When was the last time you cried, laughed, felt angry, danced around in joy, were crippled by anxiety, or weighed down by guilt? Emotions are something we all experience, but they can be pretty complex & confusing at times. Some of us will just try to ignore our emotions, others will feel overwhelmed & controlled by them.
There’s a lot of emphasis on feelings in the world around us – we’re told that we need to be “in touch” with our feelings, guided by our emotions, and that our feelings reveal the “real you”.
As Christians we tend to be cautious about giving our feelings too much weight, because we know & understand that even our emotions can be tainted by sin. But the reality is we can’t ignore our emotions, they’re an important part of who we are as God’s image bearers. So how do we think and understand our emotions from a Christian worldview?
Untangling Emotions is a book that helps us think through God’s design for emotions. Written by a Christian counsellor and a church pastor, this is an easy to read and practical look at how we as Christians can engage with our emotions in a helpful & God-glorifying way.
The book is broken up into three sections.
The first section digs into helping us understand emotions. This isn’t a psychology textbook, so don’t expect a peer-reviewed, scholarly discussion here. Instead you’ll find a practical look at why we have emotions, how emotions work, how they effect our bodies and relationships, all with a Biblical thread running the whole way through.
A guiding principle throughout these chapters is that our emotions are an expression or reflection of what we love and value – emotions are good when they help us to love the right things – God and one another. But emotions can also steer us in the wrong direction if “we love the wrong thing, or maybe we love the right things in the wrong way or too much”. (p.19)
The middle section aims to help us navigate engaging our emotions, while avoiding the pitfalls of being controlled by our emotions, or ignoring them completely. There’s a lot in these chapters from outlining a four-step approach to engaging your emotions, to thinking through the importance of engaging with God & with others, and some suggestions for nurturing healthy emotions & resisting unhealthy emotions. While it felt at times that a lot of the illustrations were skewed towards an older male demographic, and some of the practical suggestions like “building altars” were a bit odd, there is plenty here to get you thinking.
The final section focusses in on some specific emotions – fear, anger, grief, guilt and shame – and unpacks further the function of each emotion & offers thought on how to engage with this emotion.
As someone who is often pretty uncomfortable with emotions, both my own & others, I was pretty cautious going into this book – would it try to manipulate me into “feeling stuff” or would it be an impossible to execute 10-step self-help guide to overhauling my emotions? Let me assure you it is neither of these things, it’s a Bible-saturated, measured approached, with the simple & realistic goal to helping you recognise that good, healthy, and God glorifying emotions flow out of growing in your knowledge, love and trust of God.
Flinders ES- Lauren H
J. Alasdair Groves & Winston T. Smith