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First Priority: Emotional Intimacy with God--Part 1

Updated: Jan 25



Have you ever been confused by your emotions?


Everyone, me included, can say "Yes!".


Unfortunately, for many of us, we learn to turn our emotions off. And turning your emotions off lands a devastating blow to all of our relationships at all levels. Including our relationship to God. For the Christian, it is important to understand that your emotions come from God. That is because you have been created in God's image. The imago Dei is one of the most unique attributes of Christian theology, and it informs every aspect of your human psychology. You are literally a reflection of God in human form. Not God mind you. Only God can be God, but a reflection of his image. Chuck Swindoll says it this way,


When God said, “Let us make human beings in our image,” He was saying, in effect, "Humanity will be un-like anything I have created. No other being has a heart to love Me. No other created being has a mind to know Me or a will to obey Me. Nothing else in all of My creation has a destiny of eternity like these creatures will have. I will make humans distinct. They will have imago Dei, ‘the image of God,’ stamped on them. Only they will have a capacity within them to love and know and obey Me. -Charles R. Swindoll

I love the last line. "Only they will have a capacity within them to love and know and obey." Let's make Swindoll's statement even more personal. Because you are created in the image of God, you have the capacity to love, to know, and to obey. This capacity gives you the ability to fulfill your God-given purpose on this planet. And your emotions, along with your thoughts and your beliefs, are tools that will help you carry out your purpose. But just like every tool known to man, you have to know how to use it. Because a paint brush laying on the ground is of no use to anyone. You must pick it up, you must use it the way it was designed to be used. Then, and only then, can the brush help you to produce amazing things.


Around 2017 I did pulpit supply for a tiny church on the north side of Kansas City. And even though this church was tiny, it was powerful in the way it incorporated emotional health into its body. The pastor, Rustin Smith, made it a priority to keep a healthy view on emotions among the leadership and the members. Before I spoke, Rustin said one of the most impactful statements on emotions I've ever heard. He said, "Emotions are great teachers, but poor leaders." I told Rustin that day I would be using it everywhere I went. And that I would try my best to give him credit whenever I could. And that he should prepare himself for someone to stumble through his doors one day repeating it. And I still believe this to be the case. Because whenever I am asked to speak on emotions, and in nearly every counseling encounter I've had since then, I have used this phrase in some form or fashion. And it resonates every time. In fact, this statement is the basis for the next principle. The Principle of Emotions. Which says, "Your emotions are teachers. Designed to aid you in understanding God, understanding yourself, and understanding others."


The Principle of Emotions: Your emotions are teachers. Designed to aid you in understanding God, understanding yourself, and understanding others.

Before we dig too deep into emotional education, I want to give you the 50,000 foot view of your psychology. This way you can see where your emotions fit into your psychological framework. Because while your emotions are important, they are just one component of your psychology that you need to know about. The other two components are your beliefs and your thoughts. Together, these three components make up the "Cognitive Behavioral Framework" (CBF) of your personal psychology. And you need to think about your personal psychology. Because your psychology is one of the most important aspects of your humanity. It can either draw you closer to others and closer to God. Or it can drive a wedge between every relationship you need and desire.



There are a few things you'll need to do in order to identify your personal CBF. First, you need to select a behavior that you want to understand better. Maybe it's your anger, maybe it's drinking or drug use, maybe it's your eating habits. Whatever it is, make sure it's something important to you that you really want to know. That will give you the energy to continue the exercise when it gets tough or complicated.


Now that you have your behavior, trace your behavior back to an emotion. If you're having trouble identifying the emotion, no worries, check out the emotion wheel below. Take your time and look over your options. There's no rush.



Got the emotion? Good. Now, I want you to identify the purpose of that emotion. Because your emotions are teachers, they are designed to answer questions. See the graphic below for a list of emotions and their purpose. Once you have your emotion's purpose you can work to validate it.



Validating Your Emotions

I think in our day and age this can be tricky, and that makes it feel unprecedented. Because so many people are using their emotions as a defense to do things that are blatantly wrong. In reality, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). People of all shapes, faiths, and sizes have been using emotions to deceive themselves and others since the beginning of time. All of which creates serious issues for those of us fighting for emotional health in our homes, in our schools, and in our churches.


The bottom line is this, when emotions are expressed they need to be validated. And when I say validated, I mean they need to be checked to make sure they are being used for the purpose God intended them to be used for. When I validate something, I am checking it for accuracy. For instance, if I am feeling fear or anxiety, and I know the purpose of that emotion is safety and protection, I can validate my emotion by asking myself, "Am I in danger right now?"


If the answer to that question is "Yes." Then you need to use the emotional energy to carry out the purpose of that emotion. In the case of anxiety or fear, you need to make yourself safe. In the case of anger, you need to use that energy to bring justice to the situation. And in the case of sadness, you need to grieve what you have lost.


If the answer to the question is "No." Then you need to re-evaluate your perspective and seek to identify and validate another emotion. And if there is an emotion that is more accurate for you in the moment, follow through with its purpose. See graphics below.






...Continued in Part 2: Your Emotions and Your Relationship with God


About the Author:

Dr. Corley is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S) in Missouri and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Kansas. He specializes in marriage counseling and trauma recovery. This is an excerpt from his series called A Framework for Family.




If you think you might need some help in this area. Click the image below and give us a call. We are professional Christian counselors, bringing healing to the family, giving hope for the future.


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