Summary: God created emotions and they are a wonderful tool to use in our worshipping of Him.
God and Emotions
October 4, 2003
God is emotional, often passionate, but rarely placid.
This statement is quite contrary to the image that most have of God. Traditionally, God’s people have thought of God as stable, unchanging, grand, majestic, and attentive. All of these adjectives are true of God, without question. However, there is another side to God that we don’t often think about, yet which informs us about what needs to be another side of ourselves, too. You see, we are made in God’s image, and we seek to reflect him in all ways we are like him. Sometimes, we pick various portions of Him that we like, and try to emulate those. But, there are many other aspects of Him that we need to understand and use, too. For some of us, we might need to better reflect the unchanging, dignified, attentive, and stable parts of God. For others of us, there may be other areas of his personality that can alter us to make us just a little bit more like him, and which we might be able to use to enrich our lives and our service toward Him and others.
I grew up in a household that was not very emotional. As part of the English background of the family, there was a great reserve about emotions and a certain fear of them, I believe, as I analyze things now. There was not anger very often, but neither was there expression of affection. There was no whooping and hollering in watching ‘Hockey Night in Canada’, but a very subdued, ‘that’s good’. Somehow, I came with the loudness, over the years, that goes a bit beyond that, but it wasn’t something encouraged. I remember being encouraged to be ‘nice’ many times, but what is ‘nice’? Have you ever wondered, ‘what is nice?’ I, honestly, don’t know. I believe it’s rather ‘vanilla’- nothing wrong with vanilla, but strawberry is nice, and so are chocolate, and pistachio, bubblegum, and caramel, too. I remember being taught to ‘not cry in public’. I wonder ‘why?’ Why are we not to cry in public? Why are we to control our emotions in such a way? If something is sad, why do we need to be embarrassed to show that we feel the sadness deeply?
Of course, my background and community were rooted in Methodism, which tended, at least, to exert a lot of repressive messages about emotions. Of course, it is rooted, too, in Victorianism- my grandparents all came from Victorian times and the impact of that was, at least, far greater than we sometimes credit it.
However, God is neither a Methodist (in the broadest sense of the meaning of that word) nor a Victorian. God is not English, either. I figured these things out eventually, and have gone looking for the real God, and the real God is much more than defined behaviour, proper conduct, and traditional community approaches. He shows us far more of him than those terms could possibly begin to express. He is more- oh, so much more- than most of us begin to imagine. This means, there is much more of him for us to bring into our lives, our characters, and our personalities, that will expand us and enrich us, and enable us to more fully represent Him in the world in which He has sent us on mission.
Do you know that God is jealous? Imagine that. We’re told not to act jealous. “Are you jealous?” is thrown out as a negative thing today. If a woman says to a man, “Are you jealous?” he’s supposed to plead, somehow, that he’s not, rather than saying, ‘Yes, I am jealous for you,’ for instance. God is jealous and doesn’t hide it.
Exod. 20.5- he does not want to share his affection with anyone else. I’m aware of a situation, many miles from here that involves a young married couple- early to mid-30s. The lady, involved, still throws herself at other men when they go to parties. She will sit on laps and flirt and won’t respond to her husband when he asks her not to do that. He is jealous, and rightly so, and as a product of divorce would rather not have to go through that and have their son suffer as he suffered. But she believes his jealousy is silly. Maybe she IS completely devoted to him, and she seems to be. However, there are, obviously, some matters of behaviour that she wasn’t taught about how behaviour must change once you’ve ‘tied the knot’. Some things end at that time. Jealousy is a wonderful emotion that allows us to guard ourselves and those we love; it causes us to look out for those we cherish. It can become too sensitive, sometimes, I’m sure, but better that than being too casual and careless, with results that hurt immensely. I know that jealousy is a ‘big deal’ at camp or in the schoolyards as young ‘love’ blossoms and young boys and girls are anxious about who is looking at whom; this can be silly, but is the beginning of learning how to better use this emotion. God is jealous about affection toward Him. He will not share that with another- this is why there is only room, in God’s universe, for one God, and that would be Him! There is only room, in God’s universe, for his people to worship one God, and that would be Him. There is no room for us to worship him, and then to worship a bit of other gods, including ourselves, our spouses, our children, our cars, our jobs, or any of the multitude of other gods we can so easily bow before. Do you guard your affections toward God as carefully as he guards his toward you? Do you begin to internalize God’s jealousy about your affections? When you come before God, privately or publicly, are you careful to show only affection toward and about Him that reflects a certain measure of jealousy on your part? Jealousy is a wonderful emotion, not to be ashamed of or relegated to some closet of ancient values. Jealousy is a ‘guarding emotion’ that God has and that we need to develop.