A feeling is an emotional state or reaction. It is the response to a thought or a perception of an event within the body. Feelings incline us towards or away from things that come before our minds. In this way, feelings move us, they make us feel alive, they incline us to action. Feelings are kind of like early warning systems—we can feel things in our body before our conscious mind has a chance to process them.
God has created us to feel strong emotions—we are not just thinking things, we are feeling things—beings with passions, raw emotions, and desires. The problem is that many of us have never seen a model of how to interact with our feelings in a healthy way. We may have been taught to repress or stuff our feelings or, alternatively, we may have been taught to live from our feelings.
Between these two extremes is a place of emotional health. We want see why God gave us feelings, how we are to process and understand them, and how he speaks through them. As we learn to do the work off drawing our feelings out, naming them and trying to understand them, we become more present to our world, ourselves, and our God. “To feel is human, to minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of God. To the degree that we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others and ourselves well” (Dan Allender, City of the Soul)
Researchers describe the range of emotions human beings feel them as 8 families. (Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence)
Jesus displayed all of these emotions (with the exception of shame). When we see Jesus express these emotions, he reveals to us the emotional complexity and depth of God himself. If we watch Jesus closely, we will see that he was completely present to his feelings and these feelings were folded into how he related with his heavenly Father. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus displays this l—he doesn’t put on a brave face, but names his emotion saying, “I feel overwhelmed with sorrow.” Then invites others into what he is feeling. Finally, Jesus takes that strong emotion to God—eventually coming to a place of trust and submission.
God allows us to feel these things, but he also wants to help us move through them. For the Psalmist of Psalm 42, the act of writing it out, and then praying out loud what he feels, becomes a safe way for him to process his strong emotions with God.
There are three ways that God speaks through feelings:
God works through feelings to alert us to things and help us understand ourselves.
God uses feelings to root us in our humanity.
God speaks through our feelings by using them to draw us to himself.
In this next week, let us pay closer attention to our feelings and bring them to God in order to learn how to process them as part of growing in maturity and depth.