The word “Emotion” is derived from the french word “émouvoir” meaning to stir up. It also comes out of the Latin word “ex movere” which means to move away or to disturb. Therefore an emotion is that which stirs us – that which moves us. It is, in short, feelings.
In some Christian circles, emotions have gotten a bad rap. We’ve all heard the saying “Feelings are not facts” and while this is true, when someone is hurting and in pain, a comment like this can be dismissive, shut a person down and is not what love is about or what Christ modeled for us.
God made us to be emotional people. We love, we laugh, we feel pain, we hurt, we weep, we long, we despair, we feel sad, happy, exhilarated and enthused. The word “enthused” comes from the Greek word “entheos” which means In God. A person who is enthused is animated by the presence of God. This is why it’s so beautiful when we express ourselves when we worship the Lord because we are literally “In God”.
The Bible gives us many examples when individuals and God showed deep emotion:
- ” Then Joseph made a hasty exit, for he was overcome with love for his brother and had to go out and cry. Going into his bedroom, he wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out, keeping himself under control. “Let’s eat,” he said.” Genesis 43:30-31
- In Matthew 9:36, we see that Jesus was a man of compassion. The Greek word here refers to being moved inwardly; feelings, emotions.
- “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Luke 1:41
- Jesus showed sorrow when he wept at the tomb of Lazarus. John 11:32-35
- “Being in anguish [agony], He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:44
- In John 11:38, Jesus groaned and was moved with deep anger. The Greek word used here (embrimaomai) means to be greatly perturbed in mind, deeply moved.
- Matthew 26:40-46 we see that Jesus experienced a deep loneliness not because of an inner weakness, or feeling of insecurity, but because of the agony that was before Him.
Friends, we have emotions because God made us to be emotional people. He did not make us to be cold, boring machines. When my car runs out of gas it expresses no sadness; or when it passes a porsche on the road my car doesn’t express any happiness. When I get mad at my car because it’s not functioning properly and I kick the tires, my car doesn’t express any feelings of pain. It’s just a machine and it reflects nothing back.
Yet you and I are not machines. God did not make us this way. So why, then, did God give us emotions? Well the first thing you must always remember is that:
Friends, God is emotional. The scriptures describe a God who is FULL of emotion. He’s not this big, boring computer who is tabulating facts on all of us in the sky. Nope. He has heart – passion! He’s a God who feels and who identifies with feeling.
Emotions helps us to communicate.
You’d never know how angry Jesus was unless He had the emotionality to show it. When Jesus was in the synagogue and the man with the withered hand was present and Jesus was being goaded to heal him on the Sabbath, He looked around and became angry at the hardness that He saw in the pharisees hearts.
He communicates his love for John and allows John to lean on his chest in order for him to be near Him. It was in that nearness that John could come to a real understanding and perception of the Saviors love for Him.
Friends, if we do not use emotions in communicating we will never be able to really develop and relate from the inner core of our life to someone else. We can never show another person what’s really going on inside of us.
Emotions help us to develop a sense of intimacy
God wants us to get past the trivial, factual and thoughtful levels to our innermost core – the feeling level. David, a man after God’s own heart, poured out his experience to God. (Psalm 13:1-2) Your experience matters to God. What matters to God should matter to you.
Paul demonstrates such intimacy with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 when he says goodbye to them that they fall on one anothers shoulders and weep.
Emotions help others find acceptance and strength
Not only do emotions help us to communicate effectively, but other people pick up something from us. When we communicate to others, by the means of our expression and communication, they find acceptance and strength. As parents, you need to be putting your arms around your children and drawing them close to your side. The bumper sticker that says “Have you hugged your child today?” is true. It’s a physical sign of showing your child that you accept them, and they are able to receive strength through your hugs.
Even in your casual interpersonal relationships, learn to be aware of those who are afraid, wounded, or hurt and put your arm around their shoulder, pat them on their back, or give them a hug. Learn to listen to people with your eyes and set aside your iphone. Nothing is more distracting or impersonal than looking around while someone is right in front of you. When a person is hurting and they spill their guts out to you, learn to touch them on the shoulder or put your hand on their back. The power of human touch is unquantifiable.
Emotions protect your wholeness as a person
We would be exposed to all kinds of dangers, both outward and inward, unless we had emotionality. For example, the emotion of fear can be a positive emotion. When somebody points a gun in my direction, it’s good that I feel fear in that moment. It warns me that something bad is coming and if I can find cover, than I can protect myself. You see friends, God has given us this emotion to alert us and protect us because He is FOR us.
Fear is a signal that something needs tending. It’s what God has given us for self-preservation. Think about it. You want your children to be afraid of stepping off of the curb and watching the traffic; you WANT your kids to have a Godly fear of breaking the law; you WANT your kids to have a Godly fear of taking street drugs. But fear that passes to anxiety can be paralyzing. That’s completely different. Godly fear works to preserve and protect us. We know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So don’t think of fear as necessarily a bad thing.
Fear can be very helpful in protecting and guiding you. Yet when fear becomes overwhelming, and when you take that fear to people who dismiss it as trivial or tell you “you should not have those emotions” then this increases your fear because it’s dismissive. This can be cause many people to hide their fear and bury it – slap on a “happy” face and go into pretend mode – but deep down you have now affirmed their fear and caused additional trauma.
Unless you have that individuals DNA, psychological and physical make-up, have been through the same life experiences that they’ve been through, grown up in the same home (with the same parents, pesky siblings, and shaggy dog) and have viewed the world from behind their eyeballs and beneath their skin for the past – Oh… 45 plus years… it’s best for you to just listen with patience and love. Listening, alone, can be extremely healing to a hurting heart. Everyone wants to be seen, accepted, known and loved.
Emotions help us to achieve
There are some emotions that are good for us. Consider athletes in training. Sometimes the stress they are under is good because it helps them focus and achieve amazing feats! We become better at achieving what we desire when we put emotion into it. Stress that helps propel us towards accomplishing our goals is a healthy stress.
Emotions open us to God
Lastly, emotion is WHO God is. The Old Testament gives us the structure for following the law, routines and rituals. Yet it was in the New Testament that Christ came and fulfilled the law by giving us His live as an atonement for our sins. Only love could put Him on the cross, and keep Him there.
Lastly, the Bible says that the fruit of the spirit is:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22-23
Friends, God is all about love. He IS love. The more that we are able to understand with our heart who He is and how deeply He loves us, the greater our capacity will be to love Him and each other.
So don’t be afraid of your emotions. Embrace them and celebrate how God has created you! Remember, your ability to feel comes from God because you were created in His image. Our bodies are truly repositories of wonder!