Emotions, Identity, and God

GOD met me more than halfway, 
he freed me from my anxious fears. 
Look at him; give him your warmest smile. 
Never hide your feelings from him. 
When I was desperate, I called out, 
and GOD got me out of a tight spot.
Psalm 34:4-6 (MSG)
1. Emotions are God-created experiences, felt by Christ.
2. Emotions help us know and understand who we are.
3. Emotions are very powerful; we often avoid them.
4. Christ used His emotions to act in power without sin, and love without fear.
5. Our emotions need to be felt and understood before we can surrender them to God and act without fear.

Even with the 21st century “psycholization” of modern life, my patients are still being told by their churches, “don’t listen to your feelings.” Jeremiah 17:9 is a common cited scripture to support this, but Jeremiah 17:10 directs elsewhere.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NIV)

This passage is not a discourse on emotions. It is about man’s nature to sin. The bias against feelings is more human and not scriptural. This is a holdover from Puritan times, leading to dysfunctional family messages that devalue and deny feelings. It is related to the fear of what we do not understand. It is wrongly labeling feelings as directly leading to sin.

The avoidance and denial of our feelings is sin. All of our emotions are part of us and can be brought to God. Feeling our emotions helps convict us of our sin, which leads us to healthy guilt and remorse. Only then can we take responsibility for our sin and confess, repent, and ask for forgiveness.

A reason to discount and devalue emotions is our impulse to control and take power over others. There are those in power who deny others’ ability to express themselves and how they feel. If feelings are not allowed, then it is easier to deny the rights and choices of others and keep them under outside control.  To repress or deny the feelings of others is sin. It twists connection to deny us from honest relationship.

Emotions are necessary for defining our identity, and knowing our identity is necessary for making good choices. 

The ability to choose is necessary for true connection in relationships. Our relationship to God requires our true feelings, which allows us to have a separate will and identity. This is part of a loving relationship provided by God. We are not children of a controlling bully.

Of course, it would be immature to act only on feelings. This would be ignoring your character, and everything learned during childhood to behave appropriately in society. Feeling your emotions is important to make the right decisions. You need your emotions to know how you feel to respond accurately to God when He calls. Emotions allow you to respond honestly, sacrificially and if you choose, to surrender your feelings in obedience to God. You need to know your feelings to make spiritual choices.

Adults make decisions often trying to suppress and deny their emotions. It really can’t be done. Feelings are powerful, and studies show that men and women act on their feelings and not solely on their intellect. So if they try to deny their emotional reactions, and discount their feelings as irrelevant, their emotions will need expression. If you try to ignore feelings and try to make them go away, they often will take control where we don’t expect them. This is how an emotional “blind spot” works. God gave emotions to us, and they are meant to be felt and confronted. Only then can we be aware of them, and use our thoughts and the Holy Spirit to help make good choices.

Jesus had very strong and varied emotions. He clearly and immediately knew how he felt. He then acted on his feelings in powerful and loving ways. Think of how He grieved for Lazarus, and remember how angry He was at the Pharisees. He was very emotional, yet did not sin.

Feelings tell you what you dislike and what you love. Feelings tell you who you are. This is the identity that God gave you when He created you. It is part of your true identity in Christ.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13 (NASB)

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