A. There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer.
1. When asked to define what he meant by a “great writer,” he said, “I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, and howl in pain and anger!”
2. That man is now employed by Microsoft and writes computer error messages!
3. Few things bring out our emotions more than computer problems – can I get an “amen”?
B. Emotions are something that all of us have and experience.
1. Someone has rightfully said that we are millionaires in emotions and they come in infinite combinations of type and intensity.
2. Unfortunately, we usually think of our feelings in negative terms.
3. We’re so accustomed to hearing the phrase “emotional problems” that we often think our emotions are a bother, and a liability.
4. At times, many of us have likely thought that we’d be better off without emotions, but nothing could be further from the truth.
5. Emotions are in indispensable part of our humanity, but emotions are something we must learn how to embrace and employ for them to be helpful rather than harmful.
C. Today’s sermon begins a new sermon series that I am calling “Embracing and Employing Our Emotions.”
1. I hope that this series will be very practical and very positive as we come to see the blessing that God intends for our emotions to be in our lives.
2. For a long time I have been thinking about the need for a sermon series or a class about our emotions – kind of an emotions 101.
3. Having ministered now for almost 40 years, I have come to realize that we will not be able to have spiritual health or relational health beyond the level of our emotional health.
4. Human beings are complex and our bodies, souls and spirits are intertwined and have a direct impact on each other, both personally and communally.
5. That’s why I feel it is so important that we learn how to embrace and employ our emotions as we realize that emotions are a gift from God.
D. One of the fears that I have about trying to address the subject of emotions is that I will be misunderstood.
1. By trying to address this subject, I don’t want anyone to think that everyone can learn to manage their emotions without professional or medical assistance.
2. I hope I am not too far off when I say that many or most of our emotional challenges are of an everyday type that come from our reactions to life circumstances, reactions to the way we are treated by others or because of wrong thinking.
3. But some of our emotional challenges may come from short-term or long term trauma or chemical imbalances that may need medical or professional help to cope with.
4. So I want to caution us about jumping to conclusions or about judging each other in regard to any of these things.
E. When it comes to our emotions, there are two opposing extremes that I want us to avoid.
1. One extreme is to try to ignore our emotions.
a. This seems to be a popular approach taken by many Christians who see our emotional makeup as a hindrance to progress in the Christian life.
b. But emotions are not something that should be denied, or suppressed, or ignored.
c. When a person denies or suppresses their anger, bitterness, shame or sorrow, those emotions don’t disappear, rather they just smolder and simmer beneath the surface.
d. Those smoldering emotions do internal harm, and will simmer until they build to a boiling point and explode injuring everyone in their proximity.
e. So ignoring or denying our emotions is not a helpful or a healthy approach.
2. The opposite extreme is to allow our emotions to be in-charge.
a. When we make our emotions the primary focus and the primary decision maker for our lives, then we are in for a bumpy ride.
b. As you know, our culture has become steeped in sensuality and has cut ties with moral absolutes.
c. The bumper sticker says it all: “If it feels good, do it!”
d. If you have a sexual urge, fill it; if you have anger; express it; if you feel tied down; walk away from your responsibilities – it’s your life and you’re number one, so do as you please.
e. Blindly following our feelings is not really the path to happiness and health.
3. As I thought about these two extremes, I found myself thinking about characters from television and movies.
a. I thought about Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk from Star Trek – they make a good contrast between someone who is trying to be emotion-less, and someone who is prone to be driven by emotion.
b. I thought about the movie Sense and Sensibility and the two sisters – Elinor Dashwood, who is the eldest daughter and heroine, who is composed and guarded with her emotions; and Marianne Dashwood, the middle daughter, who is so spontaneous and feels her emotions so excessively and is driven by them.
4. I’m sure you can think of other great examples from books, movies and from your life.
5. Between these two extremes lies the God ordained, biblical balance that I hope we can understand, and learn to have and strive toward.
6. To move in that direction, we need a solid foundation based on God’s truths.
F. The first truth is: God the Creator has emotions, and since we are created in God’s image, He has endowed us with emotional capacities.
1. You might be surprised to know that throughout the history of the church, many theologians and philosophers have denied that God has feelings.
2. They believed that such an admission would demean the concept of an unchanging God.
3. This is reflected in this statement from the Westminster confession of faith: “There is but one only living and true God who is…without body, parts or passions.”
4. But the Scriptures teach otherwise:
a. “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen. 6:6).
b. God’s anger against sin is expressed numerous times throughout the Bible.
c. And Jesus the Son of God, while being fully divine also expressed sorrow (Jn. 11:35), anger (Mk. 3:5), frustration (Lk. 9:41), amazement (Lk. 7:9), and joy (Heb. 12:2).
5. If we deny our emotions, then we won’t know what to do when God expresses His emotions.
6. Our emotional makeup is one of the ways by which the image of God is seen in us.
G. A second truth is that human beings, created in the image of God are a physical, spiritual and emotional unity.
1. With our bodies we can relate to our physical environment, with our spirits we can be in fellowship with God, and with our emotions we can be affected by our relationships with God and with others.
2. And sometimes we cannot easily separate the physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of our being.
3. When we act or react in our lives, we discover that we are intricate, unified, and mysterious beings.
4. Our emotions can be affected by our relationship with God and our relationships with others, or the haphazard and fluctuating experiences of life.
5. Physical illness affects our emotional equilibrium and the reverse is also true – our emotions can affect our physical health.
