God, hearts and emotions - how do they all fit in?
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February is called the month of love, epitomized by Valentine’s Day and hearts.  Symbols of love—hearts, candy, flowers, balloons and all manner of red stuff—abound.  But love is not a heart-shaped emoticon we click on FaceBook to ‘react’ to something, nor is it a box of chocolates or flowers.  Love isn’t even an emotion or a symbol of emotion.  Love is a verb, and if you recall from grade school lessons, verbs denote action. 

Our culture tells us “follow your heart”, “do what feels good”, “love whoever you want”, “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s right for you”, essentially to be governed by our emotions.  But is that the role God wants emotions to play in our lives?  Is it acceptable for the Christian to indulge in emotional gratification—euphoria, drama, or self-pity?  What role are emotions supposed to play in the life of the Christian? And how exactly does the ‘heart’ fit in?

The Bible uses the word ‘heart’ over 800 times, and not once does it refer to the organ of the body that pumps blood.  Nor is it referring to an emotion or love.  In the Bible, the word heart is used indicate the central, core being of a human, the center of moral reasoning or the mind or spirit.  It is arguably defined as the overlap of the soul (mind, reasoning and emotions) and spirit (the essence of our eternal existence, the part of man that communicates intimately with the spiritual realm) of a human.

The Bible gives us insight into God’s emotions: He was pleased, satisfied1; He gets angry2; He is jealous3; He is loyal, committed, faithful4; He is compassionate, loving5; He is joyful6. You can probably think of many more emotions God expresses.  Emotions you will not find, though, are fear—which is the opposite of faith, self-pity, or any selfish or egocentric emotions.  God has no shallowness; His emotions are always thoroughly tempered with truth and filtered through His infinite wisdom.  The Bible also instructs us on God’s desire for our heart and emotions: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).  That verse covers a lot of territory—our entire being! This kind of comprehensive love demands obedience and faith, not emotional feeling.

Most people have the ability to temper their emotions with logical reasoning.  They monitor their impulses and learn not to yell at the police officer when pulled over even if they’re angry; not to cry or scream when criticized even though they are hurt; not to gush or throw themselves at people they find appealing. Most people recognize rational behavior from irrational, emotional behavior.  Our spirit comes to us similarly, filtered through logic and reason.  God asks us to insert faith, and subject our cognitive powers of logic and reason to that faith, substituting His Word for the logical, reasonable assessment of the material situation in the natural (2 Corinthians 10:5.)  NOT doing this is very displeasing to God and dangerous for us (Hebrews 11:6, Numbers 13, 14).

In prayer, the Bible shares many examples of people expressing a vast array of emotions.  Job was hopeless (Job 3) and hurt (Job 6); Jeremiah felt misled by God (Jeremiah 20:7); Hannah was desperate (1 Samuel 1:10); and there are many, many more.  God is compassionate, but unmoved by emotions.  He is moved by faith.  Prayers and words that focus on the problem--itemizing all the horrible circumstances that, in the natural, are hurting us--are simply the equivalent of repeating the ‘evil report’ of Numbers 13:27-32.  The report might be a factual account of the circumstances, but it is a report based in the emotion of fear and devoid of faith.  It totally disregards God’s promises, His covenant and faithfulness.  It displays a complete lack of faith.  It is a prayer that does not put God first or show obedience. Our examples shared their emotions with God, but their actions revealed their faith in God’s Word and the resulting obedience in words and action.  In Jeremiah’s prayer, by verse 11 he is recounting God’s promise and singing and praising God in verse 13; although he is still struggling, he remained obedient. Job repented and obediently interceded for his friends, gaining his own restoration. Immediately (long before the answer was in hand), Hannah’s face was no longer downcast because she believed her prayer was answered. (see Mark 11:24)

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.  Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:16-19 NLT.

Emotions are natural, fear is natural.  The born-again believer has had a super-natural rebirth, been endued with the very essence of God, given unlimited access to the same Holy Spirit power that raised Jesus from death.  The born-again believer is not supposed to live “naturally” or be ruled by emotions but is supposed to be led by the Spirit and fight with super-natural weapons that have super-natural powers (Romans 8:14, 2 Corinthians 10:4).  We love it when we get spiritual warm fuzzies, but with or without the warm fuzzies, faith and truth must dominate emotion. Feelings are fickle and subject to change without notice, God’s Word is unchangeable truth. Emotional, fearful prayers may affect people, but it is faith in the Word of God that moves mountains.

Set a goal this February to fully experience God’s perfect love.  Destroy the power of fear and those stronghold emotions; take ‘evil report’ thoughts and replace them with the promises that are yes and amen in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20.)  Set aside intentional time with God, a ‘date night’ or quiet daily period to let His love pour into you. Adjust your heart (your thinking, your emotions, your spirit) to agree with God’s Word.  Meditate on His good promises and let everyone of those be fulfilled for you7. Make this February a month of love that will change your life, prayers and heart forever!
1.    Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31
2.    Exodus 32:10; Numbers 22:22; 1 Chronicles 27:24; Psalm 7:11, 78:31; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 5:6; Revelation 14:10
3.    Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19; Zechariah 8:2; Nahum 1:2; 2 Corinthians 11:2
4.    Genesis17:7; Psalm 145:8; Ezekiel 16:60; 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 5:24; Revelation 19:11
5.    Lamentations 3:32; Hosea 2:19; Psalm 69:16, 86:15; Isaiah 54:8, 63:9
6.    Matthew 25:21-23; Nehemiah 8:10
7.    Joshua 21:45, Joshua 23:14, 1Kings 8:56

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