I’m writing blog entry to debunk a false teaching that has been propagating around the church. The teaching that [negative] emotions are bad… that we can’t trust them… and that we must avoid them like the bubonic plague. This is simply. not. true.
It’s understandable how this teaching got started… emotions can lie to us… lies such as I’m unloved, unwanted, not good enough, will never amount to anything, stupid… the list is endless. And, what’s worse, if we act on these emotions (lies) then bad behavior results… and that can hurt us and others.
But… how can we call something that God gives us as part of our soul (mind, will, and emotions)… bad? How can we call something that is part of being made in the image of God… bad? God has emotions, right? Let take a look at a small sampling of verses illustrating God’s emotions:
- God gets angry. “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them,” (Exodus 32:10).
- God is compassionate. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him,” (Psalm 103:13).
- God rejoices. “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you,” (Isaiah 62:5).
- God loves. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
- God hates. “The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates,” (Psalm 11:5).
- God grieves. “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart,” (Genesis 6:6).
- God expresses joy. “…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10).
What about Jesus? He is God and man and He has emotions, right? How did He act on these emotions? Let’s take a look:
“In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, ‘Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!’” (John 2:14-16)
Here, we see that Jesus experienced a passionate [what we might refer to as negative] emotion (most likely anger) and acted upon it in a positive way.
So, what about us? What do our emotions really tell us?
For one thing, they are lie detectors.
Let me give you an illustration. Suppose a person goes into their job one morning only to find that their position has been terminated. How does this person respond? If this person truly believes the scriptures that read “My God shall supply all of your needs” and “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed out begging for bread,” then they will not respond with panic, fear and worry, right?
I submit to you that if a person responds in this way, with panic, fear, and worry, then perhaps that person does not truly believe the aforementioned scriptures? They certainly do not trust that God will provide for them.
I realize that this can be a hard teaching for those who have dismissed their negative emotions as useless. Perhaps we may know cognitively of the scriptures that promise God’s provision for His people, but do we really believe that they apply to us? Do we really believe that we can trust God to provide for us even in the midst of job loss?
I could give other examples as well, but I think the point is well illustrated in the above example.
So, the next time that you experience a negative emotion, instead of just writing it off as unacceptable, worthless, and useless, ask God to reveal to you what that emotion means? Perhaps it reveals a lie that you believe about yourself or others? Perhaps God wants to show you something totally different?
I would love to hear from you! What have you been taught about emotions? What have you learned about them though your life experiences?