12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV
“Form more than weight” is an expression that my first weightlifting coach inculcated early in my workout ethic. What it meant was that I was to focus on executing the exercise through the full range of motion or muscle movement. It was not to the benefit of my muscular development for me to move through a partial range. The muscles required to bear heavier loads would not fully develop otherwise. He also insisted that I complete the full range of motion with a suitable weight and not something heavier. Heavier weight, supported by a less than developed muscular infrastructure would result in injury.
I have recently been reflecting on this idea with respect to emotions. Life gives me the opportunity to experience the full range of my emotions. Avoiding such opportunity can be detrimental to my development. For Christ to have been 100% man/God meant that he had to experience the full range of human emotion. He would have experienced the primary emotions of sadness, joy, anger, disgust, shame, fear, and surprise. Sin has fragmented these emotional states and what we experience is far from design. Nevertheless, maturity requires journeying through our feelings and becoming aware of our own emotional states. When we “participate” in Christ’s sufferings we embrace our ability to feel ourselves and others around us.
When we “participate” in Christ’s sufferings we also feel the full depth of sorrow that he must have felt at seeing and viscerally experiencing the sinful state of his perfect creation. What a load that must have been for the Creator to carry! To “participate” means to feel, through our own pain, a part of this deep sorrow that Jesus had for his creation. We are not to avoid experiencing the full range of our emotion. Else we risk succumbing to destructive numbing. We risk growing judgmental/cynical and developing an inability to extend grace to ourselves and others.
If you review the emotions mentioned above, which ones are difficult or easy to feel? What makes them so difficult or easy? Might there be someone in whom you can confide and share your pain – the unaddressed sorrows that have accumulated over the years? There are many safe places that allow for this full range of emotion to be experienced. Find them. Do it and you will place yourself on a road to healing and participation in this world.