God And Our Emotions

"As an emotional being, God created us as emotional beings that we might know him, connect with him, and bear his beautiful and glorious image."    

To feel strong emotions is to be human. Love, joy, sadness, anger, disappointment, happiness, loneliness, guilt, shame, peace...every one of us has felt them all. We’ve felt them in different contexts and for different reasons, but we have all felt them. Our emotions are so universal that even though they cannot be touched, tasted, smelled, or seen, we all know exactly what it is to feel ashamed. We all know exactly what it is to feel excited.

But what exactly are emotions? Why are they sometimes predictable and explainable, and other times seem completely arbitrary? Where do they come from and why do we feel them? While there are no simple answers to explain the impossibly complex reality of our emotions, there are a number of truths about our emotions that God has revealed to us through his Word.

The most fundamental truth about our emotions is that we are emotional beings because God is an emotional being. We were created “in God’s image” (Genesis 1:26), and every aspect of our humanity is a reflection of who God is himself. Throughout the pages of Scripture we see God as an emotional being in his interactions with his creation (e.g. Ps 103:13; Jer 32:41; Ex 22:24).

This means that our capacity for deep and powerful emotions is not a worldly trait, but one that reflects the reality of who God himself is. When we feel deeply we experience a shadow of what it is to be like God. And God is not a god simply of positive emotions, but one whose emotional capacity spans the entire gamut of emotions we experience, from joy to jealousy.

Like every aspect of our humanity, our emotions have been dramatically affected by the Fall, and our emotions are rarely pure and righteous as God’s are, but that is a topic we will pick up in the next post.

For now, however, I want to sit in the thought that, as emotional beings created in God’s image, we were designed to feel, and feel strongly. Some of you more “logical types” would like to think of yourselves as “not very emotional.” But, just because you don’t manifest your emotions through long drawn-out conversations, tears, and chocolate does not mean you are any less emotional. The truth is that you feel all sorts of emotions, and you feel them strongly. Even my suggestion that you are more emotional than you realize may, as you’re reading these words, be filling you with frustration or disgust…both emotions.

We can’t get away from our identity as emotional beings. It is who we were created to be. And throughout Scripture, we see example after example of others, just like us, who felt strong emotions too. Probably none stronger than David:

"Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long?" (Psalm 6:2-3)

"How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)

"But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:5-6)

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. (Psalm 16:8-9) In a day when we seek to control, manage, manipulate, and simplify emotions, it is important to remember that our identity as emotional beings was not an accident. We may not always enjoy our capacity to feel, but we were created to feel nonetheless. Our emotions cannot be easily explained, but their source can be known. As an emotional being, God created us as emotional beings that we might know him, connect with him, and bear his beautiful and glorious image. Emotions are not something to be afraid of, and they can be understood, but only when we seek to understand them from the perspective of the “First Feeler,” our gloriously emotional God.