“Does God Have Emotions?”
James W. Goll, Franklin, TN
20th March 2021
Does God have emotions? Yes! And did you know that you can experience the emotions of God?
Of course, God does not have fickle feelings and whimsical moods, nor is He influenced unduly by the condition of the worlds He has created.
God does not sit in Heaven worrying over our earthly condition, wringing His hands with sweaty palms. I don’t believe there is ever a conversation within the Godhead where something is said along the lines of, “Oh My, what are We going to do?”
Yet, in Scripture, we see that God “takes delight.” He experiences gladness and joy. He is lavishly and lovingly generous. His protective instinct is often aroused, and He goes to battle on behalf of those in need. He comforts. He is sympathetic and relatable, tolerant and patient.
The Bible shows us how God expresses His emotions; Zephaniah even portrays Him as a singing God. Just look at the numerous words of emotion in Zephaniah 3:17 NASB: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
As human beings made in God’s image, we have been created as emotional beings because that is the way He is. That is already a pretty clear acknowledgment that our Creator God is Himself an emotional Being.
Due to our fallen state, we are also badly tainted with sin and rebellion and evil motives; yet, in our original design, we are modeled like our Creator.
He expresses Himself in many ways, and He wants us to follow Him closely as we love and serve Him. He is not a distant, detached, aloof and unfeeling God; indeed, He is passionate and compassionate.
That Your Joy May Be Full
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11 NKJV)
This is Jesus, speaking to His disciples. Remember that He and the Father God are one; here, He is speaking as God, telling the disciples that His own joy is increasing as He is explaining the Kingdom to them, and that He wants their joy to increase as well. He wants joy to be a shared emotion for all of His disciples, including present-day you and me.
Scriptures do not portray our personal God as a cerebral, emotionless deity. No, together they give us a full-color picture of the God who is moved by emotions such as yearning, love and compassion to act.
He loved the people He has created so much that He sent His only Son to save them from a well-deserved sentence of death. He loves each of us so much that He takes the initiative to save us even when we spurn Him repeatedly.
God’s heart beats with such a profound depth of feeling that on a celestial EEG, it will never flatline.
When we accept His outreaches and respond to His love, all of Heaven throbs with joy and celebrates with Him. In fact, Heaven knows how to throw a party!
Jonathan Edwards, colonial pastor, preacher, and theologian of the First Great Awakening (who from his portraits appears to represent stern formality and rigid fortitude), preached about what he called “holy affections,” that is, sanctified emotions.
He wrote, “True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.” He considered the enjoyment of holy affections to be part of the abundant life of true Believers. As Psalm 16:11 puts it, “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
Jack Hayford, respected elder statesman in the Body of Christ, considers that in an environment in which God’s Word is foundational and the person of Christ is the focus, His Holy Spirit brings clear thinking along with an emotional response. He says that the Spirit can be trusted to both “enlighten the intelligence and ignite the emotions.”
Hayford explains that God is not asking anybody to abandon reason or to “succumb to some euphoric feeling.” Instead, He is asking us to surrender senseless fears about His control of both our intellects and our emotions.
An emotion, after all, happens to be a lively and vigorous activity of the mind, not a separate function outside the operation of the mind. Our emotions cannot be dissected from the other actions of our intellects. We are delighted or displeased with things all the time, and our emotions have an impact upon our bodies, our level of holiness, our relationships, our decisions.
Whether we are being acknowledged for a job well done or reprimanded for a mistake, emotions can burst to the surface instantaneously—momentarily bypassing the more “logical thinking” part of us. How we handle those bursts is a determining factor of our true emotional health.
In the context of our life in Christ, we can look to the Word of God to learn more about our emotions. For example, whenever we see the word “heart” in Scripture, we must be ready to consider our emotions within the context of the passage.
The Condition of the Soil of the Heart
Over the years of ministering with people, I have realized that human hearts clearly can be hardened or softened toward the things of God. Jesus told the parable of the sower to alert us to the various conditions of the human heart:
“…Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13:3-8 NLT)
What is the condition of your heart’s “soil”? Is it rocky or thorny? Or is your heart like good, soft soil, ready to receive the Sower’s seed?
For years, I prayed, “Lord, send forth Your Word like a hammer to shatter the hard places in my heart.” (Photo via Unsplash)
I believe this has been an important prayer that has helped me grow spiritually. It is good to have a sensitive heart and a soul that is responsive to the emotions of God as expressed through the powerful presence of His Holy Spirit.
My prayer is based on the words of Jeremiah 23:29: “‘Is not My word like fire?’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?'”
Ultimately, all of God’s actions and all of His emotions are rooted in one sweeping emotion—love. He expresses His love in so many personalized ways that we can spend our lifetimes trying to comprehend it. However, all of our efforts to grasp the length and breadth and height and depth of His love fall short, don’t they? That is why we need to keep praying this prayer from Ephesians 3:
“That Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith; that [we], being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19 NKJV, emphasis mine)
A Heart That Burns
Do you feel celebrated by God, like you are special to Him? Or do you think and feel that He merely tolerates you? When you pray, do you enjoy your time with the Lord, or does your time with Him seem like an endurance contest? Do you struggle with a sense of rejection and dejection—or do you know moments of elation?
Your emotions indicate what your whole being needs and wants: a never-ending embrace from your Father in Heaven.
Remember the sequence of wholeness in God:
1. First, you gain knowledge about His love from reading His Word, the Bible.
2. Next, you move into a revelation of His love, which enables you to experience the passionate emotions God expresses toward you—emotions that restore you.
3. Then, at last, you can express your genuine love toward Him. And because you are so secure in His love, you are now capable of loving the people around you.
Are you like one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus? When they encountered the risen Lord Jesus, they didn’t recognize Him. However, their hearts knew who this Traveler was. Their hearts burned within them: “…Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).
With Jesus walking alongside you and His Holy Spirit within you, I pray that your heart will burn with bright flames of love. With a burning heart, proceed along your life’s journey immersed in His very Word of life and carrying His presence wherever He may lead you.
Prayer of a Passionate Heart
Father, in Jesus’ great name, I am so thankful that, through the work of His Cross, I can come into a living and vibrant relationship with You, my loving heavenly Father. What a delight and privilege it is to participate in daily communication with the God of the universe, and how amazing it is to feel Your love! What a revelation it is to know that You are the God who shares Your exhilarating emotions with me as one of Jesus’ followers. All praise to You, the living, loving Lord! Amen.
A Heart on Fire!
JAMES W. GOLL is the president of God Encounters Ministries and has travelled around the world sharing the love of Jesus, imparting the power of intercession, prophetic ministry and life in the Spirit. He has recorded numerous classes with corresponding study guides and is the author of more than forty books, including The Seer, The Lost Art of Intercession, The Coming Israel Awakening and The Lifestyle of a Prophet. James is the father of four wonderful children with a growing number of grandchildren, and makes his home in Franklin, TN.