3 Ways to Glorify God With Your Emotions
Motherhood has revealed that I’m not the calm person I once thought I was. One minute, I’m upset with my son for not cleaning up his toys; the next, I’m laughing as he pats his crayons to sleep. Joy, frustration, delight, exhaustion, empathy, impatience, excitement, sadness—it’s a daily rollercoaster of emotions.
As a result, I now better understand the volatility of emotions, and the risk of being pulled and pushed in many directions if I act based simply on what I feel in a moment. Experiencing such a full range of emotions on a daily basis has led me to muse whether there’s a better way to respond to these feelings.
It’s not wrong to feel; feelings were created by God. But as in all things, emotions can and should glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Bible always addresses the person as a whole, as when Jesus issued the following call in Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (emphasis added).
The question is in the how. What does it mean to glorify God with intangible things like feelings?
One of my favourite life verses, quoted here from The Passion translation, goes like this: “So above all, guard the affections of your heart for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
The image that comes to mind when we think about “guarding” our hearts is putting up barricades to keep what we don’t want out. But I’ve learned that in order to ensure our heart flows with “the wellspring of life”, we should also look intentionally within those barricades, to inspect how what’s on the inside—in this case, emotions—stand in light of God’s truth, and to respond to each in a biblical way.
This is in no way an exhaustive list on “handling” our emotions, but three truths I am currently learning to apply to my emotions in a bid to guard my heart better.
1. Confess and surrender your emotions to God
It’s easier to glorify God when we’re experiencing positive emotions. The struggle is when we don’t. For a long time, I believed it was not okay to feel negative emotions. Whenever I was hurt or angry, I would bury these emotions instead of addressing them.
This is partly due to my natural disposition, but my past experiences have also played a part in my response. But as the Bible shows, especially in the Psalms, it’s alright to acknowledge our feelings. In fact, King David came to God with all his negative emotions: Fear, sorrow, loneliness, anger, pain.
This was a lesson when I struggled with anger last year. Triggered by the littlest thing, I initially fought to ignore the issue. But the more I ignored it, the stronger it grew. When I came clean with God, He opened my eyes to see that my anger stemmed from my perception that I had failed my perfectionist ideals as a homemaker. Only then could God minister and set me free from the chains of anger.
I learned what David had known all along: Confessing our feelings to God is not weakness. Instead, when we do so, we admit our need for Him and allow Him to be as honest with us as we are with Him. With that, we declare that God is greater than the control our emotions have over us. And by allowing God to be the strength in our weakness, we are glorifying God. That is why, no matter what he was going through, David could give praise to God at the end of it all (Psalm 43:5).
2. Speak to your emotions with Scripture
There have been seasons when I was gripped by fear. Fear of loved ones dying. Fear of safety. Fear of injuring my baby. Fear of losing my sanity. It came in various shapes and sizes, but fear gripped me nonetheless.
That is, until I started declaring Scripture whenever I felt afraid. Verses like Romans 8:15, or 2 Timothy 1:7, which states that, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV) have helped in my battle with fear. It was convicting and liberating to pray them over myself as I didn’t allow fear to direct me, but instead used the life-giving Word of God to speak to it. My fear did not disappear immediately. But as I kept at it, slowly but surely, the fear lost its grip on me.
That’s not to say that I no longer feel fear, or even anger. But I can now see better when my feelings are clearly being used to turn my direction away from God, and can fight the battle better with weapons given by God. And in doing so, I am glorifying Him.
3. Turn your emotions into actions
While feelings are mostly signposts to our inner wellbeing—signaling to us what’s really going on inside our hearts—they can also be signposts to how God Himself feels and how we can walk out His purpose for our lives.
Reading news about trafficked children makes us angry. Hearing about a friend’s personal loss makes us sad. Witnessing the social problems in our city causes us to despair. Instead of wallowing in those feelings, bringing them before God also helps us understand how He might be directing us to act upon it.
Jesus had wanted some quiet time alone; but He had compassion on the hungry multitudes and so ministered to them (Mark 6:30-44). After hearing about the ruins of Jerusalem, Nehemiah turned his grief into action by initiating the rebuilding of the city’s wall (Nehemiah 1).
Fighting for social justice, comforting a friend, or kneeling in intercession—there are many times when the Holy Spirit nudges us forward into God-directed actions through our emotions. To be sure, we need to pause and be certain that the nudge is indeed from the Holy Spirit. But if it is, then our response is simply to obey. That’s when that spark of emotion can transform into an act that gives glory to God.
Since I’ve been on this journey of coming to terms with my emotions, I’ve found that it’s a useful “tool”, if you will, of measuring the welfare of my innermost being—and I’d like to encourage you to do the same. In understanding our hearts better, we may be better able to take the right steps that honor God. From surrender to empowerment to obedience, our feelings may just spur us to nurture a “wellspring of life” overflowing with God’s love, goodness, and grace.
May the outflow of our hearts glorify God in all things.
Hi.i want to ask whether when we think that the holy spirit uses feelings we could just trust it? What if of so many ‘hardships’ id gone thru like studying hard and then got so tired till i wanted to give up and shut myself down from the world because learning is difficult?my attitude plays a role where i tot that studying or even working is so hard and terrible. Sometimes i am angry why god give me these feelings of worthlessness,jeaalousy,anger and malice that i cant even talk appropriately in different since young. Ok like for example, i had asked before to my aunty who just gave birth and i asked her is it pain? From that day on when i grow into adulthood i feel scared to even open my mouth.im scared of life, everything.its too overwhelming.thanks
I can relate to your challenges because I am also a student, a graduate student, having so many academic requirements. Whenever, I feel these challenges are overwhelming me, I surrender them to God and remind myself to “take one step at a time”. I also cling to the promise in the Bible that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” (Phil 1:6); and if we are doing what we are doing now according to the purpose He intends us to do, then we can cling to His words, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). God’s peace be with you.
Thank you so much for this article. Glory to God for calling you to write and inspire others through this media. May you continue glorify God for more articles/ devotions that you are sharing. God Bless!
Sorry, I only just realised that there were comments to this article. Thank you so much for the encouragement! God bless you too!
Hi, praise God for this article! This has helped me so much. More power to your blog! ^_^
Hi, sorry, I only just realised that there were comments to this article! Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂
Thanks for this excellent article. God bless youns. I wanted to check out your blog but it’s private.
Hi, sorry, I only just realised that there were comments to this article! Thanks for the feedback, I hope it encouraged you. 🙂 My blog has been under construction, will need to update my bio here. 😀
Thank you for sharing your experience in this area. I was studying Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”
And I realized I never ask myself how am I loving God with my emotions that is part of the soul. Soul is your mind, will, and emotions. Your experience has blessed me so much and provide me wisdom to apply to my life and love God with my emotions!
Sorry, I didn’t know there were comments to this article! Indeed, loving God with my emotions is something I am still in process of learning. Thanks so much for the encouragement!