On Emotions [Noval]

01 Winding down from our Ocean Grove condo

Atlantic Beach, NC

September 2014 (Sheryl)


Proverbs 20:27 New International Version (NIV)

27 The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord
    that sheds light on one’s inmost being.

Our emotions are gifts from God; they reveal to us things about our hearts that we wouldn’t normally see or evaluate. 

Sometimes we might confuse our emotions with our hearts.  They’re closely coupled, but they’re not the same thing.  The emotions (unless we’ve suppressed them) are normally closer to the surface and more easily accessed.  The heart is more hidden, often more elusive.  It’s full of assumptions, motives, drives, longings and values that may be buried deep in the murkiest parts of our souls that we’re only aware of when some external force like a relationship or life circumstance jostles us and upsets our equilibrium. 

For example, we might be totally unaware of how much our hope is fixed on our worldly possessions until an event like a house fire or a steep economic recession rattles our cage and fear comes roaring to the surface.  As another example, an unhealthy codependence may only be revealed when a loved one’s struggle with an addiction or other life dominating problem stirs up our anger, or fear (or  both). 

A good analogy, I think, is to compare the emotions to the “idiot lights” in the dashboard of a car.  When a light comes on, the problem’s not on the dashboard but somewhere else, probably under the hood, internal to the engine. 

I’m not as much of a right-winger as I used to be on the use of medications to address things like anxiety and depression.  They have their place.  But in evaluating their use, we need to be careful that we’re not putting tape over the idiot light and enabling ourselves to ignore what’s under the hood.

So when the light comes on, be it fear, anxiety (fear in sips) anger, frustration (bottled anger). depression, etc., some useful questions we might ask ourselves are these:  

  • What does this feeling tell me about me about my view of God? Is He an angry judge or a merciful Father to me?  Is He large and in charge?  Is He wise?  Does He have the right to rule.  Is He good?  Will He meet my needs? 

  • What is this telling me about how I see my neighbor?  Are his sins and flaws merely reminders of our shared humanity, or have I set myself up as judge and jury, immune to any charge against my own character? 

  • How about how I see myself?  How realistic are my life goals?  Am I trying to control things, bring about outcomes I really have no control over?  Am I really willing to “let God be God” in this situation.  Or, to paraphrase the Serenity Prayer, do I have the wisdom to discern between the things I CAN change and the things I can’t? 


Jesus and the apostles promised blessings like joy, peace, contentment, confidence, freedom from fear.  But to truly enjoy these healthy pure emotions in increasing measure, the Lord may have to, first, use less pleasant emotions as diagnostic tools to identify “weeds” in our souls that He wants to pull out so we can fully enjoy the abundant life He promised us.


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