Prosperity gospel preachers would tell us that the point of the Christian life is to escape pain, suffering, and grief. And we should not deny that God has plans to “wipe every tear” from the eyes of believers. But in this life, realistic grief and sorrow are as much a part of the godly affections as are happiness and contentment.
Over at First Things, Benjamin Myers writes about why so many evangelicals in America fall into the “sentimentality trap.”
Many Christians seem to believe that what Scripture means by “pure” and by “lovely” is merely the pleasant and the naive, the Hallmark Channel, not the reality of a world in need of redemption. Yet, looked at through the initially disorienting but ultimately corrective lens of Scripture itself, what is more pure and lovely than the Cross? One might answer, “the Resurrection,” but there is no Resurrection without Crucifixion.
The Christian sentimentalist wants the bliss of Easter morning without the pain of Good Friday or the sorrow of Holy Saturday, reducing the great joy of Easter to the pleasantness of a sunrise or spring flowers. The sacrifice of our savior is lovely. His blood is pure. If we can look on these things and know they are good, then we, in a deeply Christian art, should not fear looking at the hard realities of our fallen world. The Christian artist who wraps himself in sunbeams and daffodils fails to be Christian at all, producing a bloodless, lifeless art that pleases a middle-class consumerism, not an authentic Christian encounter with a hurting world.
American evangelicals have a conflicted view of the emotions. On one hand, sentimentalist literature, music, and “art” are among the biggest sellers in the Christian market. On the other, it is a staple of evangelical rhetoric that you “can’t trust your feelings.” The basis of our faith is not our feelings, countless sermons have told us, but the Word of God.