written by Pastor Jim Lee
There is much confusion about emotional health in the Body of Christ. What is it? Why does it matter? What does the Bible say about this topic?
We see emotional health mentioned throughout the Scriptures. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 mentions a whole host of different attributes of the Spirit pointing to emotional wellness. Implied in the fruit of the Spirit is the ability to love and care for others. One can see dealing with stress and adapting to change as Paul writes of “the peace that passes understanding” from a prison cell in Philippians 4:7. The ability to be at peace with oneself and with others is readily seen in Romans 12:18 with the admonition to “live peaceably with all men.” But there are other attributes we also do not want to forget like self-awareness and vulnerability. These are modeled by many Bible characters including the likes of Jesus, David, Paul, Moses and a host of others.
So why does emotional health matter in the life of the Christian? There are some really important things to note in this regard. The purpose of this article is to address some of these.
- Jesus cared/cares about emotions.
Jesus called us to love God with all that we are. He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul and strength.” Clearly, Jesus cared for the whole person. Repeatedly, we see Jesus addressing the heart as well as the belief system of the individual. As a matter of fact, as one examines the New Testament narrative, it becomes apparent that God’s greater concern is for the heart of the individual. If He has our hearts, our belief system and actions will follow.
- Emotions are the language of the heart.
Emotions matter because they indicate emotional health. Emotional health matters because it is integral to the spiritual life. Repeatedly, we see King David sharing his emotions with God. What we discover through David’s example is what intimacy is all about. Intimacy with God is about discovering and revealing the reality of our hearts to God. God isn’t looking for us to regurgitate right responses like the Pharisees attempted to do. God is interested in His children having honest dialogue with Him and surrendering to Him in the midst of it. It is difficult to have this kind of intimacy with God if you lack awareness in your emotions.
- Your emotional life influences your relationships.
Our relationships with God and others are affected by our emotions. Our lack of emotional health can hold us back from deeper relationships and an understanding of our own brokenness and need for Christ. Interestingly enough, it has been estimated that up to 80% of the problems in any marriage predate the relationship. In other words, the problem lies in the unresolved emotional baggage that is brought into the marriage more than what is specifically happening within the marriage itself. The same can be said with regard to one’s ability to trust the Lord and feel safe in that relationship. It’s not that God has failed the individual but rather that unresolved emotions from the past can inadvertently be transferred onto one’s perception of God.
- Emotions are the dashboard lights of the soul.
Emotions can give evidence of unresolved past issues. Although negative states of heart are common to all, these states are not always so easy to diagnose nor address. What we learn is that these negativities are often carry-overs from unhealed past trauma. While the negativity can persist, it is only discovered by paying attention to our emotions. Proverbs 4 teaches us to “keep our hearts with all diligence” in the same way that a shepherd keeps watch over the sheep. Only through this awareness can we address our hearts and emotions biblically and gain the freedom and healing God desires for us to have.
If you have been around Graceway for very long, one thing that we hope you notice is our emphasis on holistic discipleship. Making disciples is the very heartbeat of our church. Over the years, God has continued to teach us more about fulfilling the Great Commission. As we have continued to seek the Lord and His will for our church, what has emerged has been our need to address the whole person including the emotional health of the disciple. Burying, ignoring or pretending that we don’t have negative emotions will not fix the problem. The disciple of Jesus Christ needs to learn how to biblically address these so that he/she can move forward in faith and impact the world.