Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our emotions. But emotions can actually lead us to God.
It seems to me we live in a world with conflicting and confusing ideas about the place of emotions. I spoke with one man recently who remembers being scolded by his father for expressing anger as a child. How did his father scold him? By yelling at him angrily.
A woman I know grew up in a home where emotional vulnerability was laughed at openly. She learned at a young age that it was safer to be tough, not express need, and certainly not to cry.
When we grow up with unhealthy approaches to emotions, we are left vulnerable to using unhealthy means to try to regulate our day-to-day feelings. Instead of learning how to feel angry, express himself, and calm himself down, the man I mentioned above learned to direct his anger inward. Overtime, he learned to cope with his internalized anger by dissociating into work, sports, and pornography.
Yet, there is no intimacy without vulnerability. Without risking pain, a person cannot truly receive love, especially love where it’s needed the most. So the path to restoration from unwanted sexual behaviors includes journeying into emotions that are difficult for you.
As difficult as this can be, for people struggling with overcoming unwanted sexual habits, these emotional “doorways” to the deeper places are actually very hopeful.
God is not merely concerned with eradicating your sexual sin. He cares about every part of you—your dreams, your secret motives, your hidden fears, and your deepest desires.
“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13 ESV)
Even so, He rarely pushes into these places where you have not opened yourself to Him. I believe He allows disruptive, difficult, even painful situations to reveal areas in our lives that need attention.
Could it be your struggle to overcome unwanted sexual behaviors is just one of those areas? You may have believed God’s biggest concern has been your unwanted sexual behavior, but his greater priority has been to tend to the wounds in your heart.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)
Just like a tree, you cannot just pluck bad fruit and expect a lifelong change. Inevitably, the same kind of fruit will just grow back in its place. Jesus wants to restore the deep places in your life. He doesn’t just want you to be on your best behavior. He’s after your heart. He’s after all of you.
“The heart is precisely what God observes and addresses in human beings. He cares little or nothing for outward show. He responds to the heart because it is, above all, who we are; who we choose and have chosen to be. What God wants of us can only come from there. He respects the centrality of our will and will not override it. He seeks godly character in us and for us, to fulfill the eternal destiny He has in mind for us…But on the other hand, He is sensitive to the slightest move of the heart toward Him.” (Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart)
Question: How did your family growing up experience or express emotions?
Check out the latest Becoming Whole Podcast this week. The Fruit of a Tree and Sexual Brokenness
Great topic Josh! I can recall me being angry slot. Not having a safe place to express my emotions was damaging to my heart for sure. What worked in a dysfunctional way for me was fantasy and porn. It’s so true what you discussed above. God’s main concern is what’s motivating our behavior to act out the way we do. It’s always about the heart..