It is hard to believe at times, but emotions are a gift from God and part of what makes us in His likeness. But they sure can cause us problems!
Even the definitions of emotion vary from dictionary to dictionary indicating we humans struggle with wrapping our minds around what they are. Definitions from various sources include: “A state of mind derived from one’s circumstances’, and ‘a state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate and the like is experienced’, and ‘emotion is a complex reaction to situations around us.’ Really…a complex reaction to situations….?
We know what emotions are, but we can’t find a definitive description upon which to agree! That makes me so mad! Wait…that makes me laugh…wait…that makes me frustrated…wait…oh, emotions. God-given but often used by the devil to make our lives miserable with a skill that makes us at times feel like puppets on his string.
Emotions can be affected by hormones, circumstances, by the sugar level in our blood, by a movie we are watching or a great night out with friends. From funerals to births, weddings to touches from the Lord that sweep from our spirit outward to overwhelm our emotions, and so much more. That said, much of church culture has substituted emotion for the anointing which has resulted in Christians not knowing the voice of God from their own thoughts and emotions
I describe the anointing as the presence of God which may be felt in our spirit. – and many Christians act out of the emotion (or even the) spirit of fear but call it faith.
Why did the Father give us emotions?
From the perspective of God who created human beings, in order to make us totally free-willed beings He had to endow us with the ability to think (reason) and the ability to feel (emotion) in order to properly understand Him and His creation and to function well in both realms – spiritual and natural. We are emotional because our Creator is emotional, which I’ll show later.
intellectually we understand art, but it is our emotion by which we feel what the art is communicating. Intellectually we understand the sun low on the horizon means its light is being sent through layers of dust, but we lay that aside to ooh and ahh as we stop everything to watch the fleeting beauty of a sunset. A baby has a way of turning the most cerebral man or woman into a babbling idiot making all sorts of weird sounds and scrunching their faces as they interact with the child.
We need our emotions as they are to balance our thought processes. Without emotion we become robots, more logical than Spock from the Star Trek series, too cerebral to feel emotions, therefore too insensitive to be able to feel God’s presence in our spirit, to feel passionate love, too unfeeling to give emotional support to a spouse. Yet if we are all emotion we make decisions ranging from financial to relationships and everything in between without thinking them through which leads to heartache and misery. It is the balance between controlling emotion and thinking through things that cause us to prove the will of God in our lives with the resultant blessings and peace.
There is a line from the song “I do” by the singer “Jewel” that says “Life can take a long time if you make the wrong choice”, that is so true. When Paul lists the ‘works of the flesh’ and the ‘fruit of the spirit/Spirit’ from Galatians 5: 19-23, many of each are emotions, or are at least manifest emotionally:
“…adultery (which Jesus described in Matthew 5:28 as an emotional fantasy of sex with someone other than your spouse, fornication according to Jesus, is the physical act consummating the fantasy), hatred, strife, jealousy, rage, envy, love, joy, peace, the giving of grace, goodness, self control…”
It is that mix of emotion and spiritual flow that we are interested in. How do we control our emotions, how do we think through decisions and find God’s will as we balance emotion and logic? What is our part and what is God’s part? How much common sense does He expect us to use and when we experience fear of what might happen or what could go wrong how do we find His assurance in our emotions (or spirit) He won’t let the worst case imagination bouncing around our emotions happen?
The balance between intellect and feelings
In Genesis 3:21 we are told the Lord Himself killed animals in order to make clothing of skins for Adam and Eve, in the first direct instruction and prophecy about a future sacrifice covering our sin, even doing away with sin that had entered the world. Clothing therefore is meant to glorify God and remind us clothes are a type of His covering for mankind and His sacrifice for our sin. Too bad so much of the fashion industry has been perverted to make clothing sexual and that which glorifies His creations rather than the Creator.
But Adam and Eve were instructed on the types and shadows in the animal sacrifice which allowed their sin to be covered, and they passed this knowledge to their children, including Cain and Abel. Abel offered a sacrifice of blood, submitting himself to the righteousness of God.
No respect – the first conflict of emotions
Cain however rebels against the pattern of blood sacrifice as an offering and recognition of God covering their sin, and instead offers vegetables from his own efforts, from his own strength, setting the pattern for all false religions to follow. Any religion, or any effort within even Christianity which attempts to approach God from that which we have done, is in the same spirit as Cain’s religious efforts to come to God on his own terms.
It doesn’t matter whether that religion requires certain clothing to be worn, washing in a particular river, making gifts to dead relatives, going door to door seeking converts, saying set prayers at set times, or any other man-made formulas, they are all rejected for they are like Cain’s sacrifice from his own efforts.
This is why in the Old Testament when they made an altar for sacrificing an animal to God, His instructions were to not try to shape the stones in any way, but to use them as they found them in the ground – nothing related to salvation could be of man’s efforts. This is why God instructed men to remove their shoes in His presence in the Old Testament, because shoes are man-made and no one comes to God out of His own efforts – God insisted they come bare-footed as they were created.
The clash between thoughts, emotions, and God
When Cain’s vegetables are not received he is angry, sad, and angry at God. He will soon take out his anger on his brother, though the Lord made several attempts to have Cain deal with his thoughts and emotions before he took action – but Cain like so many of us, blew right through God’s efforts to appeal to right thoughts and feelings, and murdered his brother. That process is a road map to this day, for God has not changed in the way He deals with us when we are conflicted between our thoughts and our swirling emotions.
And that is where we’ll pick it up next week, until then, blessings,