I don’t know that it’s good to publish things like this, but if I can detach myself from it a little I find the questions interesting. How did God intend our emotions to work? What roll should they play in our daily lives? How seriously should they be taken? These questions are more personal to me than I like to admit. I have come to identify with the Spok character from the original Star trek series. I prefer control. I would rather have none at all than be subject to them.
The first time I remember feeling what I learned to call joy was in a worship service at the age of eight. I had no name for it then, though that was probably the only time I would know it in its pure form. I knew nothing of worship as others would explain it to me later. I did not look for it. I stood and sang those simple scripture based songs to the Lord and the joy came bubbling up. My dad explained to me that it was the Joy of the Lord. I have had that feeling on several occasions since, but I no longer trust it. Every time I felt it I took it for God’s endorsement of whatever I was thinking about or doing at the time. I’m still prone to look favorably upon anything that brings that feeling, but I would no longer dare to say that it constitutes God’s favor. I’m quite willing to believe that if it was ever anything to do with God it was only during that first, pure experience. My subsequent experience leads me to suspect that it is easily counterfeited by spirits that are other than holy. It may require no external impetus at all. I think it is no more than that which we call ecstasy. I think the untrustworthiness of joy comes from its essentially selfish application. I am joyful because I’m getting something I really like or really want. It may be redeemed only as we grow to find it in giving it to others.
What then of love? One must first ask which kind of love? C. S. Lewis, using the four Greek words we translate as love, explains that all kinds are good but three are corrupted without the fourth. Agapé, used in scripture to describe the love of God, must provide the selfless giving component that keeps the self-serving loves in check. Since discovering the phrase “god is love” (1 Jon 4:8) in my Braille new testament at the age of seventeen, I have been trying to know and understand love. Does agapé include emotion? Can love of any kind be said to exist without emotion? I think most people would say no, especially women. Yet none of us can feel it all the time. If we choose to perform loving actions while not feeling loving emotions, are we acting in love or hypocrisy? For all of my trying to do it, feel it, and know it, I don’t think I understand it. I believe I have felt it, but I don’t trust my feelings. I trust in love only because God is love.
I’m not going to try to tackle hate. I don’t think there is anything I hate, unless it’s me. Anger has its place. If God can be angry then it’s no sin, but He’s the only one I’d trust to act on it constructively. I strongly dislike being around anger. I think it frightens me a little, even when I am not its object. Yet I feel it. I most often feel it towards myself. I do not find pleasure in it.
Then there is fear. Just a few verses down from the one I referenced above John wrote that perfect love drives out fear. Even I who put little stock in cultural taboos feel a little uncomfortable admitting to fear. Men aren’t supposed to admit things like that. I certainly don’t need another reminder that my love is not perfect. Yet I am afraid. I am afraid to be found after all unacceptable. My faults and failures literally fill enough pages to make a book. I keep a private journal. Despite all I know of God’s love and grace I still find it hard to imagine how He can love me.
So, here I am. I find joy a rarity not to be trusted and love an unsolvable mystery. Anger knocks at the door with regularity, driven by the threat of ultimate failure. If it were not that I do retain hope in Jesus, I don’t think I could live. I know that if my emotions don’t agree with the truth, then my emotions need to change. I remind myself often of the blessings God has given me. Maybe one day I’ll learn to rejoice in those blessings and in their source. Howe we feel is largely connected to how we think. How many times have I said that to others? I do find myself smiling as I write this. Oh how easily we can be swayed. A frustration for me is that for all my talk of control I really don’t have much. I resort to filling my time with neutral distractions so that I won’t think about anything. So why am I smiling? I made a providential typo a few lines back. I originally wrote, “Howe we feel is largely connected to how we thank.”