There’s a quote our Women’s Minister likes to use when speaking about emotionally healthy small groups: “For the life of the mind, I see intelligence as the food and emotions as the flavor. The former is essential, but the latter provides all of the fun - and most of the misery” (Marilyn vos Savant).
It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking through why God gave us emotions in the first place. I mean, He could have made us all like Mr. Spock from Star Trek - emotionless, detached, purely logical beings. If I remember correctly, there were a few Star Trek episodes (don’t judge but we used to watch Star Trek, Star Wars, LOTR, etc. at home) where having a lack of emotions caused some issues for Spock - or the others - as he made judgment calls and interacted with other people, because he was unable to empathize or truly understand them.
God is both logical and emotional, and creating us with emotions is part of how He made us to image Him. Think about it, how would we interact with God and worship Him if we lacked the capacity of love? We would not be able to respond appropriately to our sin if we did not have the ability to feel sadness, guilt, and contrition. Similarly, fear enables us to have a proper respect for God and for things that could injure us. Our emotions allow us to worship God in a manner that is appropriate for Who He is.
In the Flesh or in the Spirit?
I had a conversation this week with a girl who is a major feeler. On a positive note, she can empathize and sympathy cry with the best of them, and if I ever want someone to be excited with me, she’s the one to call. Emotions are huge for her. In contrast, her father is more on the Mr. Spock end of the spectrum - a thinker who has a hard time understanding emotions and, especially, his more emotional daughter. Sometimes, interactions with her father leave this girl feeling that she’s wrong for being a feeler - like she’s less than because she’s less thinker more feeler.
The fact that we feel, that we have emotions, is not wrong. Both thinkers and feelers image God in different ways. They reflect something unique about Him. And both are needed in the Body of Christ and serve a purpose as we participate in God’s mission.
Whichever end of the spectrum you land, the thing to think about is whether you are acting in the flesh or in the Spirit. What do I mean by this?
Romans 8:5 states, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Paul presents us with this understanding of how we either live according to our sinful desires or in Christlikeness. And this relates to our emotions as well because our emotions ARE relevant to following God.
How so? Because our emotions can either be for Him or against Him. Our emotions are either right or wrong. They are not morally neutral, although it can sometimes be challenging to sort through them to figure out if they’re right or wrong. But our emotions are either for His glory or not.
We Can Control How We Feel
God has no problem telling us what to feel and what not to feel. For example:
- “do not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6)
- “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed…” (Josh. 1:9)
- “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…” (Matt. 22:37)
- “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:30)
Scripture contains all sorts of commands about our emotions. Because God gives us commands to obey regarding our emotions, then it is a lie that we cannot control our emotions. You can help the way you feel. You are not at the mercy of your emotions.
Now, do some have greater challenges than others in this arena? Yes. People with mood disorders have other things at work in their body that makes this incredibly difficult. But no one is exempt from obeying God’s commands, and He gives the grace and strength needed to obey Him (2 Cor. 9:8; 12:9-10; Jas. 4:6).
The problem for us is getting our emotions in line with God’s commands, to submit them to His Lordship. And let’s be real, this is not like flipping a light switch. It takes work, ladies, because our emotions are disordered and tainted by sin.
But God wants to sanctify your emotions. It’s part of how He wants to make you more like Him. And we need the Spirit in us, for we cannot change our emotions on our own.
In the weeks ahead, we’ll talk more about the practical side of how we, with the power of the Spirit, change our emotions, but I’ll leave you with a clue: Romans 8:5-6.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”