When I ask the question, "What are emotions?" The answer I often get is they are feelings.
Although this is true, emotions are a lot more than just feelings. Emotions are a gift from God that enhances the human experience. Our emotions reveal what we value and believe and what we desire.
Emotions are the language of the soul. They are our first response to the world around us. God gave emotions to us to energize our behavior and to be a catalyst for action.
Our emotions, like every part of our humanity, need to be sanctified and brought under the authority of God's word.Becoming like Jesus should affect the whole person, including our emotions.
Sometimes our emotions lead us to express ourselves in sinful ways that need to be repented of and put to death. Sometimes our emotions reflect the emotions of Christ and need to be brought to life and cultivated.
As we grow in grace, our response to our emotions should increasingly reflect our new biblical values and perspectives. As godly responses to our emotions are cultivated, they will exert powerful influence on our motives and conduct.
The Bible speaks all kinds of emotions. Consider the following examples:
4Anger: Anger is a natural, God-given emotion, which, though potentially harmful, can be used constructively. The Psalms give us examples of godly ways to express anger. (Psalm 79:1-13)
4Fear: There are also commands to fear. (Luke 12:5 and Romans 11:20) Biblical fear, especially the fear of the Lord, has an emotional element to it. Biblical fear is certainly a response to biblical thinking, but it is also thinking that moves the heart, stirs the emotions, and moves us into action.
4Joy: There is the divine command to be joyful. (Matthew 5:12 and Psalm 110:2)
4Sorrow: Being sorrowful is a natural part of the human condition. It can be defined as "a transient emotional state characterized by feelings of disappointment, grief, hopelessness, disinterest, and dampened mood." Psalms help show us how we can find hope in even the deepest depression. In times of depression, we must cry out to God. (Psalm 88)
The list of emotions that are expressed and commanded in the Scriptures are too numerous to mention in this space, but we can be clear emotions can lead us toward God or away from God. They can bring us to be more fully surrendered to him, or lead our hearts to become more stubborn.
God not only commands certain emotions; he also commands that we exercise self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:23) and a gift of grace. For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
As followers of Jesus, we are to be in control of our lives, which includes our emotions. We are to be sober-minded, reasonable, sensible, exercising good judgment and wisdom. (Romans 12:3; 1 Peter 4:7 and 2 Timothy 2:12)
The presumption here is that our emotions are under the control of God's word, the Spirit, and sound judgment.
There is nothing easy about emotional change. Where there is a desire to change for God's glory, and where there is truth relevant to the desired change, we are in a position to make change that lasts.
As we begin to understand the truth, reject faulty thinking, and learn practical biblical application under the Holy Spirit's power, we can begin to develop new, godly habits putting to death the old, ungodly ones.
When we stop believing the lies that certain aspects of our life will never change, including our emotions, we can, by God's grace see all of our emotions as an opportunity to be brought into a deeper walk with him.n
Rev. Trent Kirkland is pastor at Zion Church in Clarion.