Emotions: God’s and Man’s
The Bible is full of descriptions of emotions: both God’s and man’s. God has revealed this aspect of Himself to us. He has revealed His emotion’s to us, so that we can learn from them so that we may honor and glorify Him in all aspects of our life – even with our emotions. We can see this clearly regarding God’s emotions about sin. The Bible tells us now only what God thinks about sin but also how He feels about it (and it angers Him). We are also told that Christ the Son wept and that the Holy Spirit grieves. God is emotional. But He is not controlled by His emotions. John Piper said, “God’s emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend.”
Psalm 139:13 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
God created us as emotional beings so that we can reflect that aspect of Himself. Also, He has given us emotions to drive us into action.
1 Peter 5:7-8 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
However, because of the Fall, our bodies are now corrupt. Including our minds and our emotions. Even though God has created as emotional beings, we are not primarily emotional beings. They were not given to us to control us. God designed us so that our emotions are to submit to our beliefs and convictions. Our belief about God is what motivates our godly response to our emotions. We must have a rational belief about God as well as a volitional belief and an emotional belief:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” Ephesians 4:17-19
Our emotions and thoughts are described in the Bible as “the heart.” Everything we think and feel has spiritual implications – because it will reflect what we believe about God. The Bible does not separate our “inward man” (our thoughts and emotions) from our spiritual life.
Anger is a God-given emotion. It is an expression of displeasure. We can see this emotion throughout Scripture. It is one that is felt both by God (Psalm 7:11) and man. This emotion can be sinful or not: righteous or unrighteous. (Psalm 7:11, Psalm 78:49, Mark 3:5.) Anger can be constructive if handled appropriately (Acts 17:16) but most often, we handle it inappropriately – ie: sinfully – and it is extremely destructive (Proverbs 29:22) it can even destroy a person’s health (Proverbs 14:30). Sinful anger is enslaving according to Proverbs 19:19.
In and of itself, anger has no moral content. It stems from our belief that something has gone wrong; a response to injustice of some kind. Webster defines anger as “a strong passion or emotion of displeasure or antagonism, excited by a real or supposed injury or insult to one’s self or others, or by the intent to do such injury.” David Powlison summarizes anger as, “I want my way and not God’s, and because I can’t have my way, I rage.”
We are told to put off anger (Ecclesiastes 7:9, Galatians 5:20, Colossians 3:8) and to put on Kindness, Tenderheartedness, and Forgiveness. (Ephesians 4:31-32) We know that even in cases of righteous anger, we are not to dwell there long. We are also commanded to keep from sinning when we are angry (Ephesians 4:26.) Jesus was never angry about personal offenses, nor did he ever respond in anger. When someone acts out in their anger, they are sinning (Proverbs 14:16-17, Proverbs 29:22.) We are also told that God is slow to anger in Exodus 34:6, and so we should be slow to anger.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Anger is directly related to the desires that drive our heart and we are commanded to be vigilant about keeping our heart. The root of sinful anger is one of self-idolatry. When someone comes between us and what we perceive as our “rights” (such as the right to be considered important, or the right to be free from difficulties) and we respond in anger, we are sinning. This is the root of much of the depression that plagues the populace: sinful anger from people who are striving to control God and failing to do so. People who are angry that He is Sovereign and they are not. Their anger turns to self-pity – which is self-idolatry. Self-pity will turn into bitterness, which is another form of sinful anger.
When the heart is full of self-idolatry there will be frequent use of “I” and “me” statements, and reflecting the desire to control others/God. Often there will be frequent use of “I have a right” or actively trying to change situations/people in order to “make everything right again.” This person is often demanding their own way, or even just wanting relief from perceived suffering: these self-centered heart motives will reflect themselves in bitterness, depression, self-pity, loneliness and a lack of contentment. During these times it is helpful to focus on the sovereignty of God. (Romans 9:20, Job 38:2, Psalm 24:1.)
We will see anger manifesting itself in ways such as harboring of bitterness, jealousy, brooding against others within the Inner Man (Ephesians 4:31, Ecclesiastes 7:9) When we feel indignation boiling up in our soul it will cause tremendous agitation due to whatever is bothering us. But this must be handled biblically.
A Solid Biblical Worldview
The feelings of the Inner Man are often expressed in the Outer Man in ways that will destroy peace and harmony with other people. The anger or bitterness of the inner man will be very apparent in the outer man – even his countenance and stature will be affected (Proverbs 25:23.) Sometimes we can see this in a sinful outburst of anger wherein he is presenting it with harsh words (Galatians 5:20). This can also manifest in selfish actions or in acts of violence (Genesis 4:4-8, Matthew 5:21-24) Such people are prone to bitterness and may also gossip (Proverbs 15:18). These people can be completely consumed by malice and slander. (Ephesians 4)
The Love of Self will drive a person to sinful anger. This happens if we don't get what we think we deserve or we are fighting to keep what we think should stay ours. We can see this idolatry in Scripture: James 4:1-3, Matthew 22:37, 3 John 1:9. The Lack of Trust in God will also drive a person to anger. Even though God is perfectly Sovereign we oftentimes will struggle to trust Him completely. During this time, it is easy to allow anger to seep into our hearts – as we waller in selfish desires to control the situation. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 3:2. A Lack of Facing Problems Biblically will also create the breeding ground for this sinful anger. Bitterness can set in quickly if we lack a solid biblical worldview. Without a solid biblical worldview, we can not have a perfect resolution to suffering or pain. When we dwell on this fro a secular worldview, our hearts will quickly grow bitter and agitated.
It is important to handle these situations by asking “Why am I angry?” identify the motive behind the anger. Pray and ask God to help properly identify what is really going on. We can rely on the Word of God to speak the truth about God’s character. One of the best ways of helping someone who is angry is to help them trust in God. They need to see that Jesus modeled perfect trust in His Father even when He was faced with terribly unjust situations. (1 Peter 2:23)
When an angry person accepts that God is the final judge, and He can repay them more sufficiently than we can, and that He has allowed this injustice to occur for His Glory and our sanctification – it is easier to accept that God’s Will is better than our own. This turns our hearts towards confession and repentance of sin during a time of anger and thus healing.