The Importance of Emotions
Emotions are God given and are extremely important to us for a number of reasons.
The greatest commandment of the law is that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul and with all our mind (Matthew 22:37)137 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’. In other words, everything within us should be focussed on loving God. This includes our emotions. The feeling of love is one facet and element of loving. Without this emotion, our obedience to the greatest commandment would be incomplete. It must be pointed out that there are times when we love without this emotion being dominant. Jesus loves the Father and so much so He was willing to die upon the cross. Under the pressure of Gethsemane, the dominant feeling was agony (Luke 22:44)244 Being in agony, he prayed more earnestly. His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. and upon the cross, the dominant feeling was rejection amongst other emotions (Matthew 27:46)346 About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. Loving is so much more than a feeling. Husbands and wives who have been married for a long time realise that they don’t always feel loving towards each other yet they still love deeply. In an argument often the dominant emotion is anger, not love. We are called to love people even when we do not like them. There is nothing wrong in disliking someone who behaves in a repulsive way but we can still love them (Matthew 5:44)444 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, . What we feel is not necessarily a true reflection of what is going on in our behaviour to others or in the reality of a situation.
We are commanded to serve the Lord with joy and gladness (Psalm 66:1)51 Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!. Without emotion, we cannot do this. It is important to note here that this joy is not something that can be manufactured but develops as we learn to know God intimately (Psalm 16:11)611 You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy. In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.. Please do not feel guilty if you are not feeling joyful. The nature of this command is that as you learn to serve and walk with God so He will bring joy to you. Indeed, true Christianity increasingly finds expression and motivation from delighting in God (Psalm 37:4)74 Also delight yourself in Yahweh, and he will give you the desires of your heart.. If you are having to continually force yourself to do stuff you think is pleasing to God then there is something wrong. His burden is light and His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:28-30)828 “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”. Often we force ourselves to do religious stuff thinking this is what God wants. Increasingly this legalistic behaviour can make us more and more unhappy. There are however times when it is not easy to follow God but even in these times, there is a joy of the Lord which strengthens us (Nehemiah 8:10)910 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared, for today is holy to our Lord. Don’t be grieved, for the joy of Yahweh is your strength.”.
Two Types of Emotions
We can subdivide our emotions into two types. There are emotions we like and emotions we do not like. This second class of emotions we tend to think negatively about. These may include fear, anger, embarrassment, rejection, pain and a sense of injustice to name but a few. Of recent years there has been a teaching that the second class of emotions are bad and we need to seek to be free of these. This however is not a view supported by the Bible. This may appear an outrageous statement especially if you have lived under the teaching that we should be happy all the time but please read on to see my reasons for stating this.
Negative emotions warn us of danger or of things that need to be changed because they will become harmful to us. Pain is a good physical example of this. Leprosy is a terrible disease which left untreated increasingly causes physical deformity including terrible sores, loss of fingers and toes, legs and arms, eyesight and facial features such as the nose. Most of the physical damage is not done by the disease itself but rather by the fact that leprosy causes the body to lose feeling. Most diseases cause pain but leprosy removes the ability to feel pain. So, people with leprosy will pick up something from a fire without realising it is burning hot. Some people lose their eyesight because they wash their faces with boiling water. It is our ability to feel pain that keeps us physically safe.
Negative emotions warn us to change. If we are in a situation that makes us feel uncomfortable we have to ask why and make adjustments to the situation or ourselves to restore our sense of comfort. It is when we fail to do this that we live with long term emotional distress that comes from a harmful situation not resolved. A wife living with an abusive husband will feel extremely bad. The bad feelings are shouting leave and go to a safe place.
The Bible has a number of things to say positively about the things that cause us to feel negative emotions. Here is a selection:
Fear: We are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10)1010 The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom.. Many have turned to God because they realise on the Day of Judgement when they stand before God they will be found guilty. This fear has resulted in them turning to Jesus for salvation (Jude 1:23)1123 and some save, snatching them out of the fire with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh..
Chastisement: God disciplines and corrects those He loves. We are told that this process is not pleasant but grievous. God in His love and mercy does not leave us to wreck our lives but teaches us and changes us through these times (Hebrews 12:5-13)1211 All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet
Wounding: The Bible says that the blueness of the wound cleanses us from evil (Proverbs 20:30)1330 Wounding blows cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the innermost parts.. There is an Old Testament picture that denotes the beneficial outcome of these situations that cause us to feel negative emotions. When Solomon’s Temple was being built no sound of tools were to be heard inside the building. Instead, the stones were shaped off-site and then brought to the temple to be placed into the building. The stones picture our lives that are being shaped by God for the eternal dwelling with Him in the New Jerusalem. The Bible calls us living stones (1 Peter 2:5)145 You also as living stones are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . As living stones, we feel the blow of every chisel and hammer stroke that is shaping us yet we know that the result will be glorious for us when we take our place with Christ forever.
Mourning: Ecclesiastes tells us that it is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)152 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men, and the living should take this to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the
Please note I am not encouraging people to seek out suffering. It is Biblical that we do what we can to avoid pain, suffering and injury. We love others as we love ourselves and so we do not wilfully inflict suffering upon ourselves or others (Ephesians 5:29)1629 For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly, .
- How can we do what is right even when we don’t feel like it?
- What can we do to change the way we feel about things
? Whenis it right to change our circumstances rather than the way we feel about situations?