Inside: “Feelings” get a bad rap in some circles of the church. But are emotions bad?
Hi, brothers ans sisters.
Maybe you’ve experienced it. Maybe you haven’t. But emotions get a bad rap sometimes in the body of Christ. It’s as if what we “feel” is always in opposition with God. As if emotions are inherently negative. Or dangerous.
But that’s not necessarily true.
So today, I’m defending feelings.
So it often goes like this: church member A sees that church member B is off track emotionally. Maybe church member B is tormented by his/her emotions. Maybe he/she is hurting others because of the way he/she allows his/her emotions to fly off the handle. Maybe church member B has a gifting that involves emotion that church member A just can’t understand because their gift is very different.
Regardless, it leads church member A to frustration, and he/she ends up declaring that we (as the body) need to crucify our feelings in order to exalt God’s ways. That feelings can too easily lead us astray. They create a war between God and “feelings.”
They downplay the positive role of emotions out of fear or distaste for how they’ve seen them operate.
And I get it. But…
Verses in Support of Emotion
A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NKJV)
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 (NKJV)
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
1 Corinthians 12:26 (NKJV)
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.
Ephesians 4:26-27 (NKJV)
From these, we see that there are room for emotions. Other verses definitely reign our feelings in and teach us how to keep them from running our lives (but more on that in a minute).
That Time Jesus Wept…
And let’s not forget my favorite verse in defense of emotion:
Jesus wept (John 11:35). The shortest verse in the Bible. But not any less powerful.
Jesus KNEW that He was about to raise His friend from the dead. To Him, Lazarus’ death was only sleeping (John 11:11-13).
Yet He wept. His heart was moved by compassion. He was able to feel from the perspective of those who were in mourning and even the perspective of Lazarus–what he had felt days before as he laid dying and thought, “Jesus isn’t coming for me.”
NONE OF IT WAS ETERNALLY RELEVANT. None of those “feelings” mattered in the grand scheme of things. Jesus was about to do something truly amazing that would wipe all those old feelings away and give life to such elation that the days they spent in mourning would seem insignificant!
And yet He stopped to feel.
The Gift of Mercy
One of my spiritual gifts (the one that I actually score highest on in this test) is mercy-showing.
Part of the gift of mercy is showing compassion toward others, which often means being able to empathize. If it’s a gift given through His Spirit, obviously Mercy (shown through compassion and empathy) is within His will for our lives.
For a while, I wondered if my ability to feel for others was a gift from God or a weakness that could pull me away from Him. And actually, it can be both.
Hear me out… God gave me the ability to have compassion for the hurting. It’s a loving gift. And yet, that gift (like any other) can be preyed upon by the enemy. When the gift of mercy is twisted, it can take a lot of different forms. One of those (the one I struggled with) is wanting to give love void of truth. Which–let’s just say it–ISN’T ACTUALLY LOVE. It may comfort in the moment, but it brings no true peace.
The Truth in Love Conundrum
It may seem like I’m going off-topic, but I promise it all fits.
The issue was I had seen “truth” done the wrong way so many times that I was terrified of hurting someone.
But when used in conjunction, truth and love are healing, refreshing, and empowering. When used separately, they fall flat and lack any true depth and substance.
I think this debate is one of the big issues in Christianity that leads some members of the body of Christ to say feelings are dangerous.
When apart from God, emotions (just like anything else) lose their true purpose. They then lead us to twist truth even though that only leads to long-term suffering for the person we’re trying to protect.
So are feelings BAD?
In short, No! God created us with the ability to feel for a reason. BUT we have to be careful. Here are a few questions to help us stay on track:
1) What’s leading me?
If the answer is “feelings,” then we’ve gotten out of alignment. Even when we experience difficult emotions, we should still be mindful of the Holy Spirit within us and allow Him to direct us into all truth. Otherwise, what we’re feeling can lead us down a path we don’t want to be on.
2) Is this something that should hold no place in my heart?
There are a few emotional issues mentioned in the Word that we clearly should not allow to have any place in our lives. These include but aren’t limited to fear (which is actually a spirit), anxiety, and a crushed spirit (or depression).
If you struggle with these, know that I’m not judging you or saying that the problem isn’t real. I’ve dealt heavily with all three of those things, like I talk about in this post:
But the most empowering thing for me to know was that I did not have to lay down and be a victim to darkness. I could choose to start changing the things I thought about and what I allowed to affect my heart.
I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s easy. It takes time to retrain our minds when they’re used to turning to defeat and hopelessness. But it’s worth it. There’s true life waiting on the other side of all those ugly lies.
3) Is this an emotion I should be careful with?
There are other emotions that are totally normal to feel but that we have to be careful with. Anger is one of these.
There’s nothing wrong with becoming angry. But there is something wrong with allowing that anger to take over and run our actions/make ugly things grow in our hearts. When in doubt? Feel the emotion with God by your side always. Take what you’re feeling into the throne room, and have a heart-to-heart with your Abba.
David is a great example of this. By reading in the book of Psalms we see how openly David shared his emotions with God. And David (in spite of all his shortcomings) was a man after God’s own heart.
Now, we know that God already knows what we feel even if we don’t choose to talk to Him about it. But when we take our emotions to the Lord, we’re allowing Him to work in that space of our lives. We’re seeking HIM and HIS thoughts toward what we’re facing. And we’re showing that we value HIS way.
Reconciling Emotion in a World Marred by It
So if feelings are meant to be used for good and are given to us by God, what do we do with them? We see the world around us and how it spirals into chaos and division with every emotional wind that blows. And that’s not the direction we want to take. So how do we handle our emotions?
First, don’t run from them. Let’s not proclaim that we should just throw away emotions all-together or that they’re “of the devil.” That’s just as much of a lie as thinking we should be led by our emotions. They’re a gift and a blessing. They make us human instead of being truth-spouting harsh robots. There are beautiful emotions. Holy emotions. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one.
Next, get them in perspective. Know that there are good and acceptable ways to feel. But that like anything else, they can be used against us. If God is always our focus, we’ll know how to use our emotions like Jesus did. For compassion and yes, even anger, without allowing them to lead us off into sin.
What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments below!
Until next time,
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