There are people who believe there is a flaw in God’s design. I was once one of them.
I remember the first time a spiritual leader accused me of being emotional. I was a teen so, in his defense, it wasn’t a huge leap. Also, I was crying and distraught when I arrived in his office with questions of a theological nature.
What had moved me to tears? It was the week leading up to Easter and I’d been considering what Jesus endured in the final week of his life.
Betrayal. Arrest. Abandonment by His followers – His friends. Rigged trials. Humiliation. Beatings. Rejection by His own people. Flogging nearly to death. The long walk to Calvary. Crucifixion. This was the Jesus I’d loved since I was a child and as I considered all He’d endured to pay the price for my sins, it moved me to tears.
I’d gone to this leader with questions about Judas, and whether he’d repented and been forgiven or was condemned. I think I was also wondering for the first time about the heroes of the Old Testament and the state of their souls since they died before Jesus’ sacrifice (It was as if contemplating passion week had awakened in me a concern for all souls, living and dead.)
Eventually, I learned the answers to those questions, but it wasn’t on that day. I remember clearly that the only answer this leader had for me then was – “Come back when you aren’t so emotional.”
As I teenage girl, I’d certainly been charged with that before, but this was the first time it came from a spiritual leader. I was confused – especially since my repellant state had come about through my obedience to his instructions that we should spend the week considering Christ’s sacrifice for us. And, while I was crying, it was my mind that sought answers. I didn’t come asking for tissues and hugs.
This was a word I would continue to hear into adulthood from others within the Body of Christ. “Let’s not be ruled by emotions, now.” Or “That sounds like an emotional response to a need rather than a rational one.” Or “We need someone in charge of this ministry who doesn’t get emotional.”
It was such a theme that without realizing it, I came to believe the lie that Jesus was capable of redeeming all of me EXCEPT my emotions. Some flaw in His design of humans made emotions such a danger that even once we were following Him, they must be considered suspect at all times.
Now, the mind, the mind was entirely worthy of redemption, it seemed. The mind, in fact, was always to be trusted, almost immediately following conversion, and to do all the heavy-lifting thereafter. So, I set about to develop my mind and stuff my emotions – a path that nearly destroyed me until Jesus taught me (through my mind) the truth – which He did with a few simple verses.
It started with Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Why would He ever do that, I wondered? Isn’t my heart suspect?
Then, I read these words in Jeremiah 24:7 – “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” And these in Ezekiel 36:26 – “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
So, God gives me a new heart – and not one that is cold as stone, but one that beats and bleeds like a heart of flesh. This, to me, was a revelation, but one that also made complete sense! Didn’t God design us with emotions? Aren’t they wonderful as a means to connect with Him and with others, as signs when things are awry, and as motivators to do what is right and avoid what is wrong?
And is Jesus’ sacrifice and power so limited as not to redeem my emotional life, too? No, His redemptive power is complete and includes my heart, mind, soul, and strength. And as it turns out, the mind isn’t so exempt from the need for continuous sanctification as we learn in Romans 12:2 that it can be polluted by the world and needs to be transformed.
This gradual revelation of the truth set me on a pathway of actually managing my emotions for the first time because, rather than try to hide them or dismiss them, I was owning up to them and discussing them with Jesus. My emotional life emerged from the darkness into His light and began to work in conjunction with my mind rather than quietly sabotaging it from the shadows. And my mind began to function with greater clarity because I realized thoughts can be as suspect as emotions if they aren’t taken captive to Christ as Paul cautions us to do in 2 Corinthians 10:5.
Jesus helped me, too, to see that God expresses emotions throughout the Bible. I think that, originally, I saw Him like these aliens I once saw in an episode of Star Trek who were just these giant brains. In getting to know Jesus, I met someone not ruled by either his mind or his emotions, but by His Father. I’ve since learned the truth of Colossians 1:17b that in Christ, “all things hold together.”
Our minds, bodies, and emotions are all gifts from a loving Father, that in the process of redemption and sanctification grow to function together in a way that is a marvel to behold.
I have no shame now, in saying, at times I am emotional – especially when I consider the sacrifice of Christ, the One I love, on my behalf. Are you sometimes emotional? Well, bless your heart, because God has made it new.
Are you facing hard times and unexpected trouble? Are you gasping for breath beside the narrow road? This book knows where you are and how to get you through. Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus) will sit beside you and help you start walking again.
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) March 20, 2017