to attain and maintain dominance over a spouse. How should we think about and engage those who oppress their spouses? How should we understand, care for and counsel those whose personhood is under constant attack? Where can the church help? This seminar, utilizing a biblical conceptualization, will seek to answer those questions by focusing on marriages where one spouse wounds another in order to stay in control.
(Be aware that this talk might produce triggers for those who have suffered or are suffering from abuse and its related traumas)
Emotional Aftershocks of Trauma (Monica Kim)
Pain and suffering in a fallen world, although inevitable, are also a part of the larger redemptive story of God. When traumatic events such as serious accidents, alarming violence, sexual and/or emotional abuse, natural disasters, and frightening threats invade our lives, we can feel a host of common visceral emotions such as hopelessness, anxiety, fear, irritability, anger, guilt, and shame. We often struggle to understand what difference God’s redemption through Jesus Christ makes in the midst of these experiences. This workshop invites those who are suffering and those who are walking alongside the sufferer to find biblical hope and practical ways to face common intrusive emotions after trauma.