How do you feel about feelings? Have you given much thought to God’s emotions? Here’s what J.I. Packer thinks:
“When we study God’s wisdom, we learn about his mind.
When we study God’s power, we learn about his arm.
When we study God’s knowledge, we learn about his eyes.
When we study God’s Word, we learn about his mouth.
When we study God’s love, we learn about his heart.
We … stand on holy ground; we need the grace of reverence that we may tread it without sin.”
In His Image
When God created human beings in His image, that image included emotions. Consider the myriad of perfectly sinless emotions Yahweh displays in Scripture, and then imagine how perfectly Adam and Eve loved, laughed, and lived before sin tainted their feelings, reactions, and emotional responses.
Can you comprehend love without doubt? Joy without envy? Anger without selfish motivation?
Where Do Emotions Live?
In our modern culture, we attribute emotion to the heart, the seat of all things happy, sad, romantic, disappointing, etc. Not so with the Hebrew and Greek writers of Scripture. In the original languages of the Old and New Testaments, emotions dwelt in the bowels or inward parts—specifically attributed to the kidneys, liver, lungs and/or heart.
Can you imagine receiving a Valentine’s Day card that says, “I love you with all my liver”?
Emotion in Every Verse
Regardless of the location of biblical emotion, I fear we too often read God’s Word for educational/informative value alone. Granted, the Bible is valuable for navigating life on earth, but more treasures await beneath the surface of facts and commands. Each story and verse in Scripture is rife with emotion—good, bad, and ugly—meant to encourage, challenge, stir, and soothe.
Job’s Awed Surrender
After thirty-five chapters of dire complaints and his friends’ bad advice, Job listened in awe to God’s personal revelation. Hear the emotion of a man—still suffering physically—whose personal encounter with God has surpassed any other care in his life.
“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
– Job 42:5-6
Hosea’s Heartfelt Promise
God’s message through Hosea promised unyielding consequences for disobedience, and then mercy for repentant hearts. Listen to the God who adores us too much to leave us unchanged.
“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.”
– Hosea 2:19-20
Jesus’ Righteous Anger
Jesus Christ was no marshmallow. He was no doormat. He endured every insult with purpose. The stripes on His back, the nails in His hands and feet—they held meaning. And when He was angry, He was exquisitely so. Perfect. Fierce. Terrifying. Righteous.
“To those who sold doves [Jesus] said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’ His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”
– John 2:16-17
Emotions Today, Yesterday, and Forever
As we said in junior high, “So, what’s the big whoop about emotion?”
Well, I spent a few days back home in the Midwest, visiting family members and long-time friends. These relationships are the bedrock of my life, the people with whom I’ve shared every kind of emotion—yesterday, today, and will continue to share for years to come.
But did I mention…these folks make me crazy! Why? Because we know each other too well to “fake” emotions.
Flowery relationships are easy. Everyone smiles and talks about the weather. But long-time relationships are messy. The bloom falls off the rose, and we’re left with a green stick and thorns, right? With long-term relationships, we enjoy several seasons of beautiful blooms, but eventually the petals fall off, and the folks who know us best see our thorny emotions in all their prickly glory.
Isn’t it easier to camouflage thorns—and emotions? (OUCH! Did I just write that for the whole world to see? Eee-gad!)
The Truth About Biblical Emotion
Notice I said EASIER, not better. I’m tempted to hide behind the petals—camouflage the emotions. But here’s a truth I’ve learned recently:
If we’d rather rush past emotions in life, chances are we’re also rushing past emotions in God’s Word—and missing out on God’s emotions.
That’s tragic. If we don’t spend time exploring the emotion in God’s Word, how will we ever know the One who laughs, the One who is jealous for our affection, and the One who loves us?
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”
– 1 John 4:16
Every book, chapter, and verse of Scripture was written for more than mere analysis. It was written to feel. Take time to let Scripture speak to your heart…or your liver or wherever the Lord is working in your emotions. His long-term relationship is definitely worth the time and effort—just as my long-time friends and family relationships are worth every sigh and tear.
- Every book, chapter, and verse of the Bible serves for more than mere analysis. It was written to feel.
- If we’d rather rush past emotions in life, chances are we’re also rushing past emotions in God’s Word.
- How can exploring biblical emotion draw us closer to the Lord?
- What are some pitfalls in applying our tainted, human emotion to God’s Living Word?