Stop crying. Stop being angry. Stop being jealous. Stop being depressed. Just stop it!
Easier said than done. It is very, VERY hard to control our emotions as human beings. In fact, I daresay it’s impossible…for us to do. Certainly, there are biological factors involved. But beyond that, the Fall has crushed, bent, broken, and twisted many things so that we are a mess of convoluted emotions and desires that we can never untie.
So how do we “defeat” our emotions? There are certainly emotions that we should not express in certain scenarios, as the Bible commands – to not be “angry,” to not be “bitter,” to not be unkind, just to name a few from the “put offs” in Ephesians 4. It tells us to “put off” actions – sure, no problem. I can work on controlling the words I say and not stealing and certainly not murdering, etc. But change my emotions? Change my anger? Change my bitterness and envy? Er, that’s gonna be a problem, Paul.
Are emotions okay? Is it okay to feel emotions, to get emotional, to express them even to God?
Well, one quick glance at the book of Psalms screams YES! But beyond that, a look at the life of Christ reveals that God not only took on our human body but also our human emotions.
Here’s a few examples from my study of John:
- In John 10:1-18, Jesus describes Himself as a “good” Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. Indeed, He contrasts Himself with hired help who do not care for the sheep. In contrast, Jesus cares for us His people – not just a tolerating us, putting up with us, thinks we’re halfway decent. No, He CARES – that’s an emotional word!
- In John 11, Jesus’ emotions come to the forefront. Obviously, He weeps (vs. 35). Short verse but incredible – the God of the Universe WEEPS! Sheds tears. Not because there was dust in His eye – He WEEPS out of sorrow over the death of Lazarus and what it caused His friends and people. My friend of another religion would be appalled at this – how could the transcendent God become a man who WEEPS? He would see it as an insult to God – I would see it as His glory!
- Another emotion in this chapter is ANGER. We don’t think of that, but two different times, John writes that Jesus was “deeply moved” (vs. 33, 38), once upon seeing Mary come to Him with mourners and then again at the tomb. This word is not a light one – it is a deep emotion. Indeed, as the ESV footnote puts it, “was indignant.” In other words, Jesus was mad! Mad at the people for crying?? How insensitive! No, I do not think it was that at all. It says in verse 33 He was also “greatly troubled.” Certainly, Jesus does not love it when we do not believe. But I think Jesus was also just angry at the fact that DEATH, that nasty old cockroach, was wreaking havoc on His friends. That’s why, after getting angry again, He tells them to take away that stone over the tomb so He can resurrect Lazarus!
That’s just three emotions. I could go on and study it further (I think I shall as I continue to read John).
So Jesus was emotional. And yet we know He did not sin (2 Cor. 5:21). So obviously, it’s possible to be emotional and not sin. It IS possible for someone to control emotions – but only in the power of Jesus!
In fact, Jesus promises to renew His people’s emotions and give them “new hearts” in the New Covenant (See Jeremiah 31). The work of sanctification is a work of changing desires, changing emotions. It’s a complete change of who we are, from our actions to emotions to our very being, our hearts!
So are you feeling emotional? Are you struggling to control them? Look to Jesus, who perfectly took on our emotions and yet never sinned. Look to the One who cares for you with deep emotion and hates sin and death. Look to Him for help in controlling your emotions – He’s the only One who can!