Ezra 3:13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
Intense emotions overlap. Actually, the weeping of the seniors present was from mixed emotions. They too had joy that the foundations were laid, but they also had horrific memories of when the original temple had been torn down. Actually, it’s not at all unusual for people to cry from joy, particularly when difficult circumstances have been endured leading up to the joy. The people who had seen the original temple had seen scenes of famine and slaughter, almost certainly including the deaths of people close to them, and then they had been taken as prisoners on a long trek to a foreign nation and had to endure discrimination and privation, before finally making the long trip back to Jerusalem. It’s no wonder they were emotional wrecks! I wonder if the younger people, those who were simply rejoicing, had any empathy for them? We would do well to recognize that emotions are both powerful and complicated and not dismiss them, either in ourselves or in others. Often enough, we don’t really understand our own emotions! Accordingly, being gentle with others and their emotions would certainly fit in the category of “love your neighbor as yourself.” At the same time, emotions aren’t the same thing as truth, and indeed can blind us to truth. That’s why we need to put our roots deep into God and His Word, so that the storms of emotion won’t knock us over. Emotions are an important part of being human. Josephus reported that Jesus was known for being emotional, and that His emotions could change very suddenly. We must not despise emotions, but at the same time we must not rely on them.
Since emotions are part of being human, I have plenty of proof that I’m human! In pastoral ministry I am constantly dealing with the emotions of others. It is very sad to visit mental hospitals and meet with those under treatment for being “bipolar.” In Japan at least, they are given medication that suppresses all emotion and they live in a gray fog that to me seems hardly to be living. I have to wonder how they would be if they had a caring support network of family and friends to help them deal with both the highs and the lows of emotion, rather than having both extremes cut off by chemicals. My task is to help people – including myself – recognize God’s grace to them and so rest, relax, and rejoice in Him, accepting and valuing emotion but not being whipped around by it. Joy is more than an emotion, but it certainly has a strong element of emotion, and the Bible makes it clear that joy is integral to God’s plan for us.
Father, thank You for emotions, both positive and negative. Help me deal with them as You intend, both in myself and in others, so that the tricks of the devil may be overcome and Your perfect plan instated, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!