Does God Have Emotions?
- Rebekah Drumsta Christianity.com Contributing Writer
- 2020 28 Sep
As a parent, we daily coach our children through handling their array of emotions. From toddler tantrums to young adult hormones, encouraging our kids to identify, then giving them the appropriate tools to effectively manage their emotions is a vital step to them becoming successful, relational humans.
Emotional intelligence is now understood to be important to one’s overall health and education, as described by John Gottman in his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,
In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships.
Often, cultural influences tell us to view our emotions as a bad thing — something of which to be ashamed. But emotions are an organic reaction outside of our control. What is within our control is how we respond with our words and actions.
As we are seeing through continued research, emotional intelligence matters for optimal outcomes affecting all human relationships including family, friendships, business, and education. I find it utterly amazing that we naturally display emotion — screaming out inner feelings right at the moment of birth. No one teaches us how to feel, we are born with emotional sensors already working.
In fact, emotions generally are only “broken” through a lack of care. This happens through abuse, negligence, or, quite often, because of a lack of understanding from those around us. Learning to hide our emotions is as unhealthy as displaying them inappropriately, such as through self-harm, taking advantage of, or hurting others.
After a traumatic event, being raised with verbal or emotional abuse or involved in a narcissistic relationship, for example, people can be conditioned to ignore or undervalue their own feelings. Interpreting others' emotional cues — now that takes experience and observation. For many, EQ might be intuitive but for others, it must be a learned skill.
Crying when Old Yeller dies of rabies or when Bambi’s mother is killed by the hunter, we do not force those tears. The emotion just hits us. Jesus displayed human emotion all through the New Testament, emotion that we feel too. John 1:14 tells us that He took on human form, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
If we are hard-wired with big feelings that are a part of our DNA and if Jesus was a human being too, is it a logical conclusion that God must have emotions. Let us look into the Bible for some examples of Divine emotion on display.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
God does not want us to be separated from Him forever. He patiently is waiting for us to receive the gospel and redemption of sin purchased by Jesus. His heart of compassion towards us leads to Him being called “The Good Shepherd.”
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41-45).
Jesus knew what was coming. He felt sadness over what Jerusalem, the chosen people, would experience. They had been given a chance to recognize God’s coming, but they did not accept Him.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:25).
As I have pointed out in a previous article, God cannot change His character. The character of God consistently displays tenderness through His care for the sick and hurting, the young and the weak. Such is shown in Matthew 19:14, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”
“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored” (Mark 3:4-5).
In the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath is a day where no work is done. A man came to Jesus on the Sabbath asking to be healed. Angered at the hypocrisy in the people’s hearts, this observation ignited what many call “righteous indignation,” or “holy anger.”
It is anger that stems from a moral, biblical, or physical wrong being done. Jesus chose to break religious tradition by healing the man. He put the man’s need over religious practice.
The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” In this passage, Jesus is grieving the death of His friend Lazarus. People said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36).
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son…” is possibly the most “famous” verse in the Bible. Love is what caused God to allow His Son to leave Heaven, and love is what compelled Jesus to die on the cross.
Why Does This Matter?
Here, we have walked through just a few of the examples of Divine emotion as shown to us in Scripture. We also understand that emotions were developed (and used) by God and are intended to benefit us by identifying individual needs and developing healthy relationships. Science has confirmed what God designed — instinctive, impactful emotions — are vital to human beings.
Not only can emotions be a guide to help us learn more about ourselves, but they can also direct us to learn more about the One who made them. You see, Genesis 1 states, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” Next, it is concluded, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” We are crafted in His likeness — this includes the possession and use of emotions. And to God, it is very good.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/picture
Rebekah Drumsta’s work has been globally reaching by serving with various nonprofits and organizations. Her background is diverse including educational and online content development, event coordinating, international relations, and public speaking. Currently, Rebekah delights in being a homeschool mom and Life Coach. She serves as Director of PR for an international non-profit while also hosting her personal blog, RebekahDrumsta.com which focuses on recovery after religious trauma and spiritual abuse. Rebekah holds a BA in Urban Ministry and Family Crisis with a Christian Counseling Minor, an MA in Religious Education, and is a Certified Professional Life Coach. She has made appearances on and consulted with sources including BBC, NBC, ABC, The Daily Telegraph, and a variety of other platforms.