Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Shades of Gray: On the Subject of Emotions

Emotions. Fear. Joy. Hatred. Euphoria. Anger. Love. Loneliness. These are all only a few examples of the many complex entities that we package into one tiny word- emotions. Sometimes they seem to live and breathe of their own volition. One will grab us, shake us, try and control us. And then in the next minute it will disappear as quickly as it came and another will pop up in its place.

In today's society, the subject of emotions is something many Christians have a strong opinion about. They read a passage from Scripture that says, "Fear not," so they believe that all fear is wrong. Others read that "God is love" and latch onto that, believing that we are to love, love, love people to the point of accepting everything about them- including their sins that they refuse to change.

I'm just going to say it right now: Christians need to stop seeing emotions at black and white (i.e.- all good or all bad). They need to take a good long look at not only what God is telling us to do, but also His nature. Through this they will see that base emotions in and of themselves are platonic- shades of gray, if you will. It's what we choose to morph them into that turn them into either black or white.

Before you decide to close this tab and shut me off completely, hear me out. If you don't agree, that's fine. Tell me why in the comments. Let me see your point of view. But don't tune me out just because you don't like what I have to say. (And, yes, I agree that "black" emotions need to be dealt with- in a Biblical, loving manner.)

A friend of mine told me a story about a man who was at his wife's funeral. He was old now (probably in his late sixties) and had lived his life as a man who showed little to no emotion. Even now- at his own wife's funeral- he didn't shed a single tear. My friend asked him, "Why aren't you sad?" His response was surprising. "It's a sin for Christians to be sad," he replied. Apparently, somewhere along the line, he had gotten this impression. The sad thing was, it wasn't because he was happy his wife was in heaven with Jesus or that he was contented with his long life with her- it was just because it was a "sin" for Christians to mourn.

Another instance of forced emotional denial is one that makes me want to cry a little every time I hear it. When we as single people join a group on Facebook or elsewhere that is specifically for us "single" people, we want to hear encouragement, right? Unfortunately, all too often, there is no encouragement in our loneliness when we hear others say, "You shouldn't be lonely. You have Jesus." As wonderful as that statement is, it forgets a few things: Jesus felt lonely. Do you think that he brought the disciples into the garden (right before His death) for moral support as he sweated blood? I don't think so. He knew they wouldn't be able to stay awake and wouldn't realize the gravity of His situation. I honestly think He felt lonely with the prospect of facing this last trial on His own. How about when He was hanging on the cross and God turned away from Him? The Son of God who had always been one with the Father, always connected with Him suddenly has that all torn away so that He could save a bunch of people that hated Him. That's true loneliness. And did He sin in His loneliness? The Bible says He was perfect and sinless His whole life. So... no.

You see, the thing with loneliness is that it can produce one of two results in us: Either we draw near to God or we start fantasizing and lusting after someone else. And... eventually we commit adultery. It's the same with anger. The Bible says, "Be angry and do not sin." Anger will either morph into selfish, destructive anger or into righteous anger. Regret: Either we will be dragged down into soul-crushing guilt and depression or we will choose to let it turn into repentance and draw us to God (who has already forgiven us, by the way). And how about fear? God says many times, "Do not fear," but He also calls us to "Be of good courage." Without fear, there is no courage because the definition of courage is doing something despite your fear. So, really, if we read the whole context of those passages, what is He trying to say? Let me tell you- He's saying, "Hey, I know you are human. Fear is a human emotion. I get that. But I want you to let that fear drive you to Me, not away from Me. Let Me take your fear and turn it into My courage." God doesn't want us to be puddles of hysteria. It's like the example in Proverbs where the guy says, "I think there's a lion in the streets! I better stay home today." He let his fear run his life.

God doesn't want us to condemn ourselves and others for the basic "gray" emotions we have.

He wants us to let those emotions drive us to Him, not for us to be driven by them.

So ask yourself: Do you find yourself telling people, "You're sinning," when they confide their "gray" fear, anger, grief, or loneliness with you- even if they are leading to a positive ("white") result? Or are you looking at these emotions with a clear head and Scripture in Your heart so that you can be a help and encouragement? Are you doing this for yourself? 

Think about it.


  1. Hi! I wanted to say that I agree with you! We are humans and it is something normal to have gray emotions, sometimes. The thing is how we deal with them. For those who believe that we always have to be joyful, or happy or that we have to love and accept everyone and everything about people around us,as you said, let us think about some good examples of people in the Scripture. Let's take David, for instance; it is enough to read some of the Psalms and you will see what I am talking about- he was tried by such a wide range of feelings. Or Moses, or how Joshua felt after Moses's death, or Elijah when he was so discouraged and wanted to die... All these stories were placed in the Bible for us, to understand that these people were just like us, with weaknesses and gray feelings, but because they walked with God, they could overcome these emotions, and become part of the great plan of The Almighty. So if you're having a hard time and you are afraid, or you feel alone, of you're sad, I do not think it's a sin as long as you don't let that feeling rule over you. Always remember: 'And we know that for all those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.' Romans 8:28 I am a human being, I am weak, but He makes me strong. :)

  2. you're welcome! :)