The Value of Emotions

So what is the deal with our emotions? What are their intended purpose? And wouldn’t we simply be better off without them.?  After all, our emotions seem to get us into heaps of trouble. Watchman Nee, a godly follower of Jesus,  claims that “He who lives by emotions lives without principle.” So living with our emotions in the lead is an uncontrolled life. Clearly living without principle is no place for a follower of Jesus Christ.

However, without emotions we would essentially be robots. Emotions are what give essence to the human experience. Years ago, I watched the sci-fi series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The AI, DATA, was portrayed as efficient and intelligent, but emotionless. However, he often longed for and attempted to gain emotions so that he could enter into beneficial relationships with his co-workers. Of course the problem with this story line is that to long for emotions is to have an emotion of longing. The story-writers, although very clever and imaginative could not quite pull off the portrayal of a completely emotionless being. But what they did do very well was demonstrate that emotions are an essential part of humanity.

To deny emotions and avoid any kind of emotional influence is to become an ancient stoic, or a Buddhist. Neither is God’s design for us. But to give emotions the unfettered right to rule and direct results in madness, depression, or egotism. And that is not God’s design either.

If emotions are an essential part of humanity and God designed humans in His own image, then God has emotions. Thus they cannot be bad in and of themselves. God in varied stories through Scripture has demonstrated relational emotions: loving kindness, compassion, anger, and disappointment just to name a few.

God has a beautiful purpose in giving us emotions. The myriad of problems that arise with those emotions are a result of the fall and sin within us. When we allow our emotions to lead us, instead of the Holy Spirit, we get entangled in all kinds of difficulties. On the other hand, being led by the Spirit will not result in an emotionless existence. Nor will it lead to pure emotional equilibrium or satisfaction. Sometimes we will experience what we consider negative emotions such as anger, disappointment or sorrow even while walking in the Spirit. I know this because Jesus demonstrated all those emotions and there was never a moment when he wasn’t completely surrendered to the Spirit in His life.

I guess all this analytical pondering on the issue of emotions comes from a struggle I am having with what our culture and even Christianity tells us about emotions. Our culture says, “If it feels good, do it.” That is essentially, “Live by your emotions.” Christianity counters with, “If you really trust God, you won’t have to bother with burdensome emotions.” Simplistic and deceptive. UnBiblical. And ultimately burdensome, because it leads the lonely and empty believer to a place of pseudo joy in an effort to avoid the reality of emotions.

Instead Jesus lived the perfect balance of raw human emotions and submission to a greater Leader. Sorrow, pain, disappointment, happiness, concern, anger, intensity: all of these  and more were a part of Jesus’ life and ministry. If Jesus hadn’t had any emotions, His death for sins would have been rote and impersonal. Instead, His death was a sacrifice, a redemptive offering out of a place of loving compassion.

2 Responses to "The Value of Emotions"

  • Fantastic!

    1 Martha Enns said this (March 23, 2013 at 2:33 pm) Reply

  • absolutely love that last paragraph!! so well said!

    2 Joy said this (March 30, 2013 at 4:12 pm) Reply

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