Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Christian and Emotions

Learning From the Emotional Life of Jesus
by Bruce Narramore, Ph.D.

Feelings aren't important." "Emotions get in the way." "Don't trust your feelings." "Don't feel sad." "Just trust God."

Have you ever heard advice like this? I suspect you have because many Christians have a serious misunderstanding about the Christian life. They think Christians should live stoic-like existences, especially as far as strong emotions are concerned.

But did you know the Bible describes more than 20 different emotions that Jesus felt? And they weren't all happy feelings either! Among others, Jesus felt affection, anguish, anger, compassion, distress, grief, gladness, indignation, joy, love, peace, sadness, sympathy, troubled and weary. If Christ is our model of perfect spiritual and emotional maturity, perhaps we can learn by taking a look at a few of Jesus' emotions!

If we asked Jesus' disciples for the one word that best described His feelings for the multitudes of people He encountered throughout His public ministry, they would reply, "compassion." It is the emotion most frequently attributed to Jesus. Matthew 9:36, for example, tells us, "When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Jesus fed the four thousand because they hadn't eaten for three days and He had "compassion on these people" (Matthew 15:32). He also healed the two blind men beside the roadside out of compassion (Matthew 20:34). As a compassionate person, Jesus was profoundly moved by the sufferings and troubles of those He encountered.

If compassion characterizes Jesus' feelings toward the multitudes, love epitomizes His relationships with those closest to Him. John the hot tempered, impulsive follower who eventually became known as the Apostle of Love, tells us that as Lazarus lay dying, his sisters, Martha and Mary, sent this word to Jesus: "Lord, the one you love is sick." Then John records, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11:3-5).
Jesus didn't try to be less than human by shielding Himself from grief and pain. He allowed Himself to suffer these normal human emotions.

On two occasions Jesus described himself as joyful. Both are recorded by John. The first instance follows Jesus predicting His betrayal. Jesus said, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:9-11).

Jesus connects His joy (which He wants His disciples to share) with remaining in the Father's love and obeying His command-ments. Jesus' joy, in other words, comes from a loving relationship—specifically, His relationship with His Father— regardless of His temporary circumstances.

Grief and Sorrow
Jesus was pained when He saw others suffering or missing out on all that was available for them. In one of the most poignant moments of His public life, John tells us that when Jesus saw Mary weeping over Lazarus' death, "He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." Then, as Mary and Martha were taking Jesus to the body of Lazarus, "Jesus wept." He didn't try, as we sometimes do in times of sorrow, to be outwardly "strong" and hide or deny His feelings. His strength showed through His tears. He had the strength to care enough to weep.

Jesus also wept over Jerusalem as though His heart was breaking. And when He healed the man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath and the Pharisees disapproved, He was "deeply distressed (grieved) at their stubborn hearts (John 3:5).

Jesus didn't try to be less than human by shielding Himself from grief and pain. He allowed Himself to suffer these normal human emotions.

Just as Jesus' compassionate nature at times led Him to grieve and sorrow, it also led Him to be angry. Perhaps the best known expression of His anger was when He drove the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem at the Passover. John describes it this way: "So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, 'Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!' " (John 2:15-16).

Think, too, of Jesus' interactions with the religious leaders of His day. They were periodically punctuated by assertive conflicts and sometimes angry confrontations. Jesus was angered by the callous legalism that led the Pharisees to be more committed to fulfilling the letter of the law than to lovingly doing good by healing or helping others on the Sabbath.

Like Christ, mature Christians will experience angry feelings, but those feelings will be stimulated by a love and concern for others and for righteousness rather than by the frustration of our own desires.

Along with love and compassion, one other emotion of Jesus seemed to have a unifying effect upon His entire personality. That is the emotion of peace. As Jesus prepared to leave His disciples in death He told them, "But a time is coming and has come, when you will be scattered, each to His own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:32-33).

Dr. Bruce Narramore, Ph.D. is president of the Narramore Christian Foundation, a well-known author, and founding dean of the Rosemead School of Psychology.

No comments:

Post a Comment