Oh, Christ! Do you wake my ghost? //
Sometimes, it seems impossible //
Did you give your body up to forge my trust? //
Did you give your body up just to suffer for my savage love? //
-John Mark McMillan
Right now, the flu is running rampant. Apparently there are four unique strands which can each knock you out for weeks. With four separate strands, defenses like the flu shot takes away about 25% chance of getting it. Sickness can come and go suddenly and plunge you head-first into the depths of uneasy, uncomfortable, vibrant-less incapacities.
Sort of like emotions.
Sometimes, they’re predictable—you go to a wedding (you’re happy), a funeral (you’re sad), the first day of work (you’re excited), a church retreat (you’re encouraged), your first date (you’re anxious)—you get the idea. The events of life sometimes include the luxury of pre-warned emotions. But most often, emotions rise and fall, shifting like meteorologists’ prophecies.
There’s no changing the fact: we all have emotions. It’s a vital part of the human experience, and yet it’s so often confusing, puzzling, and discouraging. How do we who experience quickly changing emotions live faithfully? Is life meant to be lived like a flag ready to be taken in any direction by the wind?
- Feelings are Okay
God has designed humans to be emotive creatures. We’re made in his image, and he describes himself with different “feelings” to give us a comprehendible picture of his nature. He feels anger (Psalm 7:11; Deuteronomy 9:22; Romans 1:18), jubilance (Psalm 37:13; 2:4; Proverbs 1:26), compassion (Psalm 135:14; Judges 2:18; Deuteronomy 32:36), grief (Genesis 6:6; Psalm 78:40), love (1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Jeremiah 31:3), hate (Proverbs 6:16; Psalm 5:5; 11:5), jealousy (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Joshua 24:19), and joy (Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 32:41).
But that’s God. What about us? Our hearts, the production-line of our emotions (Matthew 15:18), are sick (Jeremiah 17:9). They shift and swell, quickly plunging us into unexplored Kleenex-needing territory. Experiencing these feelings can be downright annoying or worse, scary. Don’t let voices (in your head or otherwise) tell you to just stop feeling one way. People who give that advice don’t know people. Emotions aren’t routine.
Throughout the Bible, though, emotions lead God’s people to do good things (2 Samuel 7, Ezra 7). The danger lies in the polars: over-emphasizing emotions leads to spiraling introspection while under-emphasizing emotions leaves feelings untamed, undefined, and unresolved. The tendency to misunderstand emotions doesn’t make them wrong.
- Emotions are Part of our Spiritual Offering
Romans 12:1 exhorts God’s followers “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” All of who we are is to be offered. God calls us to obey him in real, earthy, human ways. This is a whole-person submission to God’s rule and reign over our every part—including our emotions.
What does it look like to offer our emotions to God? We must be in tune with how we feel. Write it down. Tell brothers and sisters you trust. But most importantly, cast your burdensome emotional responses to life on the God who’s all ears (1 Peter 5:7). Never ignore the door of communication that God opened through the blood of his Son. Make a point to pray often (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Through the process of explaining, and describing your emotions you’ll gain levels of awareness of your feelings fueled by the godly wisdom of the people around you.
- God’s Presence Changes Us
God comforts his people by simply informing them that he’ll be there (1 Chronicles 28:20, Deuteronomy 31:6-8, Isaiah 41:10-13, Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5-6 – and there’s a lot more). This isn’t just the relief that a child gets at the presence of her mom in the middle of the night (but it includes that). God’s presence with his people is a promise (John 14:15-17) made real by the Holy Spirit inside us.
By the transformative effort and power of the Spirit, we change. You heard that right. God produces tangible testimonies of life-altering, divinely-accomplished change. Who we are matures into Christ-likeness–and that includes our emotions. Because, at the heart of following God is an employment of our hearts: we love God, and love others (Matthew 22:40). Redeemed emotions are a powerful tool that God patiently gardens within us in our pursuit of discipleship.
So, what’s the security code to the headquarters of our emotions? Knowing that they’re God-designed, broken, and being redeemed. We get the unique opportunity to hold to the Anchor of our souls in the middle of the troubling waters of life–no matter how we feel at any given moment. Fluctuating emotions remind us of our God whose character never changes and will never take away his transformative Spirit inside us.
“By this we will know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
//1 John 3:19-24