By Kathi Pelton
Some days I get to thinking about the way we do things in the church and if they are actually aligned with the character of God or just something we learned through culture and religion.
Yesterday and today have been some of those days of pondering the deep and raw things that we face as humans.
I have walked with a global team from many nations for over twenty years. Throughout the years I have noticed that some cultures are more reserved in their expressions and some are much more demonstrative in their expressions. For instance, the believers that I walk with from North America and England can be prone to wear a “stiff upper lip” when things are challenging and they will “find truth and through faith stand firm in it.” Yet, many of those that I walk with from the Middle Eastern nations or from places like France tend more to be very demonstrative and will express deep emotions while standing in truth and faith.
Having been born and raised in America and being raised in the American church for nearly 40 years (next year marks 40), I often feel like a Middle Eastern in an American culture. I feel things deeply and when I cry— I weep! This can be when I’m touched by the Lord or when I feel compassion for someone hurting.
Many times when this has come on me I have had people come over to pray inner-healing over me or even pray a deliverance type prayer over me. Quite honestly, it has made it hard to be true to how God has wired me because somehow in North America we give the impression that it is more “spiritually mature” to hold our emotions together and keep a “stiff upper lip” in the face of hardships. We give the message that “faith does not weep— only defeat weeps.” Why do we think this? Is it pride or control or do we think that Jesus was like this? Remember— he was Middle Eastern!
When Jesus came upon Lazarus’ friends and family, at his tomb, he knew that he was going to raise him to life and yet he first wept with those who were weeping. It probably wasn’t our contained and controlled silent tears that we see at a funeral here in North America (messy weeping is only for privacy when you’re alone), but I suspect there was weeping and wailing because their brother and friend had died. They knew he was in heaven but still they wept— and Jesus wept with them.
When my brother died this past January, quite honestly, I wailed in tears— a lot! I couldn’t contain it and quite frankly I didn’t go to church for a month because I knew I couldn’t contain it. In America it would be disruptive and a nice intercessor would gently ask you to come to another room with them for prayer. Ponder that.
So here is my question— I have noticed that our generation’s sons and daughters (those who have kids in their 20’s & 30’s) deal with deep issues of anxiety, struggle with depression and often feel isolated or alone within the church. Yes— in the body of Christ. I walk with a lot of young adults and this is a real struggle.
I understand that there is gross darkness like we never dreamed all around them but I think that within the church it may be something more— something that our American culture has creating by having an atmosphere of having to “hold it together.” We have modeled a culture and atmosphere that often says to them, “If you have faith then you war, not weep.” But can we weep and still war?
I actually believe that you can war while weeping and that God created us with deep emotions that are to be expressed. I am not talking about weeping in hopelessness or raging in unrestrained anger, but rather that we create an atmosphere where people don’t have to be alone in a shower or under the covers of their bed to pour out the depths of their hearts. I often wonder if the anxiety we see, even in the church, on the younger generation is because they have been taught to “hold everything in” and how to act appropriately in church? Can we stand in faith and still allow our emotions to be given a place of expression?
When I go to other nations “prayers of travail” are common. The Chinese will deeply travail in prayer, the Egyptian’s will travail in prayer— but it is rare in America (not unheard of but not common). They do not travail because they don’t believe or have faith but when God causes his compassion to come upon them for a people group, an individual that is sick or for a nation that is suffering— they travail. And often, I have travailed with them.
I have seen more breakthrough in their prayers than in any other culture. Recently, I was with a group of Chinese who persevered and travailed in prayer for a young woman that we all love who was dying of cancer. Through a Zoom call we met, we cried out and we wept in travail— AND SHE WAS MIRACULOUSLY HEALED!
I believe in standing firm in faith, decreeing truth and using the weapons of our warfare according to the Bible to see a turnaround but I do not believe that we have to shut off our emotions and separate them from our posture of faith. I wonder if this has created a sense of isolation and anxiety for our children in the church. Remember…Jesus wept!
If we don’t know how to weep then how will we know how to rejoice?
I spent many years traveling with a group of French and English. The French knew how to dance for joy and weep in sorrow (and in joy). I remember how hard it was for them to comprehend the emotional control and restraint of the English. Both groups loved God deeply and were both were so very faithful— but the English struggled with the passion of the French and the French struggled with the restraint of the English. Of course there are times that passion and emotions can begin to usurp the Spirit and can run amuck— but I believe that God desires to have our souls submitted to his Spirit without cutting off passion and emotion. Emotions aren’t bad! They are only negative if not submitted to the Spirit of Truth. There is freedom (even emotional freedom) when we have fully surrendered and submitted our souls to his Spirit.
Therefor, should we, in the Church of North America, re-examine how we model prayer, expression, passion and faith? Our victory isn’t gained in self-controlled emotion but it is secured in Christ— who knew how to weep and still resurrect. Faith is not stronger when we restrain passion or emotion— faith is our posture and belief in the midst of human emotions.
Jesus didn’t shy away from calling a leper a leper or a blind man blind out of fear that acknowledging the infirmity would block his power but instead his compassion released the power to heal those bound by infirmities. I wonder if at times he healed with tears of compassion in his eyes? Remember, Jesus didn’t tell those who came to tell him that his friend Lazarus was dying, “Do not say that he is dying because that will align your faith with death.” No, their faith was in Jesus and his power to heal— so they ran to him and told him what was happening.
This is what I am pondering today as we stand in the midst of people suffering in this pandemic, in the midst of wars and rumors of wars and in the midst of darkness. We have the beautiful, eternal and imperishable victory— but we were created with deep emotions and those emotions do not stop the power of God from flowing. Maybe we should travail a little more and allow the compassion of Christ to move freely. Maybe this will give a place to our children and our children’s children to walk without the anxiety of having to hold it all together to prove that they are walking in faith?
Let’s make a place for them to rejoice with passion and to weep with compassion. Let’s consider that maybe our restraint is restraining the prayers that require weeping and compassion.
Just some deep thoughts to begin my day… thank you for listening.
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