15. God is emotive

The Bible tells us, “God is _________.”

Yeah, you can complete that sentence. Everyone can.

“God is love” (1 John 4:8).

We’re so familiar with the phrase that we forget love is both a commitment of unconditional covenant and it is an emotion. God, committed to us, is emotional, too.

Throughout the New Testament we read truths like-

Jesus was distressed with the Pharisees (Mark 3:5)/
Jesus was moved with compassion (Mark 6:34).
Jesus was full of joy through the Hoy Spirit (Luke 10:21).
Jesus was sorrowful and troubled (Matthew 26:37-38).
Jesus lingers even now, because the Lord is patient (2 Peter 3:9).
In God (Jesus is God) we see the full range of emotions- even the ones we typically consider to be “bad” or “taboo” ones- expressed in a healthy way.

There aren’t bad emotions. Again, notice Jesus Himself experiencing the “bad” ones-

Jesus wept multiple times throughout His ministry, including at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:35) and even over the city of Jerusalem itself (see Luke 13:35, 19:41).
Jesus became angry on several occasions. He overturned the money changers’ tables in the temple, after taking the time to make a whip to loosen the sacrificial animals (John 2:15, Matthew 21:12). He expressed His indignation when the disciples brushed the little children way from Him (Mark 10:14).
Besides, we see emotions throughout the Bible-

Solomon tells us, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh… a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Notice both extremes of the emotional scale are present.
Paul acknowledged that we grieve, but “we do not grieve as those who who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). That is, the emotion is present- even if we express it in a different way than others.
When I grew up (and even until recently), I was confused about emotions. They could be dangerous. We could be deceived or led astray by them. We should never rely on our feelings, in other words. To say it another way, “You shouldn’t let the caboose pull the train.”

Remember this picture?


Maybe there’s some accuracy to that. But the truth is that faith can lead us astray, too, if that faith rests on the wrong thing. Facts- if they’re the wrong facts- can derail us as well.

For years I wanted to run from emotions rather than running towards them. It seemed safer, easier. Yet the way towards health and healing is actually to move straight into the emotions rather than trying to navigate around them.

Leif Heitland, a Bible teacher, locked-on to this notion of God’s feelings. He writes, “I often ask God to share His emotions with me because I know He is an emotional God- full of compassion, joy, and many other feelings.”

Sometimes these feelings are “negative.” We become broken for other people, as we see them dealing with pain.

Sometimes we become broken for ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken down and cried as I’ve worked my way through my story- as I saw the hurt done to me, as I saw the pain I inflicted on my wife, as I realized how much I have exposed my children to spiritual and real danger.

The Scripture shows me that God can be found in those emotions, though. And that seeking the Kingdom often involves not simply doing things out in the world but also in doing the tough, deep work of the soul.

Further, James says to “Count it all joy when you endure trials” (James 1:2). I historically assumed he referred only to the external pressured we face. Perhaps he does. Or perhaps he refers to internal trials, too. The reality is that externals most often place weight on the soul.

I do know that James promises something to those who endure the dark night. In James 1:3-4, he says to consider it joy-

“because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

That is, in the tension God takes us to the “end” of ourselves, to a place where we can no longer rely on our personal resources. At that point, He takes us to a place where He produces something new and substantial inside us.