Are you in a good mood this morning? Maybe you are in a bad mood. Some people have mood swings and don’t know from one moment to the next what their mood is going to be.
We spend a lot of time trying to gauge the mood of people around us. You don’t want to make a mistake when your boss is in a bad mood. Or you may want to wait until someone is in a good mood before you ask them for help.
There is also a whole industry devoted to altering your mood. In fact maybe several industries. The illegal drug industry and the entertainment industry, for example. It is not unusual for a person to drink alcohol in order to change their mood.
It seems that moods are what happen to us. We don’t get to decide what mood we will be in. We are told what mood we are in, and if we don’t like it too bad.
Psychologists say, “We can be sent into a mood by an unexpected event, from the happiness of seeing an old friend to the anger of discovering betrayal by a partner. We may also just fall into a mood.”
You see, you don’t get to choose. You are tossed around by the waves of life without any say.
A mood is temporary, so it isn’t the same as personality or character. A mood is an emotional state, which makes it different from emotions and feelings because it is less specific. We are not talking about mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Illness can be cured.
I wondered what the Bible had to say about something that has such a big effect on our lives. Is it really impossible to select a mood for our lives?
If you search your Bible for the word ‘mood’, you won’t find it.
What you will find instead is verses such as we read this morning.
“Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives.” Leviticus 19:17
“Do not … bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite.” Leviticus 19:18
“Love your neighbour as yourself.” Leviticus 19:18
How, may I ask you, am I supposed to do that if I am in a bad mood? And if I cannot control my mood, is God really going to punish me for failing to keep any of this long list of rules that are about feelings.
Perhaps it’s OK though, because Jesus changed things with regard to keeping these rules.
That is why Christian men mostly have short hair and shave even though Leviticus 19:27 says, “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.” In many churches they won’t have you as a pastor unless you are in violation of this law.
This is what Jesus said about feeling angry (Matthew 5:22): “If you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!”
Does it seem that you are in danger of going to hell for being in a bad mood?
He continued, “If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”
No, I don’t think Jesus is saying you can be sent to hell for being in a bad mood. It seems fairly clear to me however, that if you are in a bad mood you will struggle with these commands.
In the same sermon, Jesus also says this (Matthew 5:43): “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
Here we have an important positive action to take. After all the warnings about our emotions, we are told to pray for the people we feel badly toward.
The apostle John (1 John 2:11) explains something about loving each other. “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.”
Let me paraphrase this for you. If you are in a bad mood, what we also call a dark mood, maybe it is because you are in the darkness. If you are in a dark mood, you will not be able to love.
Ephesians 4:27 says, “anger gives a foothold to the devil”.
James 1:6 says, “a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.”
When these bad moods come and you are tossed by the wind, anger comes in and the devil has a foothold.
If the cause is as James says ‘divided loyalty’, then the answer must be ‘single-minded loyalty’.
If we are blinded by the darkness, then we need the light. How to lighten your mood? Get into the light. The light of the world is Jesus. We need single-minded loyalty to Jesus.
In different ways and with different words, all of these verses are telling us the same thing.
Get close to God. Get away from the dark lord, Satan.
As you well know if you have tried it, this is impossible.
Leviticus 19:1 says, “You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”
Jesus says (Matthew 5:48), “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
It may be impossible, but we have to become holy and perfect.
How do we do the impossible? This is how. We don’t do it. We don’t need to do it because Jesus has done it for us. We go to God and he gives us what we need. There are many many verses in the Bible that say this, but here is just one.
Hebrews 4:16 – “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
Another place where this is explained is Ephesians. It is in this letter that Paul lays out how to live a pure life, or how to be holy. He explains that we have to submit to God in everything. In our hearts and in our minds. He says we have to be wrapped up safely in God’s armour, so that all these evil influences of darkness and foul moods cannot toss us here and there.
I would dare to say that a dark mood is a strategy of the devil. The devil is doing all he can to keep you in the dark. He wants you to be in a bad mood, and he wants you to accept his offer of a solution for your bad mood. Do you think that Satan is going to give you the real remedy for a bad mood? Of course not. He is a liar and has always been a liar. What he gives you is a quick fix that drags you into deeper darkness.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10 – “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”
How do we put on God’s armour? Verse 18 tells us it is by prayer. “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” (Other verses to look up are Romans 12:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2 and Luke 18:1.)
Prayer is so important. I hope that you can see how without prayer you will always be a powerless victim of moods. Through prayer we come close to God, who is the source of the light of our lives. In prayer we come close to Jesus, who is the truth and the way and the life.
Every moment of every day we need to be staying close to God in prayer. At all times we need to be communicating with God and developing our relationship with him. Prayers of begging and pleading are not a relationship. Our prayers need to become much more than a list of things we want God to do for us.
As you grow in your relationship with God you will start to see a change in your moods. As your moods change, you will discover that you have started to love people you hated. You will find that you no longer nurse hatred in your heart. You will find that without any effort on your part you are keeping the rules of Leviticus 19.
With God, all things are possible. You can be holy, and you can be perfect.