I notice that my dog has a higher tolerance for emotions than I do.
He is a labradoodle, seventy pounds of love and complete unawareness of personal space. He makes himself strangely available when I am sad, when I am anxious, when I am irritable, and when the world is too much and I need some fur to hold on to.
It’s interesting to me that my dog has so few opinions about my emotions when I hold a plethora of opinions about them. I am distrustful of my emotions, dubious of them. I have emotions about my emotions, which breeds more emotions. I am annoyed by them. I imagine a blessed life without them, calm and peaceful.
Understanding Emotions: Does God Care?
Calm and peaceful: an outstanding example of how complicated emotions get quickly. Try an exercise with me. Take a deep breath and focus on the word calm—can you curate a sense of calm? Do you feel it in your bones? In your breath? In your soul?
Maybe. Maybe not. A good deal depends on my surroundings, on the shape of my day, and the circumstances of my moments. But wait—peace is a fruit of the Spirit. Is something wrong with me when I find it hard to come by? A good theological answer would be that we experience the fruit of the Spirit through Christ in us; it is not dependent on ourselves or our feelings.
And that is a good answer, but perhaps too simple. We are left with the question What of anxiety or fear or sadness? Does God care how I feel? Or is this an area of life where He is strangely absent? When I feel fear or anxiety, am I further from Christ than in the expressions of peace and joy?
This is a rabbit hole, without complete answers, intentionally.
Gifts from Your Creator
Let me first assure you that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus (Romans 8). God is not far from you, no matter what you feel.
Our emotions often take the blame for our sense of overwhelm in this broken world. And there will always be overwhelm until Jesus comes back. Life is full of lots to sort, full of senses and feelings, with an overload of information for our bodies and minds to interpret.
What if, instead, our emotions were held as good gifts of our Creator—all of them, or at least most of them? We can certainly use emotions and twist them. We can weaponize them against others and against ourselves. We can excuse any manner of behavior with them, but does that make emotions the problem? Or is what we do with them the problem?
Emotions themselves are part of God’s creation. He knit those emotions into us in the beginning. In fact, God is emotional. But emotions are good not because of how we experience them but because God experiences them. They connect us to Him in mysterious and beautiful ways we don’t completely understand.
When we feel an emotion, we don’t have to wonder if it is “good” based on how it feels to us or even the information it gives us.
Emotions Are Good
Emotions are good because they are part of God. They are another way God graciously shares Himself with us.
Thank God (quite literally) that fear tells us there is a bear in the woods, and thank God that loneliness tells us that we need connection. Thank God that laughter reminds us that joy is not far away, and thank God that hope reminds us that tomorrow is on its way.
More important, though, God crafted one more way for us to know Him and be connected to Him in our emotional lives. I can pray to God, be tended to by God in every emotion, with assurance, not only because He values time with me but also because God values emotions as part of Himself. God shares His emotions with us in both the Old and New Testaments, in His divine nature and His incarnate nature, in becoming man and dwelling among us in Christ Jesus.
Get to know the goodness of emotion today by diving into God’s emotion. I’ll offer a small list here to get you started:
- Delight (pleasure)—Psalm 149:4
- Grief—Genesis 6:6
- Love—Mark 10:21
- Compassion—Matthew 9:36
- Anger (wrath)—Exodus 22:24
- Weary—Isaiah 7:13
It will be a complex rabbit hole, I promise you. It will also offer us a comfort similar to my nonjudgmental labradoodle. We can be with our emotions a little longer, take a step back from judging them, discover them, process them, and let them give us some much-needed information for navigating this world.
We are not God. God experiences emotion in perfection, and we, as humans, experience all in imperfection, yet just as the rest of me is redeemed in Christ, so is my emotional life.
Emotions—good gifts of a good God who is full of emotion with us.
Start your journey of understanding your emotions in the context of your faith with Emotions and the Gospel: Created for Connection.