I’m remembering a conversation I overheard a few weeks back between two other Fellows. We had just heard the news about a good friend who was leaving town to start a new job, and one was talking about how she would need some time to “process” her emotions about the impending move. When the other heard her say this, he was confused. For him, there was no need to sit for any length of time and process an emotion in response to a life event like that. He voiced his opinion, we had a lengthy conversation about it, no conclusion was reached, and we all left the night behind us.
Or so I thought...
Flash forward a few weeks and many more conversations about emotions later, and it struck again. We had a retreat just this past weekend to spend some time figuring out how we will end well as a Fellow’s class. One aspect of this retreat entailed all of us sitting down to reread the covenant we established with one another at the start of the year to help set a standard for what our lives as Fellows should look like. We started out this time talking about how we thought we were doing, but the conversation steadily transitioned into us sharing our emotions and vulnerabilities with one another thanks to some advice and direction from awesome leaders in our group who push us more towards being genuine (shoutout to Noemie and Alicia). Tears were shed, hearts were encouraged, and minds were stirred. I was heavily struck by this event and it made me think back to the conversation I told you about.
In the wake of this amazing weekend, I began asking questions like: “What does it mean to process our emotions? Do we need time to process our emotions? Is this timeline different for others? Are there healthy and unhealthy ways to process emotions? Can I write a blog post about this?” These are all pretty big questions (except the last), so I turned to scripture to see what it has to say about the topic.
9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The author here clearly wants Christians to rest on the Sabbath. In rest, we don’t do anything. This doesn't, however, mean that we are passive on the Sabbath. Instead, Sabbath rest means that we enter into God's own rest as we fill our day focused upon Him. It is a time God Himself set aside for us to rest in Him and He in us. The author seems to indicate and expect that a major portion of this rest entails our own entry into the word of God, which isn’t a passive, irrelevant book, but a living and active force in the lives of believers. In Sabbath rest with God we are ending our own action and work to focus entirely upon what work the word of God does in us. The Sabbath rest is “for the people of God”. Moreover, our refusal to take a Sabbath rest—something I am too often guilty of—implies that we don’t truly think God can work in our lives without our own added effort. This is a toxic belief to the message of Christ, and disobedient to him on the Sabbath. We should stop all work and rest in the word of God; that it would be active and alive in our lives and keep us from disobedience.
Now, getting back to the topic of emotions and how we process them, it’s important to note that one of the promises of this passage is that the word cuts away the division of “soul and spirit” in our taking rest on the Sabbath. In our vernacular, soul and spirit are used interchangeably, so let’s look at the Greek for more information. The Greek word for “soul” that is used here is psyche, which is defined as the seat of the intentions and desires of the heart. The word for “spirit” on the other hand is pneuma, which is defined as the rational spirit and decisive seat of a human being. The implication of this passage is that our desires/feelings and rationality don’t easily line up within us, and the explication is that the word of God brings them together. It heals a divide within us that is a major cause of sin and frustration in our lives (Rom 7:15), and enables us to love God and others more fully and experience more joy in the life He’s made for us.
To wrap things up I think this passage in Hebrews makes it clear that we, as Christians, need to intentionally take time to rest in God and His word, so that our rationality and desires may act in unison under Christ. In rest we are made more whole in Christ that we may better discern His will for us (Rom 12:2) and what we are to do for the kingdom. Of course, rest takes time out of day and a certain kind of intentionality that isn’t too common in everyday life. It takes guts to set aside time where we aren’t doing anything immediately for ourselves, but are instead leaning entirely upon the voice and word of God to act. In this space God works to renew us and shape us into better image-bearers of Him.
There are still some questions that are important to answer that don’t necessarily come out of this verse. For instance, I don’t think there is any perfectly specified timeline established by scripture which says how long we need to discern/connect our mind and heart in God. Rather, it seems to be something we constantly do and seek of Him in Sabbath rest, so it should happen at least once a week. It’s also important for me to say that I don’t see any Biblical basis for us to process emotions by ourselves apart from God. Speaking from experience and scripture, the human heart is deceitful and it’s dangerous for us to just let ourselves feel whatever we feel and never take it before God. Likewise, it is equally dangerous for us to ignore our emotions and never lay them at the feet of God, as we are made to feel those emotions, which are of God that they might incite us to passionate and whole-hearted action in Christ.
I’m sorry this post has been a long one; I wanted to let you (the reader) know about what’s going on in the lives of the fellows, as well as hopefully speak some truth out of the word of God. There are clearly so many questions brought up by this topic that are left unanswered, but I hope that you might come away from this more capable to take them to heart before the Lord in rest and see what He has for you there. May all that is of the Lord remain and may the rest fall away. Thanks for reading.