What place do emotions have in my relationship with Jesus?
Have you ever talked to someone who genuinely enjoys God? When they talk about Jesus, their face breaks into a grin, their eyes radiate the joy of the Lord, and you leave the conversation longing for a relationship with Jesus like the one they experience?
Most of us have the desire to enjoy our relationship with God. It’s why many believers pursue “experiences” like the emotional high that can come from attending a Christian conference. Those highs provide the feeling of enjoying God that we crave during the monotony of our daily discipline where we open our Bible with tired eyes and weary hearts.
However, as we are discipled, we are often rightly warned against pursuing “mountain-top experiences” and told that we cannot base our relationship with Christ on our emotions.
I agree and have written other articles on the importance of building our faith on the truth of God’s word, not our feelings. However, in overemphasizing the importance of discipline and warning against emotionalism, we risk making a relationship with God sound boring rather than the most exciting pursuit we can engage in.
So, is there any place for my emotions in my relationship with Jesus? I’ve learned three things about emotions and where they rightly fit in my relationship with Jesus.
Emotions are not a Good Foundation
It’s true, emotions are a terrible foundation for a relationship with Christ. If we constantly pursue spiritual highs and only do things that bring immediate joy to our Christian life, we will soon wither up and die. Christianity is built on truth and faith apart from feelings.
For example, I often don’t feel like reading my Bible or praying. But I know these disciplines will teach me what is true about God, strengthen my soul, and deepen my intimacy with my Lord. So in faith, I discipline myself to do them regardless of how I feel.
Feelings rarely drive me to forgive my friend, love my enemy, or share the gospel. But I know these things are commanded by Christ, and if I love Him, I must obey Him. So, I choose to discipline my body and bring my emotions into subjection to Christ.
This is what we mean when we say our relationship with Christ cannot be based on our emotions. Emotions cannot be the foundation or the pursuit of our Christian life. Our foundation and pursuit must be truth.
Emotions are not a Measurement of God’s Love
There is a dangerous side of these wonderful and terrible feelings we all have that we call emotions. The dangerous side is that they are liars. Our feelings often lie to us about what is good and right and what is wrong. Left unchecked, they can pull us towards sin, compromise, and laziness rather than holiness and godliness.
Scripture tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV)
We must be aware that following our emotions and gauging our relationship with Jesus on them is dangerous. Emotions should not become our ruler to determine the health of our relationship with Jesus or the measure of God’s love toward us. We learn about God’s love from the Bible.
Emotions are a Right Response to Truth and a Gift of God’s grace
So, emotions cannot support or guide us, yet they are still a vital part of our relationship with God!
If we boil down our relationship with Jesus to discipline without emotion, we miss the whole point of the gospel. When we look at scripture, much of what Jesus came to do through His death and resurrection was to redeem our emotions.
For example, the gospel is called good news of great joy! (Luke 2:10)
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11, NKJV)
Paul taught that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
The fruit of the spirit includes joy and peace–two emotions that the Spirit of God gives us. (Galatians 5:22)
A right and good response to the Word of God is a response of faith filled with wonder, joy, excitement, sorrow, desire, and hope.
Emotional responses to truth are good and right and should be encouraged and enjoyed by God’s children.
The Goal is Christ
Emotions and faith-filled discipline are two parts of our response toward truth. God intended our enjoyment of Him to press us into obedience. Similarly, He intends our discipline to awaken our emotions and free us to delight in Him.
The goal isn’t an emotion. The goal is Christ. Intimacy with Jesus cannot be had apart from truth, discipline, and emotion, all working together to draw us to Jesus and away from sin. In the end, intimacy with Christ is the greatest joy we can ever experience.
|Katie Gutierrez loves an urban cafe as much as the smell of campfire and pine. She works in communications while studying business and non-fiction writing, and is most happy when leading worship and discipling others.