We hear varying messages about our emotions and faith. We might hear emotions…
- Are unreliable
- Lie to us
- Can’t be trusted
- Are something we need to shut off and stuff down
On the other hand, we also hear messages about emotions such as…
- Follow your heart
- Do what feels right
- Do what makes you happy
- “Feel the feels”
So then, how do emotions and faith work together in a person’s life? How does God view emotions? And how do we deal with emotions in a way that honors God and leads us down a path of life, not a path of destruction?
For many of us, the place where emotions and faith intersect can be full of tension. But what if God has a different view of this place? What if this place of tension was actually a place of invitation, a place where Jesus says He understands because He has dealt with the same emotion and can empathize, and He invites us to trust in Him as we walk through the valley?
3 Things You Need to Know About Emotions
- Emotions are part of the human experience.
God wired us to feel. However, as with all aspects of the human experience, the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He twists what God means for good and distorts it.
The enemy does this through past experiences, words we’ve heard, lies we’ve believed or have told ourselves, and cultural messages. But God wants us to experience freedom from emotional strongholds. He wants us to see His invitation in the place of tension. He wants us to know He understands our emotions and feels them too.
Meditate on these verses…
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”—Hebrews 4:15-16
“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”—Luke 22:41-44
- Emotions are an invitation from the Lord.
Many of us push down difficult emotions. We deny them altogether, concerned we will appear weak or vulnerable. Eventually, these difficult emotions come out, typically in some form that steals our joy, hinders our ability to move forward, and kills relationships.
However, God invites us to cast our cares, hurts, and pain on Him. He wants us to pour our hearts out to Him. From the point above, He knows our struggles because He felt them when He walked on this earth. Just as Jesus prayed to God the Father because of the anxiety and pain He was about to endure on the cross, we too can come to the Lord in our time of emotional, spiritual, and physical need.
Meditate on these verses…
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah”—Psalm 62:8
“…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”—1 Peter 5:7-14
- Emotions are indicators that something needs the Holy Spirit’s direction.
God’s desire is that we trust in Him and depend on Him with all our heart—this includes our emotions. The enemy wants to distort our thinking in the middle of a heightened emotional state. In other words, when we are worried or fearful, the enemy wants us to bypass prayer and distract us from seeking God’s direction. However, the Lord wants us to use those emotional times to lean into Him.
When we lean on God’s truth and ask Him to align our minds with Him and His Word, He promises to direct our paths. This is exactly why the enemy wants us to abandon seeking God. He does not want God’s good plans to prosper.
Meditate on these verses…
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”—Proverbs 3:5-6
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”—Jeremiah 17:7-8
Where Emotions Meet Faith | Filtering Your Emotions Through God’s Truth
Now that we know emotions are…
- Part of the human experience
- An invitation from the Lord
- An indicator that something needs the Holy Spirit’s direction
… we can ask God to use our emotions to grow us and be an instrument for His kingdom. Emotions and faith work together to display Jesus’ character to a watching world.
We don’t have to shut off emotions or deny their existence but rather honestly talk about them and see them through the lens of truth.
Emotions are real. The truth is that God created us with emotions. He wants us to experience joy. And, because we live in a sinful and fallen world, we will also experience sadness and grief. But the good news is His Word says He will turn our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11)! Our emotions are invitations to deeper faith and trust in Him.
It is what we do with these emotion-invitations that either lead to a deeper relationship with Him and others or isolate us.
Emotions and faith can work together, and this is God’s design.
7 Ways to Navigate Emotions with Faith
Too often, when we feel emotions, we immediately want to react. However, God’s Word tells us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. This requires faith that He will truly guide you through the difficult emotions when you lean on Him.
- Recognize the emotion.
Often, we can feel angry, but beneath the anger hides loneliness, embarrassment, or resentment. We can feel sadness, but beneath the sadness hides disappointment, regret, and confusion. Take a moment to get honest with yourself about the emotion you are truly feeling.
- Pray. Ask Jesus where this emotion comes from.
As mentioned, emotions are part of the human experience. They are part of our makeup. Think about them as a gift from God. They reveal to you what and who you value. They can show you areas Jesus wants to heal if they are attached to your past in some way.
- Identify the lie attached to the emotion.
The emotions themselves are not bad. However, the enemy loves to attach lies to them. When we experience embarrassment, he tells us we should be ashamed. When we are hurt, he tells us to seek revenge. The lie is what the world and/or our flesh tell us we need to do to feel better. The lie tells us God’s Word will not bring us peace.
- Speak Jesus’ truth to the emotion.
This is where the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, is welded to tear down the lie or stronghold. Find scriptures that speak against Satan’s lies about emotions. Declare your identity in Christ. Pray His truth in His Word.
- Pray and ask the Holy Spirit how to move forward with the emotion.
Ask the Holy Spirit to move you through the emotion. Ask Him to use the emotion to shape your character, making you more Christ-like. Will this happen overnight? Likely no, navigating through difficult emotions with faith is a process. But God tells us He walks with us through the fire, through the valley, through the challenges of life. He never leaves us. Find an anchor verse that reminds you of this truth.
- Find a trusted friend who will speak the truth to you.
Through difficult emotions, the enemy wants us to isolate ourselves. But God tells us to pray with each other, bear each other’s burdens, fellowship, confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed. We aren’t designed to do this life alone. Find a friend in a Biblical community who will speak the truth in love to you.
- Have faith and trust.
When we are struggling with difficult emotions, having faith can seem impossible. But Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can speak to the mountains in our lives, “Move!” The question isn’t how much faith you need. Rather, it is embracing the faith you have. Reflect on the areas and difficulties God has already brought you through. Remembering His faithfulness will move you in faith.
Navigating challenges and understanding how emotions and faith work together is a process. God’s love is patient. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. He knows you are going to make mistakes. Start looking forward and praising Him for how He is sharpening and shaping you in this season. He will plant you by waters. Don’t fear when the heat comes because He will ensure your leaves are green even in a drought.