Beyond Emotion

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

-1 John 4:16


Emotions are valuable. They can be an early warning system for danger; they can reveal things through instinct when our thoughts are still catching up.  They are a way God has blessed us: He made good emotions feel good. When we are in love, we feel all gooey and indestructible. Something exciting happens; we feel energized and joyful. We eat a great meal; we feel satisfied and relaxed. Emotions are not just useful—they are enjoyable! But remember, 1 John 4:16 doesn’t say “so we have come to feel and believe the love that God has for us.” Why is that?


Because emotions are also fickle. Emotions can be a response to what we think is happening rather than the truth of a situation. They arise not only out of our godly desire, but also out of our sinful ones. Sometimes, we have ‘bad’ feelings because a situation is just difficult, not necessarily detrimental. For example, I don’t feel good when I exercise—I don’t care what you say about endorphins! But even though I feel lousy, I know it’s good for me.  This means that while emotions are helpful and even enjoyable, they are not truth. Truth is truth. Our emotions just reveal our understanding of and relationship to truth. But my emotions cannot change what is true.


Scripture, however, is truth. It communicates truths. For example, Scripture shares that God offers me grace, which is unmerited favor. Sometimes I read a verse about God’s grace and I feel joy and peace. But other times, I read it and I feel ashamed. Does this mean I should feel shame or that His grace must be a lie? No way! Rather, my shame is tempting me to believe that I can and should have earned God’s love. Does this ever happen to you? I feel like I can’t be the only one who occasionally struggles here.


Here is my answer to that struggle: as a Christian, I am called to—I must—have a devotion to God that goes beyond my emotional experience of Him. Our emotions will change, but He is the never-changing God.


In John 16:33, Jesus says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus had just been telling them about how they would grieve for a while about His death (though the disciples did not yet know that’s what He was referring to). “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22). Jesus said the world might rejoice while they grieve, that they would have trouble, but a day would come when no one could take away their joy. He was making a promise to them, built on the foundation of what He knew was soon coming: the Cross. Jesus knew that no matter what we feel in this world, no matter how long we wait for the complete coming of God’s kingdom, the Cross stands unmovable as our proof of God’s love, salvation, and offer of relationship with us.


Our devotion has to go beyond our emotion, because emotions ebb and alter. But nothing can take away the truth of the Cross! No enemy, no event, and certainly no emotion. God loves you, and He has made a way to be in relationship with you. That is the truth. So, no matter your feelings of the day, no matter how tempted you are to doubt—know and believe in His love. A devotion that goes beyond emotion!


–Sarah Fletcher