Own your feelings but don't be owned by them
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
Own Your Feelings but Don't Be Owned by Them
March 22, 2020 ~ 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
It feels a lot different meeting like this today, doesn’t it? If you think it feels weird, you’re in good company. Most of us are feeling exactly the same way.
Things seem to be changing every day.
Our lives have been disrupted:
This isn’t the first disruption we’ve ever experienced.
- I personally remember life being disrupted during the Gulf War and 9/11.
- Others remember Vietnam and the Korean War.
- Some remember World War II.
- This year, I’ve done funerals for two people who live through part of the great depression.
- Besides these types of events, there are folks listening to me now who remember the Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968 in the Asian flu pandemic from 1956 to 1958.
- And the polio epidemic from 1918 to 1955.
I say all of that to say this: while this is new for many of us, the world has been here before. I think that knowing the world has been here before is both comforting and unsatisfactory.
- It is comforting because it seems like the world bounces back.
- It is unsatisfactory because it is affecting us personally right now.
And that’s what I want to address this morning.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (NIV) – 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
Do you identify with any of the phrases I just read?
- Under great pressure
- Beyond our ability to endure
- Despairing of life itself
- sentence of death
There’s no doubt that this is a serious situation. There’s also no doubt that media makes it feel even worse. I am not downplaying the seriousness, but I do want to downplay the 24-hour-a-day hype designed to keep people watching and clicking on links.
While it is good and necessary to stay informed, it is probably not a good idea to be a constant consumer of every new headline and talking point.
I think it’s instructive to us that the prophet Elijah found God in the gentle whisper, not the wind, earthquake, or fire.
Now, let’s get back to Paul’s words. The portion we read is near the beginning of a second letter Paul wrote to the people in the church in Corinth Greece, a church he founded.
He told them that he faced troubles in Asia. While we have no idea what troubles he was referring to, we certainly know how they made him feel:
- Under great pressure
- Beyond the ability to endure
- Despairing of life itself
- Receiving the sentence of death
To say that Paul found himself in a bad place is a huge understatement. He felt like he was about to be crushed by his experiences.
There are many folks who feel like that today.
If you are one of them, let me point out the importance of recognizing and owning your feelings.
- The truth is that we often cannot control how we feel.
- Feelings can pop up out of nowhere.
- They are what they are.
- And while we must own them, we must not be owned by them.
- Feelings are not always accurate reflections of reality.
- They are, however, our momentary reactions to what is going on around us.
- Sometimes, they are spot on; sometimes, they are misleading.
- We need to learn how to discern the difference.
I believe Paul owned his emotions without being owned by them. Why do I say that? Because of what else he wrote in this portion of the letter. Looking back while writing this letter, Paul says his troubles happened so that he might rely on God instead of relying on himself. He looked back and saw a silver lining.
I love how Eugene Peterson translated this in the message: “as it turned out, it was the best thing that could’ve happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get us out of it, we were forced to trust God totally — not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead!”
Paul wasn’t saying that God caused his troubles, but he was insinuating that God allowed them. Even more, he was describing how God used them. What could have been a disaster turned into an opportunity.
Paul realized there was a lesson to be learned: stop relying on yourself and start relying on God.
This is astonishing to me. This is Paul were talking about – the guy who wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else. How in the world could he struggle like this? The answer is simple – he was human, just like us.
And because he was human just like us, his reaction is instructive for us.
The obstacles we face in life — including this present situation — are opportunities to learn to rely on God instead of relying on ourselves.
As Paul continued to reflect on his experience, he went so far as to say that the troubles caused him to set his hope on God.
Hope is a great word! If you look it up on Dictionary.com, you will find this: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
- That is not a hope-inspiring definition!
- Who wants hope to be a feeling?
- Feelings often change as circumstances change.
- Feelings can be fleeting and finicky.
- Surely, hope is more than a feeling, right?
I believe it is!
In the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, we find this definition of hop: “Hope fixed on God embraces at once the three elements of expectation of the future, trust, and the patience of waiting.”
Let’s look at each of those individually.
- Expectation of the future — those who hope in God expect things will turn out well in the future—either here or in the hereafter—because God has spoken. And as we grow in our reliance on Him, we learn to allow the fact of his word to trump our feelings of the moment.
- Trust — God said, “I will never leave you, nor for sake you.” Scripture tells us that “Jesus is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” God has spoken and the more we rely on him, the more we learn to take him at his word. He can be trusted to do what he said he will do.
- Patient waiting – God knows what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. And because we trust him and expect the good future he has promised, it doesn’t matter how long it takes. He isn’t bound to work within our time frame. We can rest and relax in the fact that He knows what’s going on and is actively at work, even if we don’t see or understand what he’s doing.
Paul learned these lessons in the midst of trouble, not in the absence of trouble. That is also instructive to us.
- Paul faced troubles that felt like they’d be the end of him.
- He came to see them as opportunities to learn to more fully rely on God.
- They led him to more fully set his hope on God.
And now for the last part…
- They helped Paul become more aware of his weaknesses and his need to enlist others to help him and pray for him.
If Paul could talk to us right now, he’d probably tell us, (1) Rely on God,
(2) hope in God, and (3) don’t go it alone.
Folks, we are not facing this crisis alone. We are in it together and we need to stand together. Please understand my heart when I say this isn’t all about you.
- You’re not the only one feeling pressure.
- You’re not the only one feeling panicked.
- You’re not the only one feeling afraid.
- You’re not the only feeling despair.
- Others are feeling all those things with you.
- Others are feeling things altogether different from you.
We are all in this together, no matter what we are feeling, so let’s face it together and trust God to use this time as he sees fit—globally, nationally, and individually.
If we read this portion of 2 Corinthians in context, we find that Paul is sharing a personal example to illustrate something he’d already written in this letter. In verses 3 & 4, we read, “praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
- God is compassionate, he understands our reactions to this current situation.
- God is comforting, he gently whispers, “Trust me, it’ll be alright.”
- I’d add that God is also empowering. When we experience his compassion and comfort, he then gives us the opportunity—or should I say responsibility—to share them with others.
When we learn to do trust him, we find that we can learn to own our emotions without being owned by them. When that happens, we’re able to…
- Learn to rely on God.
- Set our hope on God.
- Offer compassion and comfort to others.
- Point each other in God’s direction.
These messages were presented during the COVID-19 pandemic beginning March 22, 2020.