Made for Emotion?
So, let me get this on the table right up front. I am a “crier.” Lest you think I am the hypersensitive type, I also love to hunt. I growl like Tim the Tool Man when I harvest and dress a deer. But I tear up during many, if not most, movies.
Emotions are mysterious and often beautiful. If uncontrolled, they feel like a curse and can even poison everyday relationships. I’m getting emotional just thinking about my emotions!
Emotions or the Holy Spirit?
I certainly do not have an advanced degree in “emotionology” but I believe a discussion about the work of the Holy Spirit must include a balanced, biblical understanding of our very real and necessary emotions. I’ve realized that many of our suspicions about those “other” Christians may not be as much a rejection of their theology as an aversion to how they express, or fail to express, their emotions as they experience the Holy Spirit.
Many of our suspicions about those “other” Christians may not be as much a rejection of their theology as an aversion to how they express, or fail to express, their emotions as they experience the Holy Spirit.
One camp is on the more demonstrative side. Observers wonder if it is really the work of the Spirit or just too much caffeine. Maybe they just manifest an eccentric exhibition of personal dysfunction. Others, it seems, might as well join a society of totem poles as they don’t seem to feel anything at all about matters truly divine and supernatural. In any particular weekend gathering you’ll discover a diverse mix of thinkers, feelers, and a segment of the unsure.
The inside-out work of the Holy Spirit helps every believer experience vital, holy emotions that are part of our transformational growth. The indwelling Spirit also helps us control emotions that might, in any way, detract from the glory of Jesus and the edification of others. It could be that those who typically worship from the emotional sidelines (whether overtly “wired” or overly “wary”) might be missing a balanced, new covenant experience of the Holy Spirit.
The inside-out work of the Holy Spirit helps every believer experience vital, holy emotions that are part of our transformational growth.
It could be that those who typically worship from the emotional sidelines (whether overtly “wired” or overly “wary”) might be missing a balanced, new covenant experience of the Holy Spirit.
Emotion is a gift from God to help us relate to Him and one another. Our feelings are important to our journey of faith. They make an effective servant but can be an excruciating master. Like any gift, we must understand and steward our emotions so that they are formed by truth and fueled by the Spirit to facilitate the advancement of Christ-honoring purposes.
Like any gift, we must understand and steward our emotions so that they are formed by truth and fueled by the Spirit to facilitate the advancement of Christ-honoring purposes.
An Emotional God?
In many places the Bible demonstrates God’s intense compassion (Ex. 33:19; Deut.13:17; Jud. 2:18; Psa. 103:13, 116:5.), joy and delight (Deut. 30:9; Isa. 42:1; 62:4; Jer.32:41), anger (Ex. 22:24; Deuteronomy 6:14–15; Josh. 7:1; Jer. 7:20; Ezek. 5:13), grief (Gen. 6:6; Eph. 4:30), and love (Deut.7:7–8; Isa. 43:4; Jer. 31:3; Hos. 11:1; 1 Jn. 4:8 ). In Isaiah 49:15 the Father communicates His affection for Israel with the imagery of a mother caring deeply for her child, clearly one of the most tender and caring relationships known to man. Zephaniah 3:17 states that “He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Pastor Brian Borgman explains, “Unless we want to chalk up hundreds of passages as ‘figures of speech’ and eviscerate God’s personhood, we must admit biblically that God has and expresses perfect and holy emotions.”[i]
“Unless we want to chalk up hundreds of passages as ‘figures of speech’ and eviscerate God’s personhood, we must admit biblically that God has and expresses perfect and holy emotions.” Brian Borgman
Jesus, our Example of Emotion
Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). Like the Father, Jesus demonstrated a full range of emotion.[ii] New Testament professor G. Walter Hanson has observed, “The gospel writers paint their portraits of Jesus using a kaleidoscope of brilliant ‘emotional’ colors. Jesus felt compassion; he was angry, indignant, and consumed with zeal; he was troubled, greatly distressed, very sorrowful, deeply moved, and grieved; he sighed; he wept and sobbed; he groaned; he was in agony; he was surprised and amazed; he rejoiced very greatly and was full of joy; he greatly desired, and he loved.”[iii]
Like the Father, Jesus demonstrated a full range of emotion.
The Emotions of the Holy Spirit
The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the living God (1 Cor.. 2:11–14; 2 Cor. 3:3; Phil. 3:3; 1 Pet. 4:14) and the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:11). Thus, we are indwelt by a God of “perfect and holy emotion.”
Hebrews 10:29 speaks of those who “trampled underfoot the Son of God” and have “outraged the Spirit of grace.” Ephesians 4:30 describes the Holy Spirit being “grieved,” which is a word that conveys intense heartache, sorrow, or distress. In Romans 8:26 we are told “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Literally, the Spirit “laments” or “sighs” as he identifies with our struggles. James 4:5 tells us, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously” (nkjv). The Spirit “envies intensely with profound longing and desire for total loyalty and devotion.”[iv] The Holy Spirit is personal and emotional.
