I grew up in a denomination where it was normal for preachers or evangelists to plead and whine and show passionate anger through their hell, fire, and brimstone messages of salvation. Doubt and fear were common motivators for going to the altar to get saved. To add confusion to the mix, we were taught that emotions had no validation in the salvation experience!
A famous train illustration with the caboose and smoke stack from the engine shows the irrelevance of feelings in our faith experiences. Many of us are taught to believe our emotions are in opposition to Scriptural principles. We must ignore them in our lives and others to live a life of faith.
The message is that calm feelings during life’s hardships reflects faith, but depression, anxiety, fear or sadness represents sin and distrust. We were taught to separate faith from feelings.
How many of us remember hearing parental commands like this? Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about? Some of us experience our spouses saying, If you let emotions get in the way, I’ll stop talking.
Here are 3 myths about emotions that many of us have believed as gospel truth.
Myth # 1 Emotions are unnecessary.
Myth # 2 Emotions are not part of our relationship with God.
Myth # 3 Undesirable emotions such as sadness, fear, or anger show weakness.
Realize that feelings are a part of God’s design for our humanity. He meets us through the emotions that point to deeper places of our souls awaiting His transformation. We are meant to tune into our emotions and pay attention to “our gut.” They are part of who we are and how we relate to others.
In his book, The God-Shaped Brain, Dr. Tim Jennings, addresses how our distorted views of an angry and revengeful God interferes with our mental well-being. Although none of us have a corner on all truth about neuroscience and Scripture, we now have understanding that supports mental and emotional well-being with growing beliefs of a personal God of love.
With all I’m taking in from my research of Scripture, my understanding of neuroscience, and many experiences in the counseling room, I was so excited for a lighthearted date with my husband and friends last weekend. We watched the new Disney Pixar movie, Inside Out.
In preparation we reviewed the official trailer and several Youtube scenes of the movie. I gained expectations knowing the director’s efforts of having a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuroresearchers in it’s development. I wholeheartedly recommend this movie for every counselor, minister, and parent! It was so worth our big bucket of popcorn, movie tickets, and emotions it evoked.
The little girl Riley, represented us all in our humanity showing the five little people in her head, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. In her growing adolescence and her family’s move across the country, the movie depicts the dialogue and actions of the personable little characters representing her emotions.
Watching this movie potentially touches us on several levels –
- from our own awareness of personal growth,
- to our understanding of relationships,
- to our cooperation with the loving God who designed us.
For parents of adolescent children it brings compassion to the necessary stages of moodiness and anger that launch teens toward adulthood.
For parents of adult children, it helps us grieve and accept the loss of childhood beliefs. The movie values necessary emotional pathways toward responsible adulthood.
Personal and Spiritual Growth
Our own humanity reflecting God’s image through every part of our being is designed to grow, and change, and develop. Our emotions are necessary. Emotions are part of our salvation experiences and spiritual journeys. Positive emotions like joy and happiness are no less or more valid than sadness or depression. They each have their purpose in our transformation throughout life.
Questions to Ponder
How has a period of sadness brought growth in your life?
What insights do you have to share?
How has this article touched you?