Emotional Stability in the Daily Office

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Stability is required in any relationship. This is no less true for our Divine relationship than it is for our human ones. Just as marriages fail if fueled only by emotional highs, so Christians who live their lives seeking ecstatic experiences soon burn out. As a teenager and young man, I was seeking these Divine experiences. A dangerous mix of an extreme personality and impassioned youth meetings powered me. But a set of life experiences, providentially directed by God, helped to mature my personality and my devotional life. And I found rest in the Daily Office of the Prayer Book. It gave me what I needed: an anchor in the midst of the emotional storm.

Emotional High

Some clarification is in order. I grew up in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) tradition. Like all traditions, there are phrases that are often repeated. Some of these include the following:

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  • “Father, we plead the blood over this place tonight.”
  • “Hide us behind the cross, dear Jesus.”
  • “God, show in, show up, and show out here today.”
  • “We ask for the manifest presence of God to be here.”
  • “We had church this past Sunday. It got on!”

There was always someone at every youth meeting, camp meeting, and tent revival who would lead public prayer and inevitably use at least one of these requests. Most of them sound spiritual enough to have biblical meaning and precedent. However, if individuals go beyond a cursory hearing of these phrases and begin to apply biblical categories to them, natural questions begin to arise. What, exactly, does it mean to “plead the blood”? Why is God being asked to “show up and show out” if He is omnipresent?

I must confess that I cannot recall a time when these were ever defined, explained, or formally defended. I gathered over time that they were not explained because the explanation did not matter. These phrases and requests were used, in my opinion, out of ignorance and commonality than anything else, but a large reason was that they aroused a feeling in both the speaker and the audience, a feeling of excitement or enjoyment that was seen as evidence of spirituality. I learned, if only through osmosis and environment, that this emotion, this feeling of supposed spiritual excitement, was the goal of the above petitions. It did not matter what they meant: all that mattered was the sensation they provoked.

To be fair, I must acknowledge a few points to my brothers and sisters (which they are) who labor in the IFB tradition. Did any speaker ever once proclaim, “Follow your feelings”? No. Was “listen to your emotions” ever taught? No, not once, but did these things have to be expressly stated like this? No, they did not because they were being stated in other words: preachers would (innocently, I believe) say the same thing in Biblical language. Instead of “follow your feelings,” preachers proclaim, “follow the leading of the Spirit” (Romans 8:14-17). Rather than being told to “listen to your emotions,” we are told to “listen to that still, small Voice” (1 Kings 19:2).  The effect of these appeals, taken out of Biblical context, was to suggest that the truly spiritual Christians are those who follow the Spirit through their feelings.

Emotional Rollercoaster

Take this emotionally charged atmosphere and thrust an impressionable and unstable Christian teenager into the middle of it. I had a genuine desire to serve the Lord. I wanted to please him. I strove to achieve a genuine spiritual walk. In this context, that meant “following the Spirit” and being “submissive to His leading.” The result was predictable: I became emotionally unstable. Every feeling I ‘felt’ now carried with it the Divine Imperative. To disobey a feeling was to risk disobeying the Spirit, something that terrified me. Of course, this “fear” was itself an emotion I had been taught to trust. I now had two “feelings” to follow; this produced yet more anxiety, and so the cycle continued ad nauseum.

This rhythm continued in loop well into my young adult years, despite my theological development. I became Reformed in my understanding of salvation after working through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.  My view of the End Times was radically altered thanks to Kenneth Gentry’s He Shall Have Dominion, and my sacramental theology was sealed thanks to The Case for Covenant Infant Baptism, edited by Gregg Strawbridge, and Infant Baptism: God’s Ordinance by Michael Harrison. What I lacked, however, was emotional grounding. My emotional life needed a reliable foundation if I was going to mature.

The stage was set for a wonderful display of God’s providence. He brought in someone who would change my world: my wife, Anna. We grew up in the same town but never crossed paths until she visited our church. She somehow accepted my awkward petition for a date, and the rest is history. Her companionship has served as “a continual school of church discipline,” to quote a good friend. Her words of wisdom and correction serve as a lamp on a foggy day and a continual font of maturity. My next growth would come with help from her as well.

Emotional Stability

My affinity to podcasts eventually led me to a church history course taught by Dr. Carl Trueman. In these lectures, he commends the Anglican tradition’s Book of Common Prayer (hereafter BCP); he brags on its beautiful liturgy and theologically rich prayers. Having listened to these lectures for the third time, my interest was piqued. I mentioned to my wife how I would love a BCP. I had one on my next birthday (yes, she spoils me).

I was horribly confused when I opened the work. I had no idea what this liturgical item was. The table of contents was helpful, to an extent, but I had no definitions. What is a daily office? Why are they calling Sunday Services by Roman Catholic terms? Ordination of Priests? YouTube came to my aid with a wonderful introduction to the BCP, by the Rev’d Daniel Atkinson at St Thomas Anglican Church in Athens, Georgia. After studying and working through all the ins and outs, I decided to try the Daily Office (daily morning and evening prayers).

The BCP offered solid footing to my devotional life. Every day, the prayers are in the same pattern: confession of sin, assurance of pardon, expression of gratitude, reading of Scripture, praise to God, making petitions, and a promise of answers. It was, to put it simply, pure Gospel. This provided a guardrail for my emotions. For example, if I had a wonderful week and felt I had served the Lord exponentially better than most, my prayers started with a confession of my sin to make sure I am adequately reminded of who I am. If, on the other hand, I had a horrible day and sinned constantly, I went through the same confession of sin as before. What was key is that it was the exact same confession of sin: no navel-gazing, no agonizing for half an hour over how horrible I was. There is confession of sin and an assurance of God’s pardon. It was simply glorious. I had to know more about this tradition.

Learning About Anglicanism

A Google search, of all things, brought me to Anglican Compass. I devoured all I could. This site had the answers to all the questions with which my Reformed/Presbyterian mind was exploding. Here are just a few of the articles I found helpful:

I could go on, but my point is that it was clear to me that I had found a denomination that expresses a commitment to Scripture, a respect for the Traditions of the church, and a vision for the global church. I found something solid that would last beyond my emotions: rather than “pleading the blood” and being asked to be “hidden behind the cross,” I come before God and confess my sins and seek His promised pardon; instead of wondering if God will “show out” and whether we will “have church” where it “gets on,” I seek a Church that expresses deep theology through beautiful liturgy.

God was gracious to me in His providential directions. My theological growth showed me how big He was, and my wife showed me how much I needed to grow. Part of that growth came from, of all places, the Anglican Tradition and the Daily Office. I commend the use of it and Anglican Compass as both guides and pointers to grow more and more in Christ’s image.

We are thrilled to share James’ story as part of our True North series, which demonstrates the missionary impact of Anglican Compass. Please help us serve James and many others who use the Daily Office Booklet, by supporting us on Patreon.

Published on

February 3, 2023

Author

James Hodges

James Hodges, of Ridgeway, VA, is a Kindergarten Teacher in the local public school system and teaches the Junior Church in his local congregation. He is husband to Anna and father to Lilabet.

View more from James Hodges

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