As much as I would sometimes like them to disappear entirely, emotions are a very real part of our lives. We feel angry, sad, elated, silly, anxious, relieved, the list goes on. Why do we have emotions? Why do we feel guilty for having them? What does Torah say?
I was raised in a Baptist church, where, like many churches, God is a God of love, joy, peace. This is absolutely true, but as we dwell on His positive attributes, we forget that He also is a God of jealousy, rage, hatred. We begin to think that if we feel any negative emotion, we have fallen into a deep sin. We must think positively, always speak kindly, or remain silent.
But if negative emotions are a sin, then we would never see YHVH or our Messiah Yahshua demonstrating negative emotions. Yet we see YHVH so angry after the golden calf incident that He was ready to wipe out all the Israelites and start over with Moses. We see Yahshua weeping as He sees the people wandering about as sheep without a shepherd. We see Him driving the moneychangers out of the temple in anger. We see YHVH jealous for His bride and her affections. He emphatically declares that He loves Jacob, but hates Esau. Clearly negative emotions are not evil in and of themselves.
When I first began to learn about the Hebrew roots of my faith, my mother read a book called “Our Father Abraham” where the author talks about how the Hebrew people were “earthy.” Everyday realities were not kept secret. Menstruation, s**, going to the bathroom, leprosy, childbirth and even emotions, were all dealt with openly. I remember seeing an archaelogical site with a small mikvah for couples after “you know what.” The raw nature of life was honestly accepted.
As we read stories of our Fathers, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we see anything but perfect, neat and tidy relationships. They had emotions flying helter skelter! Have you read about Sarai and Hagar lately? It was an emotional mess, yet we find YHVH telling Abraham to listen to Sarah regarding her dealings with Hagar. Have you read the Psalms lately? They are full of desperate emotional cries for help from people that were literally falling apart. Yet, we do not see these people condemned. We see their prayers answered. We see YHVH take notice of them, and preserve their emotional prayers for generations to read.
What can we learn from this?
We do not need to fear our emotions. We feel, and sometimes very intensely. It’s okay! YHVH feels emotions very intensely too, and we are made in His image.
It’s okay to express our emotions. Having a good cry, or letting off steam with someone who loves us is a good thing. Being jealous for our spouse’s attention is a good thing. Getting fuming mad when we see the suffering of others is a good thing. Feeling hurt or shame or anxiety is fine.
Emotions should bring us to one place, our knees. Over and over in Scripture, we see the intense emotions of Jacob, Daniel, Moses, Yahshua, Hannah, Esther, Job, and in each case, those emotions brought them to the feet of the God of Israel. They were honest with how they felt, and they took their emotions to YHVH.
Sometimes their emotions drove them to much needed action.
Sometimes their emotions brought them to repentance and lasting change.
Sometimes their emotions caused them to plead their case before the King of Kings, and they were heard.
Sometimes their emotions got them answers.
Sometimes it was the simple act of expressing their emotions and knowing that they were understood that brought healing.
While I love a hearty laugh, a wonderfully satisfied smile, a thankful heart, it is not in those emotions that I learn the most. It is when I am stressed, drained, confused, offended, desperate, overwhelmed, feeling as though I will burst if I feel this way another minute; that YHVH meets me. He puts me on His lap and lets me have a good cry and kick and scream a little. He explains to me that He understands, that I am not alone. He shows me that when I am weak, He is strong. He assures me that the smiles will come back in due time, but for right now, it’s okay to feel bad.
And somehow, just knowing that He is there and understanding and not judging me for feeling bad, lifts the burden just a bit. Emotions are important, because they bring us to Him. He wants us to be honest with ourselves and admit how we really feel, so that we will count on Him.
Are you struggling with negative emotions today? Have you honestly shared them with your Heavenly Father? He understands.