When We Feel Deeply

January 23, 2023

When you hear the word emotions what comes to mind? I’m guessing that tucked somewhere in most responses would be the thought that they are involuntary, unpredictable, at times overwhelming, and most definitely uncontrollable.

So how do we understand these things called emotions? We can start by rooting them in God’s Word, which tells us that we are made in the image of God; God gave us emotions, and they are a part of his good design (Genesis 1:27). 

And what is God’s good design in our emotions? He desires that we cherish and delight in him above all things as the One who is more glorious, precious, valuable, and beautiful than any created thing. In Psalm 73:25-26 the psalmist cries out accordingly: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Our passion for our God and Savior brings all other passions in line and makes us God-focused, not self-focused.

But how do we do that? Merely suppressing emotions doesn’t work very well…they tend to leak out. We try not to feel this or that, but our hearts don’t respond. We feel weighed down and overwhelmed. In the end, what is in our hearts finds its way to our lips and actions. And the same is true for the opposite: freely venting our every emotion equally goes against God’s good design. People get hurt. We drift into subjectivity. We wallow in sadness or offense and find ourselves stuck there. The emoji world of unbridled self-expression leaves us right where we started: stuck with “self.” It’s a pretty bleak place to get stuck.

The Lord desires that we be led by truth and not emotion. 

God designed our emotions to be gauges, not guides. They show us where we’re placing our hope and rooting our well-being because they are wired to what we hold dear and reveal what our heart truly loves, trusts, fears, and desires. The problem comes when we allow them to then guide us, dictating our course of action. Paul clearly directs us in Romans 6:12 to, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.”

But there is hope for our emotions! The Lord is at work in us to change us from the inside out… to mold our hearts into his image. And he’s given us divine help to “feel” in a way that is pleasing to him. 

He has given us his Son. In the person and work of Christ, we have the perfect-feeler who lived the emotional life we can’t and suffered on our behalf in order to make us new, down to the core of our emotions.

He has given us his Spirit to produce affections and fruit pleasing to God: love (instead of hate), joy (instead of despair), peace (instead of turmoil), patience (instead of anger), kindness (instead of severity), goodness (instead of badness), faithfulness (instead of inconsistency), gentleness (instead of harshness), and self-control (instead of passions-control). This is our emotional life at the level of our hearts.

He has given us his people to care for, serve, sharpen, and help. Together, we grow in our delight in God as we live our lives in community.

He has given us his Word as a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:105), powerful and adequate for every situation in our lives to lead and guide us, teach us, reprove us, and train our hearts in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). We know the peace of Christ when his Word dwells richly in us (Colossians 3:15-16).

And when we feel deeply, we have this assurance: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16).

In this life-long battle with our emotions, when we feel deeply, we can walk that well-worn path to the throne of grace. We can express our emotions to the Lord and draw grace and help for every need. Scripture is rich with priceless examples of men and women of God who, in the midst of trials and suffering and hardship and need, did just that. The psalmists in particular did this throughout the range of human emotions: weeping before God, wondering before God, lamenting before God, remembering before God, questioning before God, searching for answers before God, waiting before God. And the God of all peace comforted them all.

Scripture is filled with testimonies, and promises, and stories, and prayers about our emotional life… rich sources of comfort and help when we are in need. And as he did for these men and women of old, the Lord stands ready to help us too.

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