It has been well said, “Feelings are no substitute for facts and faith”. That is true, but ignored by many. They have no interest in strict Bible doctrines and sincere devotion to duty. Their only concern is for an emotional experience. As long as they feel good all else is forgotten. However, their error should not misguide us and cause us to get in the ditch on the other side of the road. When all else is in order emotions are well and good, not something to be avoided. In some churches you get the impression that silence is a major Bible doctrine to be staunchly defended. You would think smiling, laughing, shouting, and clapping are all out of place.
This isn’t a new problem. It existed with the Puritans many years ago and came to America. During the “First Great Awakening” (1730-1743) opposition against emotions in the church was strong. The criticism was so great that Jonathan Edwards, one of the leading preachers, was compelled to write a book entitled “Religious Affection”–using the word “affection” in the sense of joy, one of the graces that make up the fruit of the Spirit. Strangely his defense of emotions met with strong opposition–mostly from the Congregational ministers of Massachusetts. That debate continues today.
It seems to me that it’s a sad day when people are glad to be sad. How could anyone be content in that condition? Christians should be the happiest people on earth. Considering what Christ has done, is doing, and shall do, we should have joy unspeakable and full of glory. It’s true that some folks have erred by putting feeling ahead of facts and faith, but their failure shouldn’t lead to our folly. We shouldn’t react to their error by going to the other extreme. Wrong is wrong regardless of the direction it takes. We shouldn’t transform the church into a three-ring circus, but neither should we make it a morgue. I realize that different people have different personalities and customs, and everyone doesn’t express themselves in the same way, but the error of one shouldn’t lead to the error of the other. Don’t allow their failure to become your fall.
If you are looking for an explanation as to exactly what is the proper expression of emotion you won’t find it here. I’m not that stupid. But I will say that it should always flow from a sincere heart, with a desire to glorify God, not to put on a show or to gratify the flesh. You need not be as emotional as someone else, but there is never a time when we should not rejoice in the Lord. The best way to get through the toughest times is to worship God as Job did. As Christians we always have a reason to rejoice—make sure you do.—HDS