Why did God give us such a vast array of emotions? Can our emotions help us develop strong connections with Him and our fellow man?
Did you know that Jesus wept? Christ showed emotion throughout His life on earth as a mortal man. As the Creator of life and the Savior of mankind, we know much about Jesus Christ's humanity by the stories He told and by witnesses' accounts of His life. Did you ever think that His example could teach us about our emotions?
To be alive is to have feelings and passions. Life has its thrills and chills. You can be excited, disappointed, elated and terrified. There is nothing better than to be "in love" or to feel deeply about someone who shows an interest in you.
Wouldn't life be dull if there were never laughter or sorrow, only a mechanized tedium of everyday living? What makes life special is our feelings about things and other people. It's almost magical when someone makes us laugh or when that special person smiles at us—speaking a wonderful wordless message of interest. The fact that we can blush, get embarrassed or shed a tear makes us the fascinating creatures we are.
Inside my brain on a plane
While watching a movie on an airplane several years ago, one scene brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat, causing me to reach for a tissue deep in my pocket. The stranger next to me, also watching the in-flight movie, noticed my obvious emotion. I'm sure he wondered why I would be so moved since he didn't seem to be affected in the same way.
Later, it was his turn to choke up and dab his eyes only to smile at me and say, "They got me too." After the flick, we talked about many things. To my surprise, he turned out to be an executive of an airline and offered me a gold card to upgrade my travel on subsequent flights. Yes, I did upgrade to first class many times after that, thanks to relating to a perfect stranger initiated by a few tears being tugged out of me by actors in a movie.
My little experience demonstrated that sharing our emotions can help us relate to people and build bonds of friendship. But just what was it that caused me to become so emotional?
Scientists have discovered that the brain is stimulated in the amygdalae—a pair of neuron groups located deep within the medial temporal lobes—when strong emotions are triggered. This area becomes especially active when we experience intense emotions like passionate desire or fear. The amygdalae are also involved in the storage of memories associated with emotional events. God gave us these amazing little organs. But why?
In the ageless wisdom of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote that there is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes:3:4). Frankly, there is a time for almost every emotion we have been given. A well-adjusted person isn't afraid of emotion and realizes that this is a gift of God.
To feel emotions is to be alive. Sadly, people often hide their feelings and sometimes try to artificially alter their feelings with drugs, alcohol or ready-made distractions. Many of today's psychologists are convinced that one's "emotional intelligence," or EQ, is a far better predictor of life success than one's "rational intelligence," or IQ. However, emotions can lead you in the wrong direction if not properly conditioned.
There are emotions that make us feel uneasy. We might feel boredom, impatience, distress, mild embarrassment, fear, apprehension, worry or anxiety.
There are also positive emotional feelings like appreciation, curiosity, excitement, determination, confidence and cheerfulness. To develop emotional intelligence, which is the ability to show the right emotion for the right reason, is to understand God's purpose for our lives.
Jesus wept because He saw people who needed leadership. He saw first-century Jews living in an occupied country as sheep without a shepherd. Today we have many people around the world who seem lost or headed for broken relationships. We also realize there is a clash of civilizations where some view life far differently than we do. It is difficult to fathom the chilling reality of suicide bombers.
To have the right emotions, we need to understand that there are laws governing our relationship with God and with our neighbors. By following God's revealed way of living, we can demonstrate an emotional intelligence that heightens being alive.
Applaud the good; hate evil
It's important to focus on the positive things in life. As the apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8).
Hate, by contrast, is a strong emotion that is developed by reaction to what is hurtful or painful. God reveals that sin is the transgression of His holy law. The wages, or result, of sin is death (Romans:6:23). Sin also brings much pain into our lives. Knowing that there is cause and effect helps us make right decisions.
David says in the Psalms, "You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart" (Psalm:97:10-11).
Notice the emotional state of those who are upright in heart. David describes it as gladness. Living a righteous life is a good way to counteract the negative emotions of distress, embarrassment, fear, apprehension, worry and anxiety.
Though unpleasant to experience, negative emotions can encourage us to make needed changes in our lives. We all know stress is bad for us.
Today's neuroscientists have discovered that chronic stress actually causes physical damage to a part of our brain, the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory (www.trainersdirect.com ). No wonder we have a hard time thinking properly when we are under stress!
Godly emotions are developed by studying God's purpose for living. He wants us to experience the "joy" of salvation (Psalm:51:12) and "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). When our great God created this amazing world, the angels "shouted for joy" (Job:38:7).
Satan is the god of this world, and he wants us to share his pain and torment. But if we want the joy and happiness that accompany a successful spiritual life, we need to understand God's purpose for our lives. God wants us to develop personal integrity through living by the golden rule: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well" (James:2:8).
Emotions are marvelous. They make us feel alive and unique. Take the time to smell the roses and stare at a beautiful sunset, punctuated with golden toasted clouds that churn slowly into darkness. Hug a friend, and whisper a prayer for those in need.
If you feel deeply, you will understand what Jesus felt when He looked at a people who were without guidance and quietly wept. We have much to live for and need to hone our emotional skills to become people with a real connection to a real God who wants us to be a part of His eternity. VT