Very often in the circles labeling themselves as Christian we find evidence of the idea that emotions have nothing to do our walk with God. It may be expressed as the noble sentiment that our actions should be ruled by reason, which is true but only to a point. The human brain is an incredibly complex organ, created with the capacity for both reason and emotion, so what is the godly view of emotion?
Think of a newborn infant. No longer automatically receiving sustenance through the bloodstream, it’s body experiences need for the first time. Physical discomfort awakens fear and sadness expressed by crying. When the baby is fed the need is filled, awakening happiness and contentment. No longer surrounded by warm, quiet darkness, the baby experiences cold and light for the first time, those discomforts awakening loneliness and anger. When the baby is snuggled in its mother’s arms it is warmed and sheltered, awakening love. As the child grows, those emotions will become tools for teaching reason and relationship. When the early needs of a child are not properly met, only certain emotions are awakened, and the child’s reasoning will be lacking some of the tools needed to form a complete picture of the world.
God created the human mind to develop in this way, to exhibit both emotion and reason, to require both. So what role does emotion play in the life of a person who bears God’s name? What do the scriptures have to offer about feelings?
Deuteronomy 16:15 (CSB): You are to hold a seven-day festival for the Lord your God in the place he chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, and you will have abundant joy.
Galatians 5:22 (CSB): 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Nehemiah 2:3 (CSB): and replied to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
Ezra 10:1 (CSB): While Ezra prayed and confessed, weeping and falling facedown before the house of God, an extremely large assembly of Israelite men, women, and children gathered around him. The people also wept bitterly.
Ecclesiastes 3:3–4, 8 (CSB): 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to love and a time to hate;
John 11:33–35 (CSB): When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled.
34 “Where have you put him?” he asked.
“Lord,” they told him, “come and see.”
35 Jesus wept.
Numbers 12:9 (CSB): The Lord’s anger burned against them, and he left.
Ephesians 4:26 (CSB): Be angry and do not sin., Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,
1 Kings 3:25–26 (CSB): 26 The woman whose son was alive spoke to the king because she felt great compassion, for her son. “My lord, give her the living baby,” she said, “but please don’t have him killed!”
Colossians 3:12, 14-16 (CSB): Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,… Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
The above scriptures hold just a handful of examples of emotion playing a central role both for God and for His people. One could even say that emotion is the driving force behind God’s interaction with, even His creation of, His children. His love for us, the deepest emotion we recognize as humans, is the source of our being and our salvation. What emotion do we offer in return?