29/08/2018: Faith and Feelings | Timothy Rist

  • “The Emotionally Healthy Church [Peter Scazzero] – A strategy for Discipleship that actually changes lives”. One of the key discussion points has been that a church that is emotionally healthy, is a church that is spiritually mature. In other words, spiritual growth and spiritual maturity are dependent on the church living in an emotionally healthy manner; that health means “looking beneath the surface, dealing with our defence mechanisms, breaking the power of the past, confronting the strongholds of the mind etc.”
  • We must remember always:

Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

  • Today we explore the relationship between “Faith and Feelings”; perhaps we could even refer to this as “How what we believe is challenged by what life makes us feel”?
  • Robert Solomon = “We live our lives through our emotions, and it is our emotions that give our lives meaning. What interests or fascinates us, who we love, what angers us, what moves us, what bores us—all of this defines us, gives us character, constitutes who we are.”[i]
  • It is true, when we greet each other “Howzit” = Hello, how are you doing? We anticipate a reply, all to often the response is “Fine and you?” [Courteous but often dishonest and convenient…?]
  • Many have a “love/hate” relationship with their emotions. How has society taught/shaped us to dealing with our emotions [Are emotions problematic, irrational, to be explored only by the weak?] What is your personal response to your emotional life? [Supress/Freeze, Feed/Encourage, Poison/Healing?]
  • Danger of extremes: Spend “all” our time “unpacking” our emotions; or “deny”. Embrace and work through emotional history or avoid past reality and drown the feelings in scripture. Balance is vital.
  • We all feel emotions and at times in overpowering positive ways [birth of a child].
  • Emotions affect how the body functions [Depression=anger turned inward].
  • Emotions involve the body and the mind; salvation is for the “whole person”:

Romans 12:2

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

  • Emotions are processed in the mind; emotions always follow a decision that has been made; emotions never happen independent of a thought process. The process might occur so quickly we are unaware of it [a well-practiced mental skill that began to be shaped in our infancy… crying=reaction].
  • Matthew Schlimm:

“[At] their core, emotions involve assessments, typically regarding things that matter deeply to us and things we cannot fully control.

To illustrate, consider the following chart:

PAST or PRESENT                     FUTURE

POSITIVE             Happiness, Joy, Relief                 Excitement, Hope

NEGATIVE            Guilt, Sadness, Anger                 Worry, Anxiety, Fear

As it begins to illustrate, our emotions are caught up in positive and negative assessments we make about the past, present, and future[ii].

  • Emotions have a physical impact on us, and this impact can be found at the intersection between the body and the mind. We are connected [Mind, Body/Heart, Soul].
  • We can learn to decide how we will let our emotions influence us [past, present and future]. We do not have to let our emotions define us, our relationship with God, through Jesus defines who we are:

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

  • The question then is “Does our faith make any difference in the world of emotions?”
  • Romans 12 [talks of transformation and changed behaviours].
  • When it comes to the Bible, the books are filled with emotive language [39 O.T; and 27 N.T; Catholic Bible has an additional 11 in between the Testaments]. Love, fear, hate, repent, anger, judgement, forgiveness…


How should we deal with our emotions from a faith perspective?

  1. There is not just one approach in the Bible for dealing with emotion. Each situation has a different approach and response, and each person deals with their own situation in a different way:

Romans 12:15

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

  1. We are broken people living in a fallen world and so our faith responses to emotions will not be perfect. At times our judgement will be flawed [Potiphar and Joseph – Gen.39:19-20]. We can misread scripture, trust the wrong friends, over-rule common sense, ignore advice… sometimes logic and reason don’t seem to work. A skewed evaluation of emotion can lead to a skewed perception of God [froth/bubbles; glass half-full/half-empty/no glass]. All judgement and no grace, all grace with no cost.
  2. Faith does have a significant impact on our emotional lives. The confusion is often evident though – sometimes even the Good News does not change how we feel; we have forgiven someone but still struggle with the hurt; remember you are not perfect – you are a work in progress.
  3. Worship helps connect the two! Have you ever been touched deeply in your spirit by a time of worship? Have you ever experienced the peace of God with you, when everything seemed to be collapsing around you, an experience so remarkable you could not explain it, but believe it happened? We sometime join/connect with Jesus when weeping for someone we love [John 11:35] [Conversion Experience – how to explain that to a non-believer?].
  4. The Scriptures are about the past, present, and the future of God’s relationship with all of creation. When we are born again and become disciples then our lives mirror how scripture works – we in our relationship with the Lord can engage with our past, embrace the Lord in our present, and hope/trust him for our future and for the future of all creation.

Romans 8:22

“… the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

Romans 5:1-5

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

  1. Use your imagination! The Scriptures are filled with stories of how people learnt to listen to God, and follow his direction, by what they saw as a possible future reality [Moses – liberation from Egypt; Isaiah and prophets – Messiah]. In the new Testament the church was built around the “visions” of what could be/would be the life of the early church

2 Corinthians 4:17

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Romans 8:37-39

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

  1. The Bible makes it clear that believers will never be exempt from negative emotions, or emotional hurt and pain [Psalms, Lamentations], even Jesus experienced deep emotional pain and used Scripture to cry out to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane [Mark 14:34] and at the time of his death on the Cross [Mark 15:34]. We like Jesus, must learn to keep our emotional life and our faith in a healthy and spirit-led tension.
  2. Faith and Emotion taken together are the paving on the road of the Gospel [Good News] – The Prodigal Son [Luke 15:11-32] – disobedience, betrayal, love, forgiveness, healing from guilt, restoration….

[i] Robert C. Solomon, True to Our Feelings (Oxford University Press, 2007), 1.

[ii] “Faith and Feeling: vol.6, No.1: 2011: Columbia Theological Seminary.