God’s emotional dark side
When we hear about the God of the Bible we usually hear of His love and compassion. We don’t hear as much about the dark side of God, so as to speak. Maybe because people don’t like the sound of God having a dark side or don’t understand it. What dark side of God am I referring to? His dark emotions. Clearly demonstrated in scripture God has emotions of anger, hatred, and jealousy. We may not want to hear it but they can’t be ignored. They are right in scripture. So, what do we do with this dark aspect of a loving God?
God’s emotions are complete and perfect
God’s emotions as seen in the Bible are compassion, grief, love, joy, anger, hatred, and jealousy. God, being complete and perfect, His emotions are therefore complete and perfect.
By complete, I do not mean the previous list of seven emotions is complete. There could be other emotions of God that we are not aware of as we are not told everything about God in the scriptures. We can however see in scripture the emotions of Jesus, which we can ascribe to God since Jesus said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” Furthermore, the Apostle John writes in John 21:25 that if all that Jesus did “were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” So there could be more emotions than we are aware of but whatever emotions God has, His emotions are complete whether we know all of them or not.
As to being perfect, how can any of these negative emotions be described as perfect? Consider the person who is always whimsical, happy-go-lucky, and see’s no evil. We would consider them naive or simple. The other end of the human spectrum would be someone who see’s only the bad side of people and has a negative slant on all things around them. Maybe we call them a skeptic or a cynic. But what of the person who see’s both sides of any situation? They can have an upbeat look at life yet are careful enough to stay from harm’s way. That person would be considered balanced whereas the other two people just described could be considered unbalanced.
The same would be true of God. While He has emotions of anger, hatred, and jealousy, if they are perfect, then they are perfectly balanced with love, joy, compassion, and grief. Expressing good emotions when appropriate and bad emotions when appropriate. Ecclesiastes 3:3 says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” this would include a time for what we might call “those bad emotions” to spring up. It would therefore be wrong to ignore those seasons of time for the bad emotions.
So, we now have a God that has a full range of emotions, by His design, and they are perfectly balanced. Maybe that will help us to understand and accept God for who He is and to be more comfortable with Him expressing those dark emotions, shedding light on that perhaps previously dark side of God.
But wait, there is more! This is good news for us personally.
We have a subset of God’s emotions
Genesis 1:27 says “God created mankind in His own image.” Think of a photograph. It’s an image of reality. It’s not the real thing. It’s missing dimension, movement, and a soul. The photograph itself also doesn’t add anything to the reality it represents. That image, therefore, is a subset of the real thing. In the same way, since we are made in God’s image, we are a subset of God. While we may have God’s emotions, we don’t necessarily have the exact same emotions or the perfect balance of emotions that He has. Said more directly, compared to God’s perfect list and balance of emotions we are limited in scope and unbalanced in what emotions we do have.
If therefore our emotions aren’t complete and balanced, that might lead us to think, act, and react to others incorrectly. How does that bear out in life as we interact with others and what can we do about it?
One – Emotions can drive us
All emotions, including the ones we may call bad, can have an interesting and positive effect on us and others around us. Consider the following list of emotions and the positive effect they can have on us. The link for each emotion is just one of many articles available that share additional positive benefits that can come from these various emotions.
Anger can drive us to action and provides a doorway to improvement.
Hate can give us an outlet for confused emotions over a bad situation as well as provide an opportunity to learn to control our emotions.
Jealousy can cause us to examine our feelings and grow emotionally.
Compassion drives us to benevolent actions and increases self-esteem.
Grief helps us accept the things we cannot change and appreciate the things we have not lost.
Love invites us to do what is best for others and to disagree without discord.
Joy helps us to enjoy the life and world that God has created for us and relieves stress.
Two – Strive for emotional balance
On the flip side of the coin, these emotions, even the good ones, can lead to destructive actions in our lives and the lives around us. Unbalanced emotions lead us to unbalanced actions. However, I will not list the destructive actions here because it’s more productive to look toward what is good. The best plan of action is to work on the positive aspects of all emotions.
Romans 8:29 says we are to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Jesus). If Jesus, being God, has all emotions in balance we should strive to have the same balance in ourselves. Of course, that doesn’t happen just because we want it to be. We may never get there but it is the goal we are to strive for. The theological word for that is sanctification, which is the process of being conformed to Christ. Balanced emotions are just one aspect of that for us. Choose an emotion that you feel may be a weakness for you and ask the Holy Spirit to help you bring it into conformity to Christ. One by one you may begin to see your emotions becoming more balanced.
Three – Beware and be aware of imperfect emotional balance
As a personal testimony, this incomplete and unbalanced emotional state lead to stress between my mother and me in her latter years. She was emotional whereas I was logical. She needed empathy; I gave her action. She wanted to talk about it, I wanted to do something about it. She wanted to explore every aspect of what was bothering her, I just wanted the pertinent facts. We both got our emotions from God, He just scooped from different areas of the cosmopolitan ice cream so as to speak. What did we need to do about it?
We each needed to acknowledge that we weren’t going to meet each other’s emotional needs 100%. We were emotionally different people. We could however meet halfway. With that acknowledgment, we could accept each other for who we were. We could learn to be more open to each other’s available emotions. We learned not to put each other down for not being like ourselves but loved each other for who we were. It took some doing and it was always something we had to be on the alert for but in the end, it actually brought us closer together by forcing us to consider each other’s emotions more so.
Don’t shy from acknowledging God’s negative emotions. They are instead a complete emotional listing, perfectly balanced and where we derive our emotional set from.
Let your emotions drive you to positive actions. Even the bad ones.
Acknowledge that each of us has a different mix of emotions and interact with them accordingly with acceptance and love.
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Paul Johnson | BCWorldveiw.org, a 501(c)3 Nonprofit