What does the Bible say about emotions?
According to scripture, we are made in the image of God, and because God has emotions, so do we. In Genesis, we read about Adam and Eve, who, when tempted by Satan, chose to disobey God. Their disobedience brought sin into the world, corrupting everything, including our emotions. As Christians, our emotions are connected to our fallen and renewed nature. Because of this, our emotions aren’t always a good gauge for truth. Sin can impact our emotions, distorting decisions or beliefs about ourselves and God. If you want to understand your emotions and what scripture says, here are some thoughts to consider.
Christian quotes about emotions
“We must not allow our emotions to hold sway over our minds. Rather, we must seek to let the truth of God rule our minds. Our emotions must become subservient to the truth.” Jerry Bridges
“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” C.S. Lewis
“Human feelings change as the world changes. Their easy excitement can occasion a saint to lose his spiritual balance. Their constant disturbance can affect a believer’s peace in his spirit.” Watchman Nee
Does God have emotions?
As we read the Bible, we learn that God has emotions, but unlike us, God’s emotions are without sin. His emotions are perfect and perfectly timed for each situation. Here are some scripture verses where we see God’s emotional responses.
Sadness and grief
Genesis 6:6 – “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”
Psalms 78:40 “How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert!”
Isaiah 63:10 (NASB) “But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.
Genesis 1:31- “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
Matthew 21:12-13 “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Psalms 7:11 (ESV) “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.”
Isaiah 5:25 (KJV) “Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”
Romans 5:5 – “and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT) “Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
Zephaniah 3:17 “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.* He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Psalm 149:4 “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.”
Longing for His people
1 Timothy 2:4-4 “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
All emotions are stained by sin
God created humans with emotions. In his August 12, 2012, online article, Your Emotions Are A Gauge, Not A Guide, Jon Bloom explains that our emotions should inform us about our heart, not control us. They reveal to us what we believe and what we value. Basically, our emotions show us what’s inside our hearts. They reveal what we fear, trust, or love.
Proverbs 28:26 (NIV) “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.”
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
Ephesians 4:22 “to put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.”
God’s purpose for emotions
Our emotions shouldn’t control us, but we shouldn’t ignore our emotions or push them aside, pretending they don’t exist. Emotions have a rightful place in our lives. God wants us to experience the blessing of emotions. They enrich our lives and give us depth of experience. Our emotions help us relate to God and others. During our prayer times, we can pour our thoughts and feelings to God. We can express love and care for our family and friends because of our emotions.
It’s important, as believers, to also be aware of Satan’s desire to derail us by causing us to give in to our emotions, allowing them to affect our decisions and beliefs about God or ourselves. Scripture tells us to be on guard because
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 ESV)
When we realize that our emotions are taking control, we can fight these negative emotions with God’s word. Scripture equips us to fight against Satan’s lies.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)
It’s important to have Christian fellowship to deal with what’s going on in our lives and keep us anchored in God’s grace and truth.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)
1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
We express both positive and negative emotions. Some positive emotions we have include
Some of our sinful emotions include
As Christians, we shouldn’t be afraid of our feelings, but we must examine them and discern where they’re coming from. We can ask ourselves some questions, such as
- What do I want?
- Why do I want it?
- Do I want it too much?
- Is this desire more important than God?
Proverbs 20:5 “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
Being controlled by emotions: How to follow God instead?
Suppose we recognize that our emotions control or affect how we view God or ourselves. How can we discern if our emotions are controlling us? Here are some questions you might ask yourself.
- What does God say about me?
- What does God say about himself?
- What does God say about this situation or practice?
Of course, not every situation is addressed in the Bible, but you can discern how your emotions control your thoughts and actions. Are you responding in a God-glorifying way? Or are you giving into anger or fear?
For instance, if you’re struggling with anger at your spouse and, in your anger, you say unkind words to them, it should be evident that you’ve allowed your emotions to control you leading to sin. Knowing what scripture says about anger convicts and helps you to repent to your spouse. Scripture can also help you avoid a sinful response the next time you feel angry.
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.(Proverbs 15:18 ESV)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4: 31-32 ESV)
Scripture helps you see your angry outburst as a sin. It also tells you that you can be angry without sinning.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV)
How do I give my emotions to God?
It’s important to confess how we’re feeling to Jesus. He understands our struggles since he, too, was tempted as we are.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
The Holy Spirit will bring to mind verses to encourage us and guide you.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 ESV)
King David is a great example of someone in the Bible who prayed fervently to God. Here are a few examples.
I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. (Psalm 6:6 ESV)
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! (Psalm 130:1 ESV)
My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long? (Psalm 6:3 ESV)
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1 ESV)
Psalms 55:22 “Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
How does God handle our emotions?
God can handle our deepest emotions. He wants us to bring them to him, no matter how ugly or confusing they seem.
There’s a story in the Old Testament about a woman named Hannah who longed for a child but couldn’t conceive. Her husband’s second wife, Peninnah, mocked and taunted her because she was barren. In her grief, Hannah prayed to God, confessing her sadness and bitterness.
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. (1 Samuel 1:10 ESV)
Her emotions were so raw she was accused by Eli, the priest, of being drunk.
But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” (1 Samuel 1:15-16 ESV)
God, in his mercy, heard her prayer and granted her a son named Samuel. God loves his children to come to him and pour out our hearts. He answers us according to his will. Of course, we don’t always give what we ask for, but we can trust that God gives us what’s best for us.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.(Psalm 43:5 ESV)
Isaiah 40:1 “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”
Isaiah 51:3 “For the LORD will comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; He will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and melodious song.”
Isaiah 51:12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Why should you be afraid of mortal man, of a son of man who withers like grass?”
Did Jesus ever show emotion?
In scripture, we read of many instances where Jesus showed emotion. Some verses show us the emotions Jesus experienced here on earth.
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, (Luke 19:41 ESV)
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. (Matthew 26:37 ESV)
Hebrews 5:7 “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”
And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”(Mark 8:12 ESV)
John 11:35 “Jesus wept.”
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ( John 15:11 ESV)
Hebrews 12:2 2 “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Luke 10:21 “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
Examples of emotions in the Bible
The Bible has many stories of real people who expressed real emotions. In Genesis, we read that Cain got angry at his brother. His anger led to him murdering Abel. Later in Genesis, we read that Abram, out of fear of reprisals, lied to Pharaoh about Sarai being his sister instead of his wife. He didn’t trust that God could protect him unless he lied.
Humans are created in God’s image. Like God, we possess emotions. Our emotions are a gift from God. They help us relate to God and others more deeply. Although God displays emotions perfectly, our sinful nature taints our emotions. Because of this, our emotions aren’t a good gauge of what’s true in our lives. It’s important not to let our emotions control our decisions or views about other people or situations but to tell God how we feel. We shouldn’t push our emotions aside or pretend they don’t exist. Instead, through prayer, reading Scripture and talking to other Christians about our feelings, we can grow in dealing with our emotions. Reading the Bible teaches us how others struggled with their feelings. Scripture also reveals the truth about ourselves and God. Let’s learn to use emotions to grow in our relationship with God and enjoy his presence more richly.
Exodus 6:5 “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant.”
Jeremiah 31:3 “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
1 Samuel 1:10-11 “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
Nehemiah 12:43 “And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.”
Luke 24:41 “And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”