Should Christians Have Unfavorable Emotions?
When challenging emotions like anger, fear and doubt creep-up should Christians feel guilty? Better yet, has someone accused you of not being godly when you have these emotions? What does the Bible say about emotions and are there any examples we can we look to for help? As a Christian, what expectations should we have regarding unfavorable emotions…what is a realistic and healthy?
To Be Alive is To Have Emotions
Emotions are God-given. In fact, we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:25-26). Throughout the Bible we see examples of human emotions and Jesus was no exception. During His earthly life, Jesus was moved by an array of emotions from love for man, compassion for the human condition and kindness for the poor/needy to anger at injustice, weeping over brokenness, and bargaining with the Father (Luke 22:42). Why would we think we can escape the wide span of emotions, both favored and unfavorable, if Jesus himself felt some of them too?
The Purpose of Unfavorable Emotions
Emotions can be viewed as a gauge to measure one’s heart. They give insight to what is really going on inside. When unfavorable emotions arise like anger, fear, doubt and worry they provide an opportunity to ask oneself, “What is wrong and what do I need to change? Do I have an incorrect belief about myself or God? Am I living outside of God’s will for my life? Are my feelings justified, and if so, what positive actions do I need to take?” Without unfavorable emotions we would have no gauge to understand what needs to change. While welcomed emotions like peace, joy and contentment reflect what is good…unfavorable emotions reflect what isn’s good and what needs to change.
Saved Instantly BUT Sanctified Over a Lifetime
One of the biggest misconceptions I had about becoming a Christian was the difference between salvation and sanctification. From the very moment a person decides to put their trust in Jesus they are saved and have secured a place in Heaven (John 3:16). Jesus’s blood shed on the cross paid the price for our sins (Romans 4:25) and we have a new life.
However, according to the Bible we will work out our new life (salvation) until that great day when we meet Him face to face (Philippians 2:12). This is referring to the sanctification process or the character building/habit changing that occurs as we grow in our relationship and in the knowledge of Jesus. All emotions play a role in this process.
It is important not to suppress unfavorable emotions, but to allow them to be a guide on the sanctification journey. They have a lot to teach you about you!
There’s No Escaping Unfavorable Emotions
It is unrealistic to think that Christians should not have unfavorable emotions. We are imperfect people saved by a perfect God. We are born self-centered, and we live in a broken world full of injustice and as a Christian can we really expect to never by angry, hurt, sad, worried, discouraged or depressed? WOW…that is a lot of self-inflicted pressure that the enemy would love to get us hung-up on! And the enemy is clever…he will use our loved ones or non-Christians as accusers to make us feel like we aren’t godly enough. Let us not fall for that trap!
Dealing with Unfavorable Emotions
Now this is where things can go wrong…it’s not sinful to have or feel unfavorable emotions, but how you deal with them can potentially be. For example, when anger leads to a hotheaded attitude that makes it difficult for anyone to talk to you. Or, when loneliness sends you into isolation rather than reaching out for help…that is where the real problem lies. Here are some helpful tips to deal with unfavorable emotions properly:
- Seek wisdom from a trusted advisor, pastor, counselor or friend.
- Search the Scriptures to learn all you can from God.
- Pray continually and hand over the situation to God.
- Do not hold in unfavorable emotions; they are like a ticking time bomb and it’s only a matter of time before they get unloaded in a hurtful manner.
- Do not ignore unfavorable emotions or you may cut off the internal connection you have with yourself and you can become numb.
- Write about your feelings…just get them out on paper.
- Physically let them out by running, kick-boxing or other rigorous exercise.
- If the situation can be changed….have the courage to make the change.
- If the situation cannot change…find a way to make peace with it.
- Check your thought life…often feelings follow thoughts. What thoughts need transforming?
- Be responsible and accountable for your feelings. Be honest with yourself and before God. Don’t make decisions based purely on emotions.
“But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.” Psalm 51:6
Christians are not exempt from unfavorable emotions so don’t set yourself up for failure. Know that all emotions are God- given and can be useful for change or growth. Examine your heart in light of God’s Word. Make changes when needed. Accept what you cannot change. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re a bad Christian for having unfavorable emotions.
Sincerely with Hugs,