Connecting Heart to Heart with God: Emotion

Gather: February 2020

Welcome! We’re halfway through our February Gather and so glad you’re here with us.

Our focus this month is Connecting Heart to Heart with God through His Word using three specific questions when reading a passage of Scripture.

What are five things God wants me to know?

What are three things God wants me to feel?

What is one thing God wants me to do?

When heart is defined as a combination of our mind + will + emotions, these questions get to the heart of who God is and who He calls us to be. 

Last week we looked into the importance of our mind and the knowledge we gain from the Word. This week we turn our attention to emotion.

emotion, term commonly and loosely used to denote individual, subjective feelings which dictate moods. In psychology, emotion is considered a response to stimuli that involves characteristic physiological changes—such as increase in pulse rate, rise in body temperature, greater or less activity of certain glands, change in rate of breathing—and tends in itself to motivate the individual toward further activity. Early psychological studies of emotion tried to determine whether a certain emotion arose before the action, simultaneously with it, or as a response to automatic physiological processes. In the 1960s, the Schachter-Singer theory pointed out that cognitive processes, not just physiological reactions, played a significant role in determining emotions. Robert Plutchik developed (1980) a theory showing eight primary human emotions: joy, acceptance, fear, submission, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation, and argued that all human emotions can be derived from these.

— Paul Lagassé, Columbia University, The Columbia Encyclopedia (New York; Detroit: Columbia University Press; Sold and distributed by Gale Group, 2000).

This definition tells us what we already know: emotions cause a physical response and can move us to action — or inaction through fearful paralysis.

From your general knowledge of Scripture, what are the primary emotions God wants us to feel?

  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Hope
  • Trust
  • Courageous/Encouraged
  • Love
  • Acceptance

Are these the emotions that define your life? If not, what emotions do define your life? 

One of the ways we might learn what emotions define us is to consider how others would describe you emotionally.

Stacy says:

One of the hardest conversations I had with Carol occurred early in our relationship. I was going on about how angry I was with a circumstance in my life. She was graceful in allowing me to vent, and as we neared the end of the conversation she said, “I’ve been praying about your anger.”

I hung up the phone and thought, “Am I angry so much of the time my friend is praying about it? Is this how she sees me?”

It wasn’t an easy pill to swallow. Anger, at that time, was my primary emotion, and it was not just affecting me. It was slowly moving into every area of my life, and driving my actions too. Yuck! No really YUCK! 

If our primary emotions are not the ones God wants us to feel, what do you think this reveals about us?

Carol says:

Early in my walk with God, I experienced a decade long season of fear and anxiety. It was almost debilitating. However, I didn’t tell anyone about it. 

It was spiritually confusing, because as a new Believer my overriding experience in my feelings was not at ALL in line with what the Word said I should be feeling: joy, peace, hope.

By God’s grace I refused to turn my back on Him and say, Well this whole God thing doesn’t work! I continued on in faith. Unfortunately, I dealt with much of it in my own strength and way, avoiding things and places which filled me with fear.

But what I discovered was He allowed this season to reveal all the unbelief lurking in my heart. My faith just skimmed the surface. What I said I believed was not being lived out in my actions or emotions.

I did not believe God loved me. I did not believe He had my best interest at heart. I did not believe He could protect me. I did not believe He was bigger than my husband’s driving! I did not believe He was good. I did not believe He was sovereign.

During this season, God brought me face to face with the unbelief lurking in my heart through the fear and anxiety that consumed me. In His wonderful loving grace, He walked me through this season one step at a time. Fear by fear. Anxiety by anxiety. 

Today, I can honestly say, fear, anxiety, and worry no longer define who I am or how I respond to life.

Like touch tells us something is hot, sight reveals a looming storm, sound attunes us to someone entering, and smell alerts us to the smoke of a fire, our emotions can be the signal to what’s happening in our spirit.

Let’s return to our circles of movement.

Heart Image

Last week we saw how our thought life can turn us toward God, and explored the practice of taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Now let’s consider the circles of movement when it comes to our emotions. Emotions are to the heart like senses are to the flesh. The gift of our five senses gives us the ability to take in information from the world around us. The same is true for our hearts with emotions. Ideas, circumstances, stories, or relationships that inspire emotion within are often the most important things to us. These are the things that “hit close to home” or “break our hearts.” Emotions in themselves are not bad, nor can we control feelings. We do, however, have the ability to acknowledge the emotion and allow it to turn us toward God or away from God. 

Stacy says:

I used to avoid what I considered negative feelings at all costs. Mainly because I saw them as a sign I was failing at being a Christian. If I was anxious, fearful, or feeling down I would think, “If I’m feeling this way, there must be something I’m doing wrong. Some disobedience in my life keeping me from God.” As a result, I determined to hide or push down every feeling I viewed as bad. This brought me to a very unhealthy place physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Over the course of a few years, with the help of my spiritual director, I began to see emotions differently. Instead of refusing to acknowledge and push down the emotion, I learned to allow it space. I began to ask the questions, “Why am I feeling this way? What is at the heart of this emotion? What is God revealing to me through it?” It took a lot of practice, but it has made all the difference in me.

The Hebrew translated as heart, leb, in Scripture can also be translated as the “seat of emotions and passions” (ESL). In our broken nature, every aspect of our being has been skewed by sin, including our emotions.

Read Jeremiah 17:9-10

Our hearts/emotions easily deceive us, but God knows everyone’s heart perfectly. He understands why our emotions lead us where they do. He knows the root of the emotions which we often let rule our lives. Emotions lead to actions, actions which bear fruit in our lives and determine what God gives us. What He gives in response to the fruit we bear based on the state of our emotions may be a season of trials which reveal unbelief or encouragement and confirmation of spiritual maturity. Peace which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Therefore, approaching Scripture as a way to invite God in and address our emotions can keep us from being led down destructive paths based on lies.

This past week we explored John 15with our questions to connect with God’s heart.

  • How was your experience with the process this week? Was it harder? easier? 
  • What has most surprised you about approaching Scripture this way?

What does God want you to know in John 15?

What does God want you to feel based on John 15?

What does God want you to do or how does He want you to respond to what He revealed?

Carol says:

The things God wants me to know are things I’ve been working to wholly embrace throughout my spiritual journey: He loves me, chose me, and wants to glorify Himself through me.

In my study this week I turned to The Message version where I read:

Live in Me. Make your home in Me just as I do in you.

John 15:4

He wants me to feel at home in Him. Accepted. Cared for.

I am to be at home in Him.

This sounds simple but it touches my heart on a very deep level. To embrace Him fully as my Home. Where I belong. Where I’m loved and secure. Received just as I am, yet nurtured daily for my good. 

Being at home in Him as He is at home in us. This is what lies at the heart of discipleship.

Jesus is the True Vine and we, all people, are the branches. The quality of the fruit we bear in our lives is closely tied to our emotions, good or bad. Letting the Father/Vinedresser tend to our hearts by speaking to our emotions is a way He prunes us to bear more and more fruit for His glory!

Next, we move into Psalm 8 with our three questions to connect with God heart to heart.

Until next week… Blessings,

Carol & Stacy

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