May 31, 2022 Samuel Lindsay

Emotion

Emotion

We're emotional beings. God made us this way!


It is a good and wonderful thing to be embodied emotional beings!


Why has God given them to us? It is worth a ponder. No, I don't have a clear answer to the reason why, but it is still worth thinking about. God has designed us intentionally.


When God created us "very good" in His Image, crowning creation, He made us to feel.


And in His wonderful sovereign plan, He knew that we would rebel, taking our emotional selves into a corrupted world to experience the most awful sorrows and sufferings. There are many things we would have never felt if it were not for the effects of sin and curse on this world.


Perhaps God is preparing us, training us in a special way for eternity. Here we are as eternal beings who will have known what it was like to stand against God and fear His wrath for our crimes, yet receive the mercy and grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Christians know the love and grace of God in a way that faithful and rebellious angels do not. Having felt it, experienced grace ourselves, one wonders if we will have something special to offer in the Lord's service into eternity?


But alas, like everything in this world, emotions can be used to sin against the Lord. This good gift is corrupted by sin.


Sometimes we let our emotions rule us, which of course is a dangerous place to be! Anger and sadness, joy and happiness, jealousy and disgust, contentment and peace. Each of these can be used poorly, or just let loose to run rife back and forth across our heart like a dog chasing a rabbit. Never able to reach the goal but always on the run, helplessly lost to instinct.


Sanctification leads us to a place where we are better equipped to use our emotions and feel their weight without being beholden to them. We can find our joy in the Lord, our hatred of sin, our contentment even in the midst of suffering. Our jealousy is properly placed, and our anger is channelled productively. We weep for injustice and relish godly beauty.


The Bible talks about the heart as the seat of our being and emotions. Not the literal heart organ of course, but our soul, our inner self. In fact sometimes in the Bible feelings are described as being in our "guts"(or less Aussie, "bowels"). When we feel, we feel it in our core, as a physiological phenomena.


Yet even though the heart feels deeply, there is no excuse to let feelings take mastery over us, to be subject to its whim. This is why we teach children, from their earliest days to gain control over their self to be able to obey even as they experience the push and pull of the world and their own desires. Yes some of us will have illnesses that affect our bodies and emotions, yet even there we ought not to be slaves to emotion.


Each of us will need to learn to use our feelings depending on how God has wired us. Some of us are naturally more or less emotional, and yes, this can tend to be differentiated along gender lines. Even if we feel the weight of our emotions less, we can still cultivate a God honouring emotional life. After all, being a stoic impenetrable rock is not much better than the other extreme!


Whatever your wiring, we must all remember that emotions are subjective. They are not reality. What we feel, especially if we're feeling something strongly, or nothing at all, it must be tested to see if it is justified. It's no use being angry if there is nothing to be angry about! Or upset when there is no cause! Or feel nothing when there is much to rejoice!


Our feelings will come and go, but God never changes. The reality of His Gospel and saving power are not affected by how we feel about them. They stand firm through our joyful reception and our cold ignorance. And thank God for that! Because I cannot trust my own heart, still affected by sin, to be always feeling the reality of salvation at all times.


Because our hearts are prone to fear and be anxious, to despair and doubt, we should listen to the example of the Psalmist and question our hearts, examine what is going on there and preach to ourself the Good News:


"Why, my soul, are you downcast? 

     Why so disturbed within me? 

     Put your hope in God, 

     for I will yet praise him, 

     my Savior and my God." Ps 42:5.


Lets ask God to help us embody His good creation design, with our unique personality, and to use all of it, emotions included, to glorify and honour Him.


I was recommended a book on emotions: True Feelings: God's Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our Emotions by Carolyn Mahaney & Nicole Whitacre. While I have not read it, based on the author I'm sure it would be useful.


Samuel Lindsay