Today Winston Smith and Alasdair Groves share what they are working on. As you read please pray for their writing project and consider supporting a day of ministry. We need $2,400 in donations on any given day to support our work.
Tell us about the writing project you are currently working on together.
Alasdair: Winston and I are co-writing a book on emotions. We counsel and know many people who feel guilty for experiencing negative emotions, such as anger, sadness, or discouragement. They assume their experience of these emotions means they aren’t faithful Christians. We want to help people move away from a stoic view that suggests “if you just try hard enough and have enough faith” then you’ll feel pretty good all the time. This is not the picture that the Bible paints.
Winston: I’ve observed that people are unsure about how to process their emotions. And Christians in particular find it difficult. There is much skepticism about emotions in the Christian world and we tend to be more interested in locating sin in one’s emotions rather than locating what good is there or how they might point us to something valuable. In light of this, I want this book to address how our emotional world is handicapped when we misunderstand what the Christian life is “supposed” to look like. We hope that this book will get into the hands of Christians who struggle with the Christian life and want biblical help. The book will be practical; it will include exercises, tools, and study questions for the reader and/or helper.
What does Scripture say about emotions?
Alasdair: The Bible reveals that our emotions have to do with our interpretation, evaluation, and core perspective on what’s going on around us. We do this instinctively, not as the fruit of cool and dispassionate reflection. This is part of what it means to be an image bearer! We have emotions about things, because God has feelings about things, and we want to feel things as he does. He tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn—because that’s what he does. He urges us to have compassion on one another—because he is moved by our plight and suffering. Emotions, throughout the Bible, are like color and music that bring life and depth to the things we see and hear. I have also thought of emotions as a treasure map, revealing what we really love, value, and treasure with exquisite detail.
How has your understanding of emotions been shaped?
Winston: My understanding has been shaped by 25 years of counseling those who suffer. My counselees have taught me about emotions and they have helped me apply what I’ve learned to other sufferers. I honestly feel honored to have walked with people struggling with anxiety, depression, crippling guilt and shame, and other painful emotional experiences. Each one has invited me into very personal and vulnerable areas of their lives and allowed me to learn and grow along with them. And because each one is unique, growth has had different emphases. Sometimes growth has meant celebrating together as we’ve learned about the riches of what God has to say about emotions and the love of Christ. At other times growth has meant patiently bearing with me and letting me know when I’ve applied Scripture to their emotional pain in ways that ring hollow or just completely miss what they’re experiencing. I’m a better counselor, and more importantly, a better Christian because of them.
Alasdair: I echo Winston. I’ve seen so many people handle emotions as if they were a problem to be avoided and that doesn’t resonate with the emotionality of the Bible, especially the Psalms and the way in which God is distressed by things that are hard and painful. And personally this is the single most important area of sanctification that the Lord has been working out in me over the past decade. I finally understand the freedom and even the calling I have to feel negative emotions (for me it has been especially grief), pray through them, and engage them rather than try to get rid of them.
Can you share an example of how you think about emotional distress from a biblical point of view?
Winston: I’ve met with many counselees who were abused and were led to believe that forgiveness meant hiding their pain and only rejoicing in God’s love for them. However, the Bible makes it clear that honest engagement with the brokenness of life is the prerequisite for understanding Jesus’ work. The gospel is not a Band-Aid meant to conceal our heartache. It is a promise meant to assure us that Christ is present in our pain and gives us the freedom to express our experience of it. Living in the reality of what Christ has done means experiencing both brokenness and redemption. We both groan and are comforted. In fact, it is a willingness to groan that ultimately leads to the comfort we find in crying out to God.
Why is writing an important aspect of your work—and CCEF’s ministry?
Winston: I am a firm believer in the written word because a well-written book has the potential to influence Christians for generations. I get really excited about spending a year of my life writing a book that could potentially influence thousands of people. Alasdair and I are grateful for our donors who enable us all at CCEF to write.
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