This is the first video in a short series where we look at what the Bible teaches us about a couple of emotions. But I want to start by helping us reflect on what the Bible teaches us about the heart.
Now more than ever it’s important for us to grow in our emotional wisdom.
We live in an unprecedented time. There’s a global pandemic we are trying to cope with, there’s an economic recession we have to deal with and there’s an uncertain future that’s facing us. Now more than ever it’s important for us to grow in our emotional wisdom: To grow in our ability to understand and manage our emotions and to grow in wisdom when it comes to helping others deal with theirs.
How Do We Understand The Heart?
The heart, as you may know, according to the Bible is the very centre of who we are. And so our view of the heart will impact how we view and understand emotions.
The Bible talks about the heart as something incredibly sophisticated.
According to scripture we think with our hearts: we evaluate things with or hearts, we desire things with our hearts, we choose things with our hearts. And of course, we feel things with our hearts. Although the term seems quite simple, when the Bible talks about the heart, it’s talking about something incredibly sophisticated. And the more we reflect on how it works, the better we’ll understand how our emotions work, and the more wisdom we’ll have in understanding ourselves and in helping others.
Two Competing Metaphors
So, in this initial video what I want to do is to help you think about the nature of the heart. And I want to do so by using two competing metaphors. These came from theologian Scott Swain who recently suggested that there are often two competing metaphors that contend for how we try to understand the heart.
1. The Heart as A Cup
According to one metaphor, the heart is a cup. It may be full of coffee, or it might be full of apple juice, but under normal circumstances it’s just filled with one of those things. You wouldn’t want to mix those things together. The cup is filled with one thing only. And that might be a good thing like a good emotion or a bad emotion.
The view of the heart here is that it can handle sort of one emotion at a time.
If it’s a bad thing, the exhortation we usually give to each another is, “Empty it of the bad thing and fill it up with the good thing”. So, if the cup is filled with anxiety, we might exhort someone, “Empty that cup and fill it up with peace”.
The view of the heart here is that it can handle sort of one emotion at a time. But as we look at scripture that’s actually not the view of the heart we get in the Bible. It’s the incorrect metaphor.
2. The Heart as A Balance Scale
A better metaphor, Scott Swain says, is to think of the heart like a scale. Specifically, Swain says, it’s more like a balance scale – the kind that’s often used as a symbol for justice. Because its two different sides weigh different arguments and positions in the process of reaching a true and proper judgement.
The heart is capable of doing multiple evaluations and experiencing multiple emotions at any given time.
The heart is like a balance scale weighing differing realities, differing courses of actions and even differing emotions.
In fact if you had to take that metaphor to its breaking point you might even say that it’s a sort of multi pronged balance scale. With the heart capable of doing multiple evaluations and experiencing multiple emotions at any given time.
Your Heart Is Not A Cup
So, why is this view significant? Why is it important to think of your heart more like a balance scale than a cup? Well, the practical impact is this: if you think that your heart is a cup that’s filled with a negative emotion, you will tell yourself to empty your heart of that particular emotion and to fill it up with another one.
Not only will you do that to yourself you will actually do that to people around you. Something like, “Pour out the bad contents, get rid of your anxiety and fill it up with peace”.
Offering Counter Weights Is What Helps
Now, those kinds of exhortations don’t usually work and they can actually be quite harmful. But if you see the heart like a balance scale, then the encouragements are not offered as rebukes but as counter weights.
If we see the heart as a balance scale then encouragements are not offered as rebukes but as counter weights.
So, it will be something like, ‘I know that your heart is heavy right now. Rightly so because you’ve experienced some losses”. Or, “I know that you’re feeling distressed at the moment, and rightly so because of the uncertain future that you’re facing. But can I offer you a counter weight? Not something that will remove the sorrow or will take away the distress but to place it within context of a larger reality. Within the context of a God who loves you and cares for you and who has good purposes for you”.
Balance Helps Us Bear The Load
These counter weights don’t remove the other weights. If you place a counter weight on a scale it doesn’t take off the other weight. But what it does is it starts to balance it and bring it in to proportion. Instead of these counter weights removing other weights, they actually provide precious consolations that enable us to bear the load of those other weights.
Again, and again, we see this in scripture with different emotions. In the next few videos we’re going to be looking at how this particularly plays out in the experiences of anxiety, of grief, of anger and of joy.