What is an Emotionally Healthy Christian?
I earnestly exhorted those who had believed, to beware of two opposite extremes – the one, the thinking, while they were in light and joy, that the work was ended, when it was just begun; the other, the thinking, when they were in heaviness, that it was not begun, because they found it was not ended.
What is the state of your emotional health? This is not only a very au courant question but one that John Wesley was dealing with three hundred years ago. I doubt that Wesley would have used the term ‘emotional health’ though, or even known it, but he was concerned for the spiritual health of believers and the spiritual and emotional are deeply connected.
As a good pastor, a physician of souls, Wesley identifies the reality that our emotions are often deceptive. The currently trendy maxim to ‘follow your heart’ is about the worst advice that could be given. The heart – the emotions – are so often deceptive.
Not that Wesley was afraid of emotion. He knew that those deeply affected by an encounter with God would display ‘enthusiasm’ and his journals are littered with accounts of people swooning, crying, and shaking as he preached. But these emotional responses need to be understood as exactly that: responses, not the thing itself.
When someone first comes to Christ (and I’ve seen this many times) there is often a response of incredible joy. Life is transformed, everything looks different, and there is a spiritual/emotional high. Quickly though, as Jesus warned (Matt. 13:20), the realities of life can lead to that joy withering and the new convert drifting away, disappointed. Equally, those who have been in the way a long time can become weary, ‘heavy’ in Wesley’s terminology, and allow that emotional state to dictate their relationship with God.
A key element of Christian maturity is discerning our emotions and learning to lean into what is truly healthful while rejecting that which undermines us. Our emotions need to serve us, not lead us. How we feel is not always the most reliable guide to where we are. Wesley knew that; so should we.