Thursday, 06 June 2013 12:34

Understanding Emotions

Written by  Pamela Boswell, Eastwood Counseling Center
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It is often said that it is love that makes the world go round. But love is only one of many emotions that can lead us into action. For example, fear, anger, delight and sorrow can be powerful motivating emotions as well. Rarely do people come to counseling unless they are troubled by a powerful emotion.


We worship a powerful and passionate God. Because He is holy his passions are holy and true. His emotional character is constantly revealed throughout the Old and New Testaments. Here is a bit of what we know about his affections. He delights in His son (Matthew 3:17), He rejoices over His people (Isaiah 62:5), He loves justice (Psalm 33:5), He hates evil works and lies (Psalm 5:5-6, Proverbs 6:16-19), and he shows wrath to those who oppress the poor (Exodus 22). One of the results of being created in the image of God is that we experience powerful emotions as well. So what’s the problem? Why do our emotions cause so much controversy and problems? In part it is because our emotions are not always based in truth and they often are polluted (if not entirely generated) by our sinful selfish desires.


We must look to the Word of God to truly understand our emotions and benefit from them. When we examine the life of Jesus as it is recorded in the gospels we get a glimpse of the thoughts and actions that accompanied His emotions. We know that some of the emotions Jesus experienced were compassion, anger, grief, sorrow, and joy.


Jesus’ compassion was stirred by the physical and spiritual needs of people. In Mark 6:34 we see that he felt compassion for the multitude because they were like sheep without a shepherd. This led him to action and he began to teach them. In Matthew 15 he felt compassion for the crowd that had been following him for three days because he knew they were hungry and he fed them. The pattern is that Jesus thought, felt and acted.


Jesus’ anger was usually evoked by the religious leaders who cared more about the letter of the law than loving others and doing good. Mark wrote about the thoughts behind Jesus anger in chapter three. While in the temple, just before he healed the man whose hand was withered he looked at the Pharisees in anger, but was grieved by the hardness of their hearts. The more familiar example of Jesus’ anger is in Mark 11, which led to Him clearing the temple of moneychangers. His anger led to action but was caused by his zeal for the purity of the temple and worship of God. There were no selfish motives involved.


Isaiah 53:3 prophetically speaks of the Lord Jesus as “a man of sorrows acquainted with grief”. When he arrived in Bethany at the death of Lazarus Jesus wept (John 11:35). He knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, so why did he weep? Looking to verse 33 we read that when he saw Mary and her friends weeping he groaned in His spirit and was troubled. He shared the feelings of those he loved.


We see the intensely intimate side of Jesus for his people in his prayer in the upper room on the last night of his earthly ministry. In this prayer we see that he desired for us to share in the joy that he had. He taught the disciples how to have that joy. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:9-11). His joy came from a loving and obedient relationship with the Father. It was not dependent on circumstances.


So how do we apply that to our lives? First think, really think, about what you are thinking? The emotions are likely coming from your thoughts. As 2 Corinthians 10 teaches, we must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. If our thinking is selfish, deceitful, or otherwise biblically inaccurate, we need to correct it. If our thinking is true and biblical we may be in a period of suffering that we must endure. Even our Lord Jesus experienced suffering, and so will we. Go to the Psalms as he did. There you will see people crying out to God in their trouble reminding themselves of God’s character and faithfulness and love. We can be confident that God will make all things right in his time. If we follow Jesus example, (and Paul’s instructions in Romans 12:15) we will laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry. We often need to seek fellowship with those who will come along beside us and direct our thoughts outward and upward. Even though we may not feel like doing what is right, we do it anyway. We do not have to let our emotions rule us because we have the power of God in us. As Paul reminded Timothy, “God has not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”


He thought, he felt and he acted.  Sometimes we need to rethink (which is what the Greek word for “repent” literally means), after we feel, before we act, to avoid the problems that emotions can bring.






Last modified on Thursday, 06 June 2013 12:41
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