Is It Bad to Be an Emotional Christian?

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.

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3 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Melanie Gibson says:

    I stuffed my emotions also, until I learned the hard way that it wasn’t such a good idea to do that. I remember that episode of Star Trek with the giant brain aliens, too. Jesus sets a perfect example for me of balance – he is often in crowds and with other people who demand a lot from him, and he spends a lot of time by himself up in the hills praying to his Father. I try, but as a human I get out of whack pretty easily, and then I hear Jesus tell me I either need to get out and be around others (even if they are strangers) or if I need to recharge and rest up.

  2. Lori, this sounds like a great beginning, or at least a chapter, in a new series, eventually to become another book–what do you think? There are so many aspects to how emotions fit securely in the person of a Christian. Frankly, without them, we would be nothing but dusty, old talking-books… a pitcher without contents… a frame without a picture… etc. Emotions are an elemental part of who & what each person is. To repress them is to deny a very important part of who we are. Just my $ .02 worth! 🙂

  3. Nona says:

    Sister Lori,
    I have to tell you how blessed I am by your writing. I told you before that every time reading your writing it sounds like it is me who speaks those words.
    I came to Christ in a miraculous way, through the Radio Programme in Uzbekistan, while being as a guest in that land. We had to leave Armenia because of the war.
    After a while, when growing spiritually through listening to the sermons on the Radio in Russian by an Ukrainian Pastor, who lived in Sacramento, only God can do things like this. Never heard of emotions as something not of our Lord Jesus Christ. A few years later, when I moved to the capital of Uzb. I was at a real Church I was told that emotions is not for a strong Christian believer… and tried to hide them but never succeeded. I would cry during the worship and sermon, during Communion, until now, almost 20 years after but it became lesser and lesser. Last Sunday I caught myself, here in South Korea, that I am shy to cry…we are relatively new to this small Church with mostly teacher and students from our school.
    I am a music teacher and often I think to myself, why in the world I am who I am…? Why am I not a chemist, doctor, or an engineer? Why I decided to become an opera singer (well, I do not sing professionally any more, after I came to Christ, many reasons).
    We sing praise and worship to our Precious Lord Jesus, can we sing it without emotions and feelings? It reminds me of the words from my Professor at the Conservatoire who used to tell me: “If you want to touch the hearts of people, you are the first whose heart needs to be moved….”
    I have another personal observation, throughout the years, I noticed that most of the artistic related professionals/persons are with Christ either they are musicians, actors, artists, you name it.
    I clearly understand I need wisdom, wisdom from our Heavenly Father to be the good representative of the Kingdom of God.
    Help us Lord!