In light of the danger of Selfie Christianity we must look at the whole issue of our emotions. While our emotions are always real they aren’t always right. God has created us in His image with the ability to experience emotions. Unfortunately we live in a fallen world and the pollution of sin, and our immaturity can cause our emotions to go astray. Emotions are often connected to chemicals in our brains so we must appreciate them while at the same time hold them in suspicion.
What happens when our emotions are not telling us the truth? I have had my share of both feeling and moving in my emotions that lead me away from God’s truth. Paul said, “be angry and sin not” (Eph 4:26). While we can experience the emotion of anger we still have to avoid sinning when we feel it.
I have had times with my family over the years (family is often the laboratory for both revelation and development of real spiritual maturity) in which I reacted with an emotion and one of my children responded, “dad Jesus doesn’t want you to act that way.” Of course those sobering times cause the only spiritually sane response, repentance.
CS Lewis “Sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.
Sometimes our emotions can be so strong it seems we can’t help ourselves. We believe them along with the thoughts that are generated with them. When we feel depressed we wonder if God is there or really cares about us. When we are excited we have no doubt He does. We can sometimes feel emotional pain out of a genuine tragedy, and sometimes out of a perceived offense that may not be real. These feelings can be momentary and other times they can be ongoing. The thoughts that come into our mind as a result of emotions can cause us to not see straight. We can be confused, accused, and void of hope or happiness.
Example of David
When I think about the variations of our emotions in serving God I often think about the Psalms. David who wrote many of them experienced strong emotions, both good and bad. Think about his emotional life. He was a king, poet, writer of worship songs, a warrior who killed people, and one who was betrayed by friends and relatives who sought his position and his life. His emotional life had great extremes and the Bible doesn’t hide it. We do get insights from the Scripture on how David handled them, both right and wrong.
Two of the psalms David wrote about emotions were instructive Psalms (Maskils Ps 42-43). These two psalms show clear challenges and solutions with emotions. Three times in these two chapters he makes a strong statement to himself about His emotions, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5). His emotions were talking to him but he was also talking to himself. I have often said we spend way too much time listening to our emotions and too little time talking to them. Instead of just letting his emotions speak to him David spoke to his soul.
I have often said we spend way too much time listening to our emotions and too little time talking to them.
Hope in God is a clarifying statement and a command. It is a clear God perspective that pushes back against confusing and cloudy emotions. He reminded himself of God’s care and future.
Two clear things we can lean from David’s responses
1. Emotions can be real but also lie. We can’t always believe our emotions. David was willing to question his. Why do I feel this way? We need to question our feelings. We live in a culture in which questioning our inside feelings has almost disappeared. If I feel a certain way then it must be true. If you feel like the opposite gender then you must be…who would argue with your feelings…who cares if it isn’t your biological sex…you need to go with whatever gender your feelings are telling you. Our culture mistakenly thinks that questioning your feelings somehow will betray the authentic you.
Obedience means marching right on whether we feel like it or not. Many times we go against our feelings. Faith is one thing, feeling is another. DL Moody
I have met and tried to help many people who have felt the extreme pain of their spouse moving on an errant emotion of “I have fallen out of love with you and fallen in love with someone else. I have to follow my heart.” NO YOU DON’T, IF YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN YOU FOLLOW JESUS!
What I have experienced is that if we go with our emotions the very thing we mistakenly think will happen as a result never happens. Jesus said we must “deny our self (emotions) to find His life.” When I go with an emotion that is against God’s truth it rarely produces ongoing life, joy, fulfillment, or meaning. Most of the time when I go against those feelings and live by the word of God I end up getting what Jesus said, life, hope, peace, and joy.
2. Hope is not just a feeling but a state of looking towards the God of hope. Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even though David was confused like we often are, he comes to an important conclusion of truth. Either life is an absurd meaningless existence or God is the only hope we have.
When we face the challenges of life, and everyone faces them, we will tend to conclude one of two things. Life is a random array of chance happenings or there is a God who is at work (Rom 8:26-32). One way is meaningless darkness, the other gives hope in Jesus Christ. God is bigger than us. It only stands to reason that our future is in the hands of the God who cares for us.
We either hope in God or head to a cycle of despair, confused thinking, and wrong decisions. Life is too challenging, too big, too unknown to figure it out on our own. God is bigger and has revealed His love for us through His word. It is much more emotionally healthy to hope in Him. We must speak to ourselves and remind ourselves to “hope in God, for I will again praise Him.” Life is too big, too unknown and too confusing for us to figure it out on our own. God is our salvation. Our souls can find their hope in Him.
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