Friday, January 27, 2012

Emotions - Window to the Heart

Is it good to be emotional? Some would probably say “yes”, others maybe “no”. Some of it might depend on the family you come from, the cultural background that you have, or your temperament. Some of us are very emotional because that’s the way that we have chosen to live life. Others of us hold our emotions in check because we are afraid of losing control or making ourselves vulnerable. At times we allow ourselves to feel angry because it makes us feel strong and in control and we refuse humility because we are afraid that somehow that makes us weak. Others of us refuse to love because that demands that we draw close enough to another human being that all kinds of emotions will be stirred and at a deeper level than we’ve ever known. We are afraid because we know that if we give our hearts to another they will have the ability to hurt us worse than anyone else.

Some feel they are mature because they never allow their emotions to rise to the surface. It might be maturity or it could be an inability to handle the realities of life. The types of realities that we faced will reveal how fragile we are and how desperately we need God.

Emotions are a complex issue that affect us all. In this brief post we are only going to focus on a few questions concerning our emotions. 1) How can we know which of our emotions are righteous and which are sinful? 2) Where do our emotions come from?

When studying the Bible we don’t see one specific chapter that talks about “emotions,” but we do see emotions all throughout scripture. God’s Word teaches us about anger, joy, worry, sadness, loneliness, and much more.  Some stories in scripture show us emotions that praised God and others are pictures of what people felt when they rebelled against God. So how do we discern which of our emotions are righteous and which are sinful? The best place to start is by looking at the life of Jesus.

In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment. Jesus responds,
        ”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In these words we see that all the commandments of scripture are applications of two commandments. Love God and love people. These are the clearest guides for us concerning whether our emotions are righteous are sinful. Let’s look at Jesus for a clearer picture of this idea.

In the life of Christ we see the full range of emotions. Anger, joy, patience, long-suffering, sorrow, humility, and many more. In Christ we see weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. We see anger as he chases the “thieves” out of the temple. We see patience with His disciples, compassion with the children, mercy with the woman caught in adultery, and joy as His reason for enduring the cross. Every emotion that was displayed in the life of Christ was an expression of loving God and loving people. His emotions were never self-serving. They were never manipulating. They were always in some way an extension of His love for us. He is our example of living life to the fullest with God-honoring emotions.

That is the answer to the first question. If we want to know if our emotions are righteous  or sinful we look to see if they are an expression of a love for God and for others, or if they are an expression of loving ourselves. Are we celebrating the type of things that bring God joy? Are we crying about the type of things that bring God sadness? Are we feeling emotions because we are concerned about others? Or Are we angry because someone else is succeeding instead of us? Are we excited because we won the argument even though we humiliated the other person in the process? Are we worried all the time because we have chosen not to believe everything that God has promised?

To know if our emotions are righteous or sinful we ask the question, “Are they an expression of my love for God and for others, or are they an expression of us loving ourselves?”

The next question concerns where our emotions come from. In Proverbs 4:23 it sums it up in these words, “Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” There are verses all throughout scripture that communicate this idea to us. Our words, our actions, and our emotions are all on overflow of what is in our hearts. As it states in Matthew 7, “a good tree will bear good fruit and a bad tree will bear bad fruit.” The condition of a person’s heart will determine how they will live their life.

Our emotions are an outward expression of what is really happening in our hearts. If we will begin to take note of our emotions we will begin to see the condition of our relationship with God. 

Let me explain it this way. Each of us have many deep desires such as a desire for love, value, innocence, peace, joy, freedom, order, etc. It is in Christ that these are met at their deepest levels. If I desire Christ above all else then my needs will be met in Him. I am then free to relate to others with a heart of service because my deepest needs have already been met. If my needs are met in Christ then my emotions will be more stable because Christ is consistent in my life. My joy, peace, and hope will come internally from my relationship with Christ. Because of this they will be present even when my external life is chaotic or difficult.

If I turn to the world to meet my needs, then I will relate to others as a means to an ends. The purpose of others will then be to serve my purposes so I can get what I desire. Because of that people and circumstances will in many ways control my emotions because I am depending on them to meet my deep desires. When they don’t I will be angry, sad, humiliated, and powerless. Life is filled with “ups and downs” and our emotions will follow these unpredictable patterns if we are looking to the external world to meet our deepest desires.

Here’s an example. If we get our value from Christ then when we make a mistake at work we can still be gracious, accept responsibility, and improve. If we get our value from the world then when we make a mistake we will try to make ourselves look good by passing the blame, lying, or hiding the mistake so no one will know. When our value is found in Christ the emotions will be calm, humility, and contentment. If our value is found in people’s opinions then we will feel humiliated, angry, and resentful.

Christ alone is our stability and the One who fulfills all of our deepest desires.

We find our greatest sense of unconditional love on the cross where the holy God of the universe died on our behalf to save us from sin. We are loved. On the cross we also see that God, the One of ultimate value, chose us to be His treasure and His children. We are valuable. On the cross we were forgiven and have been delivered from sin and condemnation. We are counted as innocent. Christ is now my constant companion, Prince of Peace, Great Physician, Mighty Counselor and so much more. We have peace. Any difficulties in the present are only temporary.  We will spend eternity with God in heaven. We have joy.

Christ is the answer to all our greatest needs. The decision is, will we turn to Christ to meet our needs, or will we turn to the world. Our emotions will follow this decision and make our choice known to us and the world around us. 

Will we repent and believe? Will we repent and turn away from our “worship” of the world, and will we believe in Jesus Christ as the One who meets our every need. As we turn our eyes upon Jesus the things of earth will begin to matter a lot less than they used to and the things of God will become our joy and peace.

Repent. Believe. And your emotions will follow.


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