Oct 102012
 

My friend’s husband snapped these pictures of his daughter being her typical goofy self. He has four daughters, a whole house full of women, and he titled this shot, “House Full of Women = Emotional Roller Coasters.” As much as I hate to admit it, I am an emotional roller-coaster. I turn from happy to sad on a dime and sometimes it isn’t even justified.

If I’m sad, I cry. If I’m overwhelmed, I cry. If I disappoint someone, I cry. If my husband runs over the neighbor’s cat (purely hypothetical), I cry. I’m a feeler. If there were an award for most emotional girl, I might win it. This isn’t an overstatement, just ask my husband or anyone who knows me. It’s embarrassing, really.

But when do feelings cross over the line? When are they no longer personality or hormonal and when have they become sinful? I struggle to place my emotions under the authority of scripture. If I’m sad, is it a lack of faith? If I’m happy (about anything other than God) then maybe I’m holding onto a blessing too tightly. If I’m worried, I must not trust God.

I don’t want to be a robot, never feeling or emoting, but I also need to get a grip some days. What can I learn about feelings from scripture? 

Feelings Deceive

Feelings date back to the first people ever named. When Adam and Eve were in the garden, before eating the forbidden fruit, they were not ashamed of their nakedness. They felt comfortable or confident.

When their eyes were opened after eating the forbidden fruit, they felt ashamed and hid themselves. They had reason to feel ashamed, they had sinned against God’s command. They feared the consequences to their disobedience. God saw their guilt.

Angry over their willful disobedience, God punished them by casting them out of Eden and cursing the ground they worked on. Sadly,  because they followed their curiosity into sinful disobedience, they would forever feel the punishment of one fateful choice.

After being kicked out of Eden, Adam and Eve started a family. The fallenness continued to play out before their eyes. When their two sons brought offerings to God, He accepted Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. Fierce anger burned in Cain’s heart.

The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire if for you, but you must rule over it.’” –

Cain chose not to rule over the crouching sin. He ignored God’s warning and in anger, killed his brother Abel. God cursed Cain and would no longer allow him to be productive as he worked the ground. No doubt, Cain had regrets and he realized the wrong he’d done. He went away from the presence of the Lord after this.

Feelings Help 

We know from later books of the Bible that feelings are not sinful in and of themselves. Jesus wept bitterly before going to the cross. He mourned with those who mourned and rejoiced with those who rejoiced. He even demonstrated righteous anger inside the temple. But Jesus demonstrated his emotions, sinlessly.

Feelings can be a gift. They can reflect love and gratitude in response to God’s provision. They can burden us to serve others. They provide compassion and empathy for us to relate to those around us. But, they aren’t always for good purposes and we would be wise to keep close watch on them as they crop up throughout our day.

We have a choice.

In the first four chapters of Genesis, we’ve already seen severe consequences to following after sinful emotions. We ought to heed God’s warning: sin is crouching at our door and it’s desire is for us. And perhaps, it is our feelings that have come knocking.

When Satan tempted Eve, she considered her choices. There was no sin in the temptation, Jesus was tempted without sin. But when she chose her own feelings and desires and believed the goodness of the temptation over the promises and instructions of God, she fell for something less than God’s best.

When Cain chose to hold tight to his anger and ignore God’s clear warning, his feelings of rage led to sin and ultimately to complete separation from God. I’m assuming the punishment felt much worse than the original anger.

We have a choice too.

Which feelings tend to guide your choices?

On any given day, I might feel rested, exhausted, patient, impatient, cheerful, grumpy, thankful or dissatisfied. Feelings can be helpful or deceptive. When feelings get intense, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Is my feeling of _______, luring me away from obeying God’s commands or leading me to trust God more?
  2. Would I rather feel the disappointment of denying my feelings or the remorse of disobeying God?

Our sinful feelings were crucified with Christ.

These questions may help, but they aren’t the formula for keeping emotions in check all the time. Knowing I have peace before God, because Christ died to break down the dividing wall of hostility between my sin and His perfection, keeps me striving for continual emotional sanctification.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” -

How does that good news make you feel?

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? (ESV)

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (ESV)

  • Veranea

    I am right there with you Lindsey! Thank you for this insightful piece…this is something I have been struggling with myself and have been working through these convictions :) Thank you again!

    • http://www.worshiprejoices.com/ Lindsey Carlson

      You’re welcome, V! I know I’ve struggled with this from BIRTH! There’s got to be a good way to honor God with our emotions, he gave them to us!

      • Veranea

        You are right. But it is also very nice to know that I am not the only one that struggles with this.

  • Katy

    That poor mother of that drama queen daughter in the picture… Oh wait. :) That’s mine. Yep, those emotions are God given but like everything else, affected by our fallen state. Great questions to help determine what to do with those emotions and whether they stem from a flesh response.

    • http://www.worshiprejoices.com/ Lindsey Carlson

      Thanks Katy, at least your drama queen is cheerful in the picture?!

  • Kate

    Oh’ I just love this! This is ME. To experience so many emotions within a given day means I NEED to learn to talk about them with those around me, as an outlet, otherwise I would be the hardest person to be around (I probably still am!). I think our wiring makes us all very different people but the Bible speaks One truth which brings us all together to achieve the same thing….the glory of God. Thankyou for those questions to ask yourself. Very helpful. If my emotional rollercoaster state does one thing that is positive, I think that it helps me to repeat in my head ‘put not your trust in man’ as more often than not my emotions are people influenced and at the end of the day I give an account to God for my life not other people and their actions, they have to do that for themselves.
    Sorry for the essay.
    kate x

    • http://www.worshiprejoices.com/ Lindsey Carlson

      Kate! I LOVED your essay. Thanks for the thoughts. I absolutely agree that our emotions are specifically designed to help us bring glory to God, and that frequently they are tied to our struggles with people-pleasing. Thanks for the reminder!

  • notaboutfeelingright

    Would you then say that feeling happy about taking part in a sinful action isn’t sinful?

    There’s a part of me would love to be able to get angry at or feel hate toward someone whenever I want and to not have it held against me by God, but I don’t believe the Bible supports such a belief.

    When God make someone into a new creation, the Bible doesn’t say that one becomes a new creation, except for their feelings. Instead, feelings are choices and when they’re in line with sin (i.e. frustration with others, impatience, anxiety), then we need to determine the what the root sin is (through seeking understand from the Holy Spirit and from Scripture), so those feelings change over time.

    This isn’t done through our own strength. Through our own strength we say things such as, “I can’t help feeling this/that way.” God doesn’t ask us to become obedient by our own strength. It is God’s Holy Spirit that does the work within us.

    If we could become obedient in the eyes of God through our own strength, then Christ’s sacrifice, His death and resurrection, would not have been needed.

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