Emotions need to be distinguished from moods. Emotions are often linked to specific events or situations. I am sad when I go to a funeral or I am happy when my team wins. Moods tend to be longer lasting and have a less specific object attached to them. We often say, “that person got up on the wrong side of the bed,” when someone is in an angry or “sour” mood. My angry mood might have been triggered by some event, such as a disappointing or unfair job review, but then seems to spill over into all of my thinking. My disappointment begins to color how I look and react to all of my life. My mood turns “sour” and I seem stuck.
Philosopher Robert C. Solomon in his book, True to Our Feelings: What Our Emotions are Really Telling Us, describes non-clinical depressive mood in this way,
A person might get depressed about his rejection from law school, an emotion about a specific event. But that emotion gains in scope, spreads over other aspects of his experience, and so starts affecting all the things he does, which now seem no longer worthwhile, and his relationships, which come to seem inadequate to make up for the disappointment , and before long he is depressed, not just about something, but about everything. A cure for depression (again not the clinical kind) may be to come to grips with the incident that initiated the depression and come to understand that it is not so serious or life damaging. (p.42)
The book of Nehemiah describes a change of mood for the people of Israel. After the exile in Babylon, many people returned to Jerusalem only to discover the city walls torn down and the religious life in chaos. The priest Ezra and others begin to restore hope in the people by reading to them the book of the law of Moses (Nehemiah 8:1-9). The people are deeply moved by this reading; they realize they have broken many of God’s laws and need to repent. The people began to weep.
Ezra then spoke to the grieving people. “This day is holy to the Lord your God, do not mourn or weep” (Nehemiah 8:9). He goes on to tell them that instead it should be seen as a day of celebration, of feasting and wine, because God has come in the reading of the word. Ezra’s final word has become a favorite of mine, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10).
Ezra’s words changed the mood from one of sorrow over Israel’s sin to the mood of celebration because God has come to rescue his people. The law is a gift to guide and assist the people so its reading is to be seen as a joyful experience. The mood changed to joy.
Have you had moments when your mood has been changed by a new perspective or insight?
Lord Jesus, let my heart resonate with your heart and seek your kingdom.