Our life is to be a life of worship. And our emotions are perfectly situated to drive us into fruitful obedience, to drive us into worship in action.
Alasdair Groves explains that emotions are a hard thing to define. “How do I understand what is going inside myself?” Alasdair helped us to consider what emotions are, why we have them, and why they are so confusing.
Using , Alasdair explained that emotions are the overflow of our love, concern, and care. Paul experiences emotions like godly anxiety when he talks about the people he knows, loves, and treasures. As explains, where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.
“Our emotions tell us what we value and care about.” Like the check engine light on a car dash board, our emotions can be reminders for us to evaluate ourselves and what we worship. If only I had ______, I would be happy. If I care that I don’t look like an idiot, I will be nervous. I will be angry when I sense people judging me. If I care about being pleasing to the living God, I will be excited about signs of the fruit of the spirit. If I care about my friends, I will be discouraged when she has trouble raising her kids.
Emotions are the overflow of our care, love, and worship. Who or what we worship shapes what we feel. I was reminded that worshipping the living God will reorient how I feel and give me proper emotions.
Alasdair explained that as image bearers of God, we have emotions because we are made to be like God. God has emotions. He cares deeply about His world, about His glory. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love one another with an infinite care. So the Trinity is living in the midst of emotion.
Emotions enliven our lives. They put color on the black and white. This happens when we take God’s word and His glory seriously.
Emotions energize our worship. Picture your child running into the street. Your fear is centered on care for your child, causing you to take action before you have had an opportunity to think. Emotions are a fuel for worship and action. Fear may cause us to protect. Compassion may cause us to go to a lonely person. We don’t feel bad from a distance. Anger teacher us to protect and go against injustice. “Our life is to be a life of worship. And our emotions are perfectly situated to drive us into fruitful obedience, to drive us into worship in action.”
Why are emotions hard to process?
First, emotions don’t like to come in a line. They come in a crowd. That’s as it should be. In real life, we are never just responding to one thing. Every day we wake up with the others days we have already lived having shaped us. Like ordering paint at the store, different colors are mixed together into a can. Our concerns change and who we are changes.
We live in a complicated and fallen world. “The reality of the Christian life must be joy and sorrow, deeply mingled.” We will feel both joy and sorrow as part of our godly response to a world that is utterly precious to the living God that is also deeply broken at every point.
Our bodies are complicated and physical. When we experience sadness we cry. Anger will show physical effects in our bodies and affect our heart rate. Sometimes there is a lag between what you see and feel. Sometimes our body will pour colors in the paint bucket that has nothing to do with what it should do. Physical pain will do that to you. Exhaustion will do that as well. Or even a thyroid issue can cause complications.
Other times, feelings leave and we want to engender proper feelings. For example, compassion often is fleeting. One of the marks of spiritual maturity is a heart in which compassion has some staying power.
Alasdair explained that we don’t need to know the source of all our feelings. We are not called to endless introspection but simply called to encounter Jesus. We have a God who delivers from our fears. He delivers us from the actual reality of being shamed. We are delivered by a God who moves in this world that is broken. Our emotional hope is grounded in His certain promise, the hope and reality that He forgives and He keeps and cares for us.
We can bring him everything, every fear and sorrow, every emotion. Alasdair discusses that more in his next session.
25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, (ESV)
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (ESV)