23 Feb “Emotions: Good or Bad?” By Jim Ricci
Emotions are tricky. Everyone has them. Everyone struggles with them. Many struggle with how they feel more than anything else in their lives. Then, there is the sea of other people’s emotions in which all of us swim. I suspect most of us consider emotions to be more of a liability than an asset.
What does the Bible have to say about emotions? The Bible doesn’t talk about emotions quite the way we do. However, Scripture frequently does exhort us to feel certain things and not to feel others.
In my counseling ministry I have found that God continually encourages, comforts, convicts and reorients us. Instead of handing us a manual on emotional self-transformation, he patiently and tenderly invites us to simply come to him with all our feelings.
This makes our emotions one of the premier opportunities to deepen our relationship with him.
1. Understand your emotions.
The Bible views emotions as fundamentally good. How do I know this? Because we are image bearers of God and he has emotions. His joy, hate, wrath, compassion, jealousy, and love are the model for ours.
God doesn’t call us to avoid or squash our emotions (as Christians often suppose). Neither does he call us to embrace them unconditionally (as our culture often urges). Rather, he calls us to engage them by bringing our emotions to him and to his people.
2. Bring your emotions to God.
What does this look like?
Look at Psalm 22:1. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Here is a man in deep distress. He is in trouble and groaning.
Worse, he is also alone and abandoned. Stop for a moment and consider the nature and intensity of emotions he’d have to be experiencing to write something like that. This person is in a world of hurt and pain! He is feeling inconsolable!
Now look at what this man does with these painful emotional experiences: he takes them to God. He is apparently free to engage God—with loud cries no less—even about being abandoned by God. He calls to this God, from whom he feels so distant, “My God,” and speaks directly to him, not about him in the abstract. “Why have you forsaken… Why are you so far?” This psalm doesn’t direct this person (or us) to ignore our feelings because they don’t reflect the truth about God. Instead, we are shown a path that forges endlessly toward God, even through the center of emotional storms.
3. God hears and cares.
Like the psalmist, you can come to God with a raw heart and lay your burdens before him (see Matthew 11:28–30). He will receive you in your pain and walk with you. When your emotions feel overwhelming, turn toward God and put those feelings into words and then actions.
You will be heard by the God who hears. And when you don’t have words, read Psalm 22 and ask God for help. Know that when you do, you will find your Father in Heaven feels great joy for the opportunity to embrace a child he loves.
(Jim Ricci was the Associative Pastor and Care and Counseling Pastor at Cranston Christian Fellowship in Rhode Island from 1989 to 2017. He is now the Executive Director at Aletheia Counseling Ministries in Warwick, RI.)