Reason and emotion.
People often think of these two things as opposites, or maybe even extremes, where you should choose one and discard the other. Some people regard reason as superior, while others hold emotion as more important.
Some people have passionate zeal for God and the ministry, but they have no true knowledge about God. “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). Others view their faith as something mechanical and exact; they emphasize doctrine and strong theology, but undermine the heart and emotion.
Love God With Your Heart… And Mind
Zeal and fiery passion for God is good; but if it is not based on strong doctrinal truths about God, it becomes empty and mindless, and can often be misleading. Strong doctrinal truth is very important, but without some degree of emotion and affection, it is stiff and rigid. People like this think that because they have a lot of knowledge, it means they have faith.
Our goal as Christians is to love God. Jesus said in Mark 12:30, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The greatest commandment is explicit in saying that we should use our minds as well. Besides, how can we love God with our hearts if our minds don’t contain knowledge of God?The mind and the heart work together, with the mind shaping how we feel about God. Click To Tweet
So we see that it is not possible to have only reason, or to have only emotion. God gave us both, and they cannot be separated. The mind and the heart work together, with the mind shaping how we feel about God.
Speak Truth To YOur Emotions
Some time ago, I had a very frightening experience. At that time, I cried out to God for help, and He answered me. I was soon out of my situation. I was overwhelmed by relief and gratitude to God for hearing my cry.
After I got out of that situation, I was still trembling and crying. I tried to calm myself by saying over and over again the verses, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), and also, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Yes, it was a scary incident, but it was also amazing, because God was there. God is sovereign and He is love; He knows what is going on, and He is in charge of that.
The very next day, almost all feelings of awe and gratitude to God seemed to have passed away. Instead, all I could remember was the terrifying part, where I was in trouble and panicking. What left the deepest impression on me was not how God saved me, but about my fright. What I remembered was the dark, miserable part, not the joyful part.
My mind was filled with thoughts like, “Was God really there? Wasn’t that incident something natural? Getting out of that situation was nothing supernatural, it just happened. Does God really exist?” I tried to rationalize the whole thing. I was controlled by my fear and let my thoughts run wild and twisted. This in turn resulted in black dreariness.
Something was wrong. Right after the frightening experience, I calmed myself by thinking right thoughts about God. Those thoughts were based on the Bible – the truths about God. On the next day, I was depressed because my mind was controlled by lies based on fear and doubt.Most of our unhappiness is due to us listening to ourselves. Click To Tweet
I remembered that I had heard a sermon by Pastor John Piper on Psalm 42. He says that the Psalms teach us how to think and feel with God. In this particular passage, the psalmist is depressed and tells himself that he would praise God again. One of the things that struck me was that the psalmist preaches to his own soul. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
Don’t Listen to the Lies
Most of our unhappiness is due to us listening to ourselves. We tell ourselves all sorts of bad things – depressing things, discouraging things, and a lot of the devil’s lies. But here we see that the psalmist counters his misery by hope firmly grounded on the truth of God’s Word. He counters his depression by right thoughts about God.
We too should do likewise. When we are discouraged or feeling gloomy, we need to ask ourselves, what are we thinking? What lies are we telling ourselves?
We should not be passive and just let ourselves be dragged down in misery; we have to fight those self-destructive thoughts and “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). We should fight back with Scripture and right doctrine about God. These thoughts will eventually lead to right feelings for God.
John Piper once said, “Right thinking about God exists for the sake of right feelings for God.” Reason and emotion are not two separate, extreme opposites. They go hand-in-hand with each other – working together.
God created us with minds as well as hearts in order to love Him and enjoy Him. Our minds process the truth of God and instruct our hearts so that our hearts can burn with passion and love for God.