The BIG IDEA
Emotions are a part of being human. Jesus experienced deep emotions just like we do. We can gain insights from Jesus on healthy ways to deal with our emotions.
We all experience emotions, but sometimes we don’t know what to do with them. Some of us stuff them, causing all kinds of stress and anxiety in our lives. Some of us dump them, causing all kinds of stress and anxiety in other people’s lives. Neither extreme is healthy for us or glorifying to God.
We can look to how Jesus interacted with the Father about his emotions for insight. He acknowledged them and freely expressed them to the Father. He didn’t make his decisions based on what he was feeling. He trusted that what he was seeing and experiencing was not all there was to reality. He recognized there was something beyond his immediate experience.
Why THIS MATTERS
Emotions are powerful. Our culture tells us over and over in different ways that we should do what feels good and what feels right. Unfortunately our feelings can often control us or mislead us, especially if we rely on them instead of truth for our decisions.
I WANT MY STUDENTS TO:
- KNOW: There is a healthy way to express our emotions. Identifying and understanding our emotions can help us grow in our relationship with God.
- EXPERIENCE: Freedom to acknowledge and express our emotions.
- KNOW: To be honest to God about our feelings and not let our emotions control us and our decision making.
The idea box is a place where you can find some creative ideas for leading this study. You might find videos, activities, or great illustrations that really bring the main point home. The ideas come from small group leaders like you, so if you have an idea that isn’t in there, click below to share it with the community!
*WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Which emoji would you use if…
- You wrecked your dad’s car.
- Your grandma gave you $500 for Christmas.
- Your girlfriend broke up with you.
- You got into your first choice of colleges.
- You slept through your final exam.
- Someone stole your iPhone.
WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT THIS?
God is an emotional being. Scripture shows us that God expresses a range of emotions – grief (Genesis 6:6), anger (Psalm 106:40) joy and excitement (Zephaniah 3:17) and love and compassion (Isaiah 54:10). Because we as people are made in the image of God, we too have the ability to experience a huge range of emotions.
1. What are some of the emotions Jesus experienced as he lived life on earth? (If you need help, here are some passages: Mark 1:40–41, Mark 3:3–5, John 13:21, Luke 7:9, Luke 10:21, Mark 10:21, Matthew 9:36, John 15:11, Luke 19:41)
- Are you surprised by any of these emotions?
Some answers might be compassion, anger, sadness, deeply troubled, amazement, joy, love.
- What does Jesus say he knows about what will happen to him?
- If you knew those things were going to be happening to you, what do you think you would be thinking and feeling?
He knows he will suffer, be rejected by the spiritual leaders, be killed and on third day be raised. He will be delivered over to men and will be mocked, shamefully treated and spit upon, he will be flogged (beaten with a whip) and killed.
3. Read Matthew 26:36–46. This passage describes the night before Jesus was betrayed and killed. Read the passage slowly, imagining yourself there on that night. What are some of the emotions Jesus is experiencing?
He is feeling anguished and distressed. Some translations say sorrowful and troubled. He says, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.”
4. Who does he share those emotions with?
He tells a few trusted friends and he pours them out to God. He doesn’t blurt them out to everyone (He has eight of his followers wait at a distance (verse 36) but then expresses to three of his closest friends (Peter, John and James) how he is feeling (verse 37). He then goes off by himself with God.
5. What do you observe about the way Jesus prays to God? (look at verses 39, 42, 44)
Allow the group to discuss. Some things that might be observed are:
- He calls God “My Father” which shows an intimate personal relationship with God. He teaches us that we can and should pray that way too! (Luke 11:1–4).
- He is honest with his feelings. By saying, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from me,” he is being honest with God that he wishes there was another way.
- He wrestles with his situation/future. (In Scripture, “cup” refers to destiny.)
- He verbalizes his choice to surrender to God’s will, not his own. He chooses to trust God in the midst of his feelings.
- He prays the same thing more than once. This is not because God didn’t hear him the first time. Sometimes we need to do that as we wrestle with our feelings and surrendering, especially if the situation we are facing is really difficult. As we spend time with him, he can give perspective and peace to our hearts. It doesn’t mean unwanted feelings will change or go away, but his perspective and presence can give us strength to persevere.
- Notice, he doesn’t say, “The Son of God shouldn’t feel this way” or “If I were trusting God I wouldn’t feel this way.” He is feeling everything there is to feel.
6. He knows his closest friends are going to go through a time of trouble as well.
Jesus knows that their faith will be tested too. He tells them that watching and praying will help them stand against temptation. He tells them the spirit is willing but the flesh (body) is weak—our own strength and efforts are not enough to stand against temptation. We need the power that comes from God.
7. Verses 39, 42, and 44 make it clear that going to the cross was not what Jesus felt like doing. What would have happened if he would have given into the temptation to follow his feelings and not gone to the cross?
Allow the group to discuss. Jesus would have been choosing not to follow the Father’s will, to live his life independently from God. It would have been disobedience and would have separated him from God. He would not have paid, or been able to pay, the penalty for our sins, so our sin would not have been forgiven. We would have no hope of eternal life. He would have missed out on the joy of seeing people made right with God (Hebrews 12:3 says it was for the joy set before him that he endured the cross.) He would not be in the place of honor and authority that he has now (Philippians 2:9–11). And so much more… Whew! Aren’t you glad he chose to allow the Father’s will to rule over emotions instead of allowing his emotions to rule over him?!
HOW DO WE APPLY THIS TO OUR LIVES?
8. What is your normal way of dealing with emotions?
Allow the group to discuss. Some people stuff them. Some people vent them to anyone and everyone. Some people try to numb them with activity or harmful behaviors. Some people become overly introspective.
9. How can handling our emotions in a wrong way hurt us and others? (ex. denying our emotions and never expressing them or expressing them without concern for others?)
Emotions that are “stuffed” (not acknowledged and turned inward) will eventually come out. Stuffing our emotions can result in physical illness, destructive behavior, and explosive outbursts. On the other hand, if we dump our emotions on others without concern for them, it can hurt people and damage our relationships. We might feel temporary relief, but we haven’t addressed the issues behind the emotions.
10. What might keep people from expressing their emotions to God?
- And what would you tell someone who is having a hard time with that?
Allow the group to discuss. Some people might be afraid they will offend God, but he already knows about about our feelings. Reading the Psalms will help you realize he has heard everything many times before! Some people feel like they don’t want to bother God, but he cares and wants us to come to him. Some verses that communicate this are “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you,” (1 Peter 5:7) and “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:15–16)
11. Why do you think it is important not to make decisions based solely on feelings?
Allow the group to discuss. Some reasons might be what we feel might not be an accurate indication of what is true. Our feelings might be a reaction to a situation where we don’t have the complete picture. Wrong beliefs or thoughts might be feeding our emotions. Hormonal changes, stress, hunger, and exhaustion can all affect us emotionally as well.
12. What if our feelings are telling us something different than what God’s word says?
Allow the group to discuss. Jesus modeled this for us in the Matthew 26 passage we looked at earlier. He chose to trust that God’s will and word was best and relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to help him choose God’s word and way over his feelings.
13. What is one thing you learned from this study about emotions that you want to apply to your life?
Allow the group to share.
Our review cards are an excellent way to review your past lessons with your students before each study. Not every lesson has one yet but if we have them, you can find them on the PRINT page. Check them out and use them each week to help your students grab hold of the truths in these studies.
What ideas do you have that could improve this study? Are there creative things you do to bring this topic home to your students? Please share with the community clicking the FEEDBACK button or leaving a comment below.