Herbert Lockyer writes, “Personality is capacity for fellowship. The very quality which was most singularly characteristic of Jesus manifests itself in the Spirit, only more universally, more intimately, more surely. Being able to think, feel, and will, the Spirit has the capacity for fellowship, which is not possible without personality. The inside-out work of the indwelling Spirit transforms our emotions, making them truly Christlike.
The Spirit empowers us to express emotion in a gospel-advancing fashion to be a blessing to the saved, a witness to the lost, and a warning to the disobedient. “We are not to be merely spellbound by what we see in the emotional Jesus; we are to be unbound by his Spirit so that his life becomes our life, his emotions our emotions, to be ‘transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.’”[vi]
The Spirit empowers us to express emotion in a gospel-advancing fashion to be a blessing to the saved, a witness to the lost, and a warning to the disobedient.
Emotional in the Image of God
We are made in the image of God and thus able to experience meaningful emotion in ways that no other species of God’s creation does (Gen. 1:27). The Bible speaks prolifically about human emotion from Genesis to Revelation, perhaps nowhere more often than in the Psalms, where David and other psalmists came to God with a wide array of emotions.
We are made in the image of God and thus able to experience meaningful emotion in ways that no other species of God’s creation does.
The apostle Paul wrote openly about his emotions. In Acts 20:31 he testified to the elders from Ephesus that he “did not cease day or night to admonish every one with tears.” As he departed their company the account says, “There was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him being sorrowful” because they would not see him again (20:37–38). To the Thessalonians he wrote of his affection for them, like a nursing mother, and his encouragement of them, like a father (1 Thess. 2:7–8, 11–12). In Galatians 4:19 he described his feelings toward the church like the “anguish of childbirth.” He spoke openly of his extreme joy and personal longings in connection with God’s people (Phil. 1:8, 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19-20; 2 Tim.1:4). In 2 Corinthians, Paul’s transparency prompted him to make specific references to his emotions no less than thirty-five times![vii]
God desires that we express emotion. Brian Borgman writes, “ Another consideration is that God in His Word actually commands us to feel certain ways and express certain emotions. To rejoice, fear, be angry, weep, mourn, delight are all biblical mandates that must not be reduced to mere acts of the will (Phil. 4:4; Matt.10:28; Eph.4:26; Rom. 12:15; Psa. 37:4). These commands engage the emotions.
Far from being secondary, the feelings or emotions are a vital part of our humanity which needs to be cultivated through God’s Word.”[viii] As one counselor has noted, “Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality. Listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God. . . . Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice. . .” [ix]
Copyright © 2018 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
(Next week, we continue our teaching of how our emotions are vital in our experience of the Holy Spirit.)
[i] Brian Borgman, http://www.christianity.com/bible/are-feelings-just-the-caboose-11602932.html
[ii] Some examples include: Anger: Matthew 21:12-13, Mk 11:15-17, John 2:14-17; Compassion: Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32, 20:34; Mark 1:40-41, 8:2; Luke 7:13; Joy and delight: Luke 10:21-24,15:32; John 15:11; 17:13, Grief: Luke 19:41-44, John 11:33, 38, Love: John 11:36,13:1; 15:10, 17:23; 1 John 4:8,10,19; Deep longing: Luke 22:15.
[iii] G. Walter Hanson, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1997/february3/7t2042.html?order=&start=6
[iv] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 320–321). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[v] Herbert Lockyer, All About the Holy Spirit (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers,1949) 28
[vi] IBID, Hanson
[vii] See Stephen Voorwinde, http://www.rtc.edu.au/RTC/media/Documents/Vox%20articles/08-Voorwinde-Paul-s-Emotions-in-2-Corinthians-Part-1-Reviewed.pdf?ext=.pdf. He notes, that Paul uses twenty different Greek words to describe his emotions. “No less impressive is the range of emotions expressed. He despairs (1:8), experiences sorrow (2:1, 3; 6:10), is glad (2:2; 12:9, 15), rejoices (2:3; 6:10; 7:4, 7, 9, 13, 16; 13:9), feels anguish of heart (2:4), sheds tears (2:4), loves (2:4; 5:14; 6:6; 11:11; 12:15), is perplexed (4:8), groans (5:2, 4), has regrets (7:8), is afraid (7:5; 11:3; 12:20) and jealous (11:2), mourns (12:21) and burns with distress (11:29).4 Paul’s major emotions in the epistle would therefore seem to be joy/gladness (12x), sorrow (9x) and love (6x). Less common are fear (3x), perplexity/despair (2x) and regret (1x).”
[viii] Ibid. Brian Borgman