Pondering the existence of emotions and the implications of calling them what they actually are

If we are what we believe we are as Christians—intrinsically intertwined physical and spiritual beings—then we must deal with what emotions are as well: spiritual and physical interworkings (and often, problems).

It’s been a few minutes since I’ve posted because I’ve been pretty focused on my work with TheMajestysMen.com and RockHillChur.ch in nearly every second of time that hasn’t gone to merely staying alive. For that matter, I have many thoughts I need to work out in relation to both that would fit nicely on this blog roll.

Yet, today, I have an almost seemingly random idea — or perhaps, question — that doesn’t relate to anything but personal development and understanding. This thought has been brought on by ministry, in part, but also by simply contemplating my own personal health and observing the “health”, or lack thereof, of those in close relations around me.

Now by “health” I must, for now at least, state that I’m really only pondering a specific aspect of our health, as we popularly understand it, and that would be: “emotional health”.

That was a rather cryptic sentence for a reason. So, I’ll explain now by jumping straight into my thought and question, and then it will make sense.

Today while eating dinner with my wife and a good guy friend of mine, we began to discuss how a person’s physical abuse in the past had given them a great deal of spiritual struggles in the present. I contemplatively just said the statement, “Yep, we are inseparably both physical and spiritual; as goes one, so goes the other.”

This lead to a number of other discussions and we soon found ourselves discussing what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus the Christ and how one would know he actually is a disciple. While pondering and chatting about this, I was putting away some dishes when a question bolted through my mind that I’ve never actually articulated yet have desired to have answered for a long time.

The question:

If a person were to be very physically healthy and very spiritually healthy, wouldn’t it be that this person would never have “emotional health” problems?

I can’t shake the thought that this is, in fact, entirely true. Now this might seem like a “duh” statement to someone, but if we do actually believe this to be true then it actually has huge ramifications on the way we think and talk about the human psyche and even deal with our own selves.

I have to believe it’s one of those things we might believe to be true when we hear it, but then willfully dismiss it instantly and completely when we return to functioning in daily life.

It seems, in my experience, that we consider emotions, most notably our own emotions, to be some continual third “force” within us that carries special power or significance.

We often think of our own emotions as some sort of signal for what is right or wrong, true or false, safe or unsafe, and so on. However, we all know these emotions are rarely consistent in anything except that they tend to be very poor indicators of anything except our own flaws. Our emotions are very often very wrong, misleading, hurtful, limiting, etc.

Yet, before I flesh out a few things this idea I’m getting at would mean for people, let’s flesh out why this idea I’m getting at is likely true if we actually believe what we claim to believe theologically…

  1. I am undeniably a physical being, and with any humility and insight at all, any human must admit he is undeniably a spiritual being as well. If we believe scripture, we are obviously both, by design, forever.
  2. I experience things that my society calls “emotions”, but they have never been very explicable to me, nor anyone else I’ve ever known or read, and yet we speak of them as though they are their own entities or forces at play at all times within us. We even categorize and name them.
  3. We absolutely know that “emotions” are physical, chemical changes in the body as we experience them. They both come instantly with the changes and continue to cause more of them even to the point of very negative physical consequences if not — what shall we call it? — controlled.
  4. What can possibly control these physically intertwined “emotions”. It must be the other aspect of me: the spirit. That’s all that’s left, of course!
  5. Then it must be asked, “What causes them in the first place then?” Either they are completely pre-programmed responses built into our DNA and flesh, or they are spiritual “movings” within us. This seems much more likely, to the point of obviousness, since they fluidly change as they do both circumstantially and over time with development and different beliefs.
  6. Yet, again, we know from God’s word that our spirit is intertwined with our flesh and, as God says, we have sin damage that literally reigns in our flesh. The effects of mankinds sin is said to literally linger in our physical bodies. What’s more, is that we know it’s exceedingly difficult to experience what we’d call “good” emotions when we’re physically hurting or damaged.
  7. So it’s not even a stretch to then imagine that our spirit, which is intrinsically intertwined with our physical body, and even the spirit of us who are regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit within us, must face serious struggles in developing good and proper emotions in any circumstance.

Think about a couple more random questions this brought to mind as I pondered this:

Did Jesus ever experience wrong emotions?

I don’t believe we have any indicators or reasons to think so.

Is not every person I know who is more spiritually mature also more of what we call “emotionally healthy” — stable, predictable, helpful, trustworthy in their feelings.

Does not every person who is more spiritually wise and mature in the Holy Spirit also experience more deeply what we would consider “positive emotions” such as joy and love?

Are not those we consider to be “emotionally healthy” people also in possession of more commendable traits such as Godly wisdom and discernment, love and compassion, patience and self-control and so on through everything stated to be the “fruit of the Holy Spirit”? (Gal 5:22-23) 

The answer to all of these is, “Great goodness! Naa, that’s so true!”

So, again, even just writing or reading this doesn’t seem that profound until you think about how it SHOULD affect our daily lives and how we consider building up our health or helping other do so.

We cannot then say, “Well he just deals with some serious emotional health issues”, as if they are separate issues of their own.

No, there is no emotional health, but only then spiritual health interplaying with physical health. Nothing more and nothing less.

We have fallen victim to societal lies that are void of God…

It’s an age-old belief system clear back to Plato or older, and thus still void of God, that the human “soul” (whatever they believed that was) is made up of Reason, Spirit, and Desire and that these things constantly ware against each other, trying to control one another.

I have actually been told, no joke, by Christian authority over me in my past, that a person is not responsible for their emotions and is only responsible for what they do with them.

That’s complete rubbish to me! I always thought that, but I’ve never understood how it all connected rightly.

The fact is, so-called “emotions” are simply a combination of a stirring spirit, either broken in our selves or renewed in Christ, in a broken flesh which is waiting to be renewed. So, I will either slowly and deliberately work through the damaged flesh with the help of the Holy Spirit until I can express myself rightly, or I will quench the Holy Spirit and let my own Spirit run amok in my broken flesh.

If we are what we believe we are as Christians—intertwined physical and spiritual beings—then we must deal with what emotions are: spiritual and physical interworkings. This also means we must admit to ourselves what is too often true: our emotions are quite often spiritual and physical problems. Only then can we have any chance at handling them in God-honoring ways.

I am completely responsible for my emotions to the degree that I can completely change them with work (work with God’s Spirit that has the power to change), and I should do nothing but believe just that and do just that until they are good and Godly emotions even amidst a corrupted and broken flesh.

Because of the intrinsic intertwining of the spirit and flesh, this will even change my flesh (especially my highly moldable brain patterns), back towards goodness and wholeness too. Ultimately, God will have to finish that work of bodily renewal, as he has promised he will, after Christ’s return.

I am spiritual and I am physical. Inseparably both. I am not emotional as a state of being. I am simply either wrongly physical-spiritual or rightly spiritual-physical in any moment of feeling and expression of feelings.

Leave a thought?