Emotions and the Bible
We all have feelings and these are really important to us and have a major impact in our lives. There is much said about emotions and many people offering help to us as we seek to feel good from a vast number of sources. Christians believe that the Bible is relevant to their lives and seek to live guided by what it teaches. So, what does the Bible say about emotions and can it help us to live in harmony and at peace with our feelings?
A word search through the King James Version of the Bible reveals that the reader will not find the word ‘emotion’ and no reference to ‘feels’ either. The few incidents of the word ‘feel’ have more to do with physical touch than emotion. ‘Feelings’ gives only two references that directly refer to emotion. Reading through the Bible looking for emotions expressed and operating in every day life yields a very different result. The book is packed with emotion both happy and sad. People’s lives are enriched or agonised by what they feel. The Bible is an incredibly emotional book and generates many emotional responses even from those who reject it’s message.
Emotions in the Bible generally are part of bigger issues. For instance, love undoubtedly is a feeling but often love is experienced and expressed when people are not feeling ‘love’. Peaceful feelings are something that is much more than an emotional response and the ideas and basis of peace can have legal and practical outworking in a number of ways.
I am not an ‘expert’ on emotions and have no psychological training or therapeutic expertise. This series of articles is an attempt to explore some of the things the Bible says about emotion and to seek to apply them to daily living. It is also an invitation to the readers to engage in a dialogue about some of the issues raised. Please post your thoughts, responses
Interpreting the Bible
When looking at what the Bible has to say about emotions there are some things that need to be avoided.
Mis-Application: Much of the teachings in the Bible are principles that need to be applied to different people, at different times and in different circumstances. In reading some of the points made in these articles we may have difficulty in applying them correctly. For example, some people with depression can find reading Bible verses difficult because they can feel condemned. Very upset people can also struggle to process what these are saying. Other people can wrongly apply Bible principles to people who are different to themselves and in different circumstances. This can lead to people being injured rather than helped because inappropriate conclusions are made.
Imbalance: Nothing in the Bible is said in isolation. Often principles are counterbalanced by others. When considering what the Bible says about emotions it is important to consider all that it says and not just cherry-pick parts. It is only too easy to use Bible verses to support wrong ideas by only selecting scripture verses that seem to support our thinking. We must be careful not to take a comment made in a particular context and create a ‘law’ that is a distortion of the truth.
Word Meaning: We are very familiar with emotions and the words used for these convey much because of our experiences. The words used for emotions in the Bible may well mean something different to our thinking. For example, many people would link ‘blessed’ to the emotion of happiness but as we will see this is not always the case.
The Power of God
This works in people’s lives in two basic ways. One way can be likened to a thunderbolt but the other way is more akin to a dandelion pushing through a block of concrete. One is very spectacular and instantaneous the other is understated and gradual. These two kinds of God’s working are known as ‘consecration’ and ‘sanctification’ respectively.
When Aaron the high priest and his sons were being consecrated for the priesthood there came a point where certain things were placed into their hands (Leviticus 8:27)127 He put all these in Aaron’s hands and in his sons’ hands, and waved them for a wave offering before Yahweh.. The root idea of consecration is to fill and the key point of the consecration of the priests was that their hands were filled. This was a one-off instantaneous event. There are times in a Christians life when God moves in consecrating power. Often when people go forward for prayer and they are touched by God this is what they are experiencing. People also talk about impartation, receiving gifting or experiencing a break-through. These consecrating experiences are very important and sometimes can be very spectacular. The gifts of the Spirit are examples of consecration (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)28 For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 and to another workings of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of languages, and to another the interpretation of languages..
Peter talks about an ongoing process where we are changed. This is likened to growth (2 Peter 3:18)318 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.. Paul also talks about a continuous current experience whereby we are changed from glory into glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)418 But we all, with unveiled face seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.. This gradual changing is sanctification which the Bible says has happened (1 Corinthians 6:11)511 Some of you were such, but you were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God. is happening (Romans 15:16)616 that I should be a servant of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving as a priest of the Good News of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. and will happen (1 Thessalonians 5:23)723 May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.. The word sanctify means to purify.
Applying this to the emotions gives us two important scenarios. There are times when we encounter God and emotionally we respond and can feel better if we have been feeling bad. There is also a long-term lifelong working of the power of God that has a growing ongoing emotional impact on the lives of Christians. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace etc. (Galatians 5:22). This f
- Has the Bible ever helped you with an emotional issue?
- Have you ever felt the Bible was unhelpful to you?
- What was different between the times you felt helped and when it was unhelpful?