When I was a brand new Christian, and for years after, I had no concept of God having emotions. For me, He was kind and benevolent, though also strict about His laws, sitting on a high throne dispensing justice like a supreme court justice. Our nine justices are stoic, serious, highly intelligent, and make decisions all day long in their floor length black robes. Why would God be any different?
Ah, but He is, of course.
In the decades since I gave my heart to Jesus, I’ve learned God does have emotions and so do I. Mine are like His! Who knew?
Since we are made in God’s image, made like Him, our emotions imitate His. In His perfection, God’s emotions are always pure. His anger is always righteous. His love is never compromised. His creative work is always for good, always in the right time, always in line with the higher goal of His purposes and plans.
Here is a list I made from what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible that helped me see God differently, emotionally.
- He loves. “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
- He gives with and from His love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son” (John 3:16).
- He feels delight. “The Lord took delight in doing you good” (Deuteronomy 28:63).
- He laughs and is happy. “He who sits in heaven laughs” (Psalm 2:4).
- He feels and acts with kindness. “. . . according to His kind intention” (Ephesians 1:9 NASB).
- He enjoys and gives pleasure. “At your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
- He feels gladness. “You make him glad with the joy of your presence” (Psalm 21:6).
- He feels compassion. “He had compassion for them” (Matthew 9:36).
- He feels grief. “He grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5).
- He feels deep sadness and loss. “Our sorrows He carried” (Isaiah 53:4, NASB).
- He feels anger. “I was angry with my people” (Isaiah 47:6).
- He feels regret. “I regret that I have made Saul king” (1 Samuel 15:11).
- He longs. “How often I have longed to gather your children together” (Matthew 23:37, NIV).
- He hurts. “He was . . . a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3).
Are you surprised by this list?
Though we are made like God, we are not like Him in our expression of our emotions. Ours are never totally pure, righteous, or good. Our complete brokenness and depravity compromise our every intention. It is why we so desperately need the power of God’s Spirit within us to make our marriages work and to raise our children in a healthy way.
Importantly, our emotions are neutral. They are neither good nor bad, but it is the expression of them that taints them positively or negatively. As evidence, God never corrects our emotions in His Word. What He does correct is the way we express those emotions. He tells us, for example, to, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Psalm 4:4; Ephesians 4:26).
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when Sarah, who was ninety, was told she was going to have a baby! Imagine her shock, her disbelief! She was quite simply stunned.
After she caught her breath, Sarah laughed to herself (not out loud because she was eavesdropping on the conversation her husband was having with the strange visitors and didn’t want to be discovered. But God knew.) at the incredulous notion. God heard her laugh (Genesis 18:12). He knows our every thought, hears our every word, and our quiet laughter.
The strange visitors were from heaven, the story says. Bible scholars say one of the three was an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ, because the next verse says, “The LORD said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh…? (Genesis 18:13).
God wanted to know why Sarah, who was hiding but not hidden, didn’t believe. Her laughter was a sign of her unbelief that God could do what He had promised. God didn’t criticize her feelings of shock and disbelief, but He did correct her lie when she replied that she didn’t laugh, “No, but you did laugh” (Genesis 18:15). Read this story to your kids!
In another great Old Testament story, Elijah, the great and famous prophet of God, defeated hundreds of false prophets in a television-worthy showdown that I hope God will show as an instant replay one day in heaven! After the dramatic victory was won, Elijah slipped into fear and depression. He ran away and found a cave in which to hide. There he pouted in the dark feeling sorry for himself. “I alone am left” (1 Kings 19:10 nasb) he whined. God didn’t correct his emotion of fear or self-pity, but He did address his heart of unbelief by calling Elijah back to faith with the voice of a “gentle blowing” (19:12 nasb).
Recognizing our emotional makeup as good and a gift is so important as women, wives and moms. Some of us have been on the receiving end of negative comments for being emotional but hear me that God says it is good. He made us this way and He made men as emotional beings too. Men are incomplete without women and this is one way we compliment them.
It’s also an important asset for parenting and for teaching our kids the wonder of our made in His image design. As parents our goal is to teach our children to feel and name their God created emotions, to help them learn to identify what is driving them, what is shaping their decisions and subsequent reactions. Don’t shame the expression of their feelings as many of us, men and women, are prone to do.
Instead teach, instruct, train, and praise them when they express those emotions in healthy, unoffensive, nonhurtful ways. To help you do that, guide your children in discussing appropriate ways to express their feelings. Let them help suggest ways to do this so they own their behavior choices.
Your emotions are good. They are God given. So are your children’s. Your task is to teach them to express them in healthy ways, both good emotions and what we consider bad ones, which aren’t really bad at all. It’s the expression that counts.