I confess. I’m a Star Wars geek. Although I’m not as die-hard as some of my friends (like Scott Higa, author of thechristiannerd.com) or some of my family members (Tim and Jon, two of my sons), I know enough about Star Wars to be dangerous. One of the famous lines, found in just about every one of the Star Wars movies, is “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” I think every major character says it at least once in the six-part series (I’ll leave that statistic for the nerds to figure out).
You might be wondering, “What does this have to do with Whole Life Worship?”
One of the new spiritual rhythms I am practicing is called the “Examen.” I am still very much a novice in this discipline, but I find it fascinating and powerful in the transformation process. One of the aspects of the examen is to notice feelings of “desolation.” This is where the Star Wars quotation comes in. There are times throughout our day where we encounter “desolation,” that I’ve-got-a-bad-feeling-about-this type of emotion. These include things like premonitions and warning signs, but more often than not they are those emotions where we feel low, sad, uptight, frustrated, scared, anxious, upset, or discouraged.
The normal cultural response to negative emotions is to react: either to “stuff” them or avoid them or placate them. Whatever we do to these emotions, we do it quickly – mainly so we won’t have to really deal with them. But mature, Christ-centered disciples deal with desolation differently: we “notice” them, bring them before the Lord, and respond as He would want us. This is difficult and it takes some practice, but I have found that it really pays off in the long run. It keeps me from making stupid “knee-jerk” reactions, as well as reveal to me more about myself, my situations, and others. Indeed, one of the reasons for the examen is to sharpen “spiritual discernment” – to see things as they really are so that we can respond in the right manner.
Desolation tells us quite a bit; more than what meets the eye. For example, the other day I read an email that was sent to me and several other people). In the email, the person made an inference about something I failed to do which caused an issue. I knew it wasn’t really my fault, but my first reaction was reply immediately in order to defend myself. But, in light of what I’ve been learning lately, I had enough discipline to refrain. My second reaction was to think ill of that person. That one was a little harder. But I asked for God’s grace, and His Spirit began to block those thoughts from my mind.
I chose to deal with the email and the feelings of desolation it caused, and brought the situation before the Lord. Slowly but surely, I was given some perspective. The email was not about criticizing me, but a situation that was frustrating. The person writing the email was under a lot of stress. And – most of all – I have a tendency to take things too personally (no surprise to those of you who know me well).
The desolation – the “bad feeling about this” – served to help me take a higher road, to keep me from going “sideways,” to be part of the solution rather than exacerbating the problem. It taught me about a life-long tendency that I have been avoiding, but now I need to deal with. Most of all, it guided me back to God. Negative emotions can be debilitating, but when surrendered to God they amazingly shrink before my eyes. It’s amazing what Truth and Grace can do to the emotional “Goliaths” we sometimes face.
So when you’ve “got a bad feeling” about something, don’t run away from it. Rather, notice it and bring it before the Lord. God does use everything together for the good – even feelings of desolation – if we allow Him to do it.