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The Gift of Emotions
Posted on 4/18/2012 by Twelve Stones Ministries
Emotions are truly a gift from God. When rightly experienced they bring vibrant color to our life of worship, work, and play. When out of sync they can tyrannically wreak havoc in our lives, enslaving us and causing collateral damage to relationships. They are great servants, but horrible masters. The common extremes when it comes to understanding the place of emotions are 1) those that view all emotion as bad and thus must be ignored, or 2) those that live by them and measure everything by how they feel about it. Neither of these positions is healthy or godly.
We must begin with an understanding that God is an emotional God (Jer. 9:24; Zeph. 3:17). Jesus experienced emotions, anger (Jn. 2:13-17), joy (Lk. 10:21; Heb. 12:2), sadness (Jn. 11:30-35) to name but a few, and we are his image bearers (Gen. 1:26). The bible is replete with emotion. The writer of Lamentations pours his heart out and expresses his feeling of abandonment by God (Lam. 3). David frequently expresses feelings of joy, sorrow, pain, praise, and fear in the Psalms while encouraging others to do the same (Ps. 62:8). Cain experienced and expressed murderous anger (Gen. 4). Asaph confessed that he was really upset with the prosperity of the wicked (Ps. 73).
What is important as we establish a biblical understanding of emotions is that with the exception of Cain all these writers began with expressing their emotions but always brought them under the authority of God’s reveled truth. When Asaph stopped viewing the world through his own understanding and experiencing the consequent emotions, he recalibr
ated his perspective according to truth. Thus his emotions changed from a position of perplexity, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (Ps. 73:16-17),to praise, “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (Ps. 73:28). The same is true for the author of Lamentations, “my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is” (Lam. 3:17), to, “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him” (Lam. 3:24).
So as biblical counselors we must listen carefully (Prov. 18:13) to what a counselee is expressing and seek to look for the underpinning thinking that is producing the emotions. As Adams insightfully states, “To get on top of your emotions, you must get to the bottom of the problem, and in many cases at the bottom of unpleasant emotions is sin.” Our thinking drives our feeling, therefore we must focus on thinking and interpreting life biblically (Phil. 4:8-9) and renewing our mind (Rom. 12:1-2) while putting off sinful emotions and actions and replacing them with godly ones (Col. 3:1-17). One author puts it this way, “Our emotional states are windows into our souls, revealing the allegiance of our hearts. Let us endeavor to think God’s thoughts after Him, conform our actions to His Word, and experience emotions that reflect and honor Him.”  One of the greatest gifts we can give a counselee is the ability to understand and embrace emotions as God intended. Let us endeavor to do this graciously and patiently for the sake of the Kingdom.
Jay Edward Adams, The Christian Counselor's Manual (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1973), 109.
Borgman, Brian. Feelings and Faith: (p. 148). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition. (2009-04-01)