6. Someone wrote, “The mind, body, and soul are very close neighbors, and one usually catches the ills of the others.”
7. We can talk about our body, soul, and spirit as separate components, but we live, breathe and react as one entity.
H. A third truth that gives us a firm foundation is: God created us with emotions so that our lives might be enriched.
1. God could have created us without emotions – He could have made us intelligent, calculating, insensitive machines.
2. But imagine how dull we would be and how dull life would be.
3. There would be no sorrow, but neither would there be joy.
4. We would not be able to enjoy the laughter of children, or the deep, warm bond of a lover, or the sympathy of friends.
5. But that’s not how God is, and that’s not how God has made us to be.
6. God has made us with emotions, not so they could control us or destroy us, but so that we might be able to enjoy life to the full.
7. We would not be better off without emotions.
I. One final truth that gives us a firm foundation is: God’s primary means of bringing about our emotional health and wellbeing is through our spirit and our relationship with God.
1. The primary source of our emotional wellbeing cannot be tied to physical or relational things on earth, because those things are prone to change and to fail us.
2. Life and circumstances can be hard and painful, and people can hurt us deeply (old saying is true “hurt people, hurt people”), but a healthy and consistent relationship with God can give us stability and buoy us through the storms of life.
3. Just as God has given us the ability to feel physical pain as a protection, the ability to feel emotional pain is for our protection as well.
a. The heat of the flame makes us pull our hand away from the stove, and the pain of a sliver tells us there is something in our finger that needs to be removed.
4. Similarly, the negative emotions we experience such as shame, bitterness and anger are not to be ignored, but are designed to lead us to do something that leads to health and wholeness.
5. Unfortunately, Satan is devastatingly effective in using the weapons of guilt, rejection, fear, grief, depression and loneliness against us – so we must be aware of his tactics.
6. It is God’s desire that each of us experience emotional and spiritual wholeness, and that we look to God to provide the foundation for our emotional and spiritual stability through our relationship with God.
7. But as I said earlier, the emotional pain we suffer may require medical and profession help, but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t our ultimate helper, even if God is helping us through those means.
J. As we move through this sermon series, I hope that we will learn how to identify our feelings.
1. Rather than ignoring our emotions, we need to learn to identify them and admit them and own them.
2. Then it will be important for us to explore the reason or reasons for these emotions – their cause or source.
3. Finally, we will then bring these emotions and reasons for them to God and seek God’s help through God’s truths and God’s healing power.
K. Allow me to explain how our emotional wholeness will be, and is, grounded in our relationship with God.
1. First, from our relationship with God, we experience and live in God’s grace and forgiveness.
a. Being forgiven and being able to forgive are keys to emotional health and wellbeing.
2. Second, in our relationship with God, we look to the cross as God’s answer to emotional pain.
a. Usually when we think of the cross we emphasize that Jesus died to free us from sin, and He certainly did.
b. But the freedom that we find in Christ and the cross is even broader than just our sin.
c. Isaiah 53:4 says, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried.”
d. In Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah predicted that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon Christ and anoint Him “to bring good news to the afflicted…to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberation to the captives, and freedom to prisoners.”
e. Jesus promised: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn. 8:32)
f. Through the cross we are free, free indeed, from sin and from anything that imprisons us.
3. Third, our relationship with God also brings us into relationship with God’s people – the church, the family of God.
a. As we experience the love and acceptance of God, God also wants us to experience the love and acceptance of one another.
b. The world and our families of origin can be cruel and full of rejection leaving many of us without a sense of “belongingness.”
c. Many of us may find ourselves with no family, or no roots, or no social acceptance, but God has designed the church to be a family that provides all those things.
d. The church is supposed to be a place of love, and support, and relationships.
4. Fourth, through our relationship with God, we can develop a wholesome self-image.
a. Where will our self-image come from?
b. Will it come from what our emotions tell us about ourselves or from what the world tells us about ourselves?
c. The world and the world of our emotions may tell us that we are shameful, guilty, unlovable and worthless.
d. But what does God say about us?
e. God tells us that through our faith in Jesus we are in Christ, we are sons and daughters of God, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we are considered God’s special possession, and we are assured of future glory.
f. Faced with such an apparent contradiction, we must make a choice.
g. Will we believe what God says or will we believe what others say or what our emotions say?
h. God says He loves us, whether we feel it or not, and God says He is near us even when He feels distant.
i. The more we believe what God says about us the more emotional health and stability we will have.
5. Finally, through our relationship with God, and our obedience to God, we will find joy.
a. Happiness and joy are part of the blessing that comes from doing the will of God.
L. As we bring this sermon to a close, I want to leave us with a few verses to meditate on.
1. I believe these verses will help us to embrace and employ our emotions.
2. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry for help…The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:15, 17-18)
3. When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward you. Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever… But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all you do. (Psalm 73:21-26, 28)
4. Here is Jesus’ invitation to us: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
M. How wonderful for all of us to know that when we cry out to the Lord that He hears us, helps us and rescues us.
1. How wonderful to know that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and those crushed in spirit.
2. How wonderful to know that our flesh and heart may fail, but that God is our strength and portion forever, and that we can take refuge in Him and find that His presence is good.
3. But to be blessed by any of those things and in any of those ways, we have to accept the invitation of Jesus to come to Him and learn from Him and to be yoked to Him.
4. If you haven’t yet become a follower of Jesus, then it starts by believing in Jesus and turning your life over to Him in repentance and baptism.
5. Once we start to walk with Jesus, He will never give up on us, and we must never give up on Him.
6. Jesus has set us free so that we can have abundant life and eternal life.
7. Freedom and life are only found in Him!
Managing Your Emotions, Erwin Lutzer, Christian Herald Books, 1981
Emotions: Can You Trust Them?, James Dobson, 1980