Understanding Emotions

April 13, 2022 |


I remember when I learned that the Sermon on the Mount was one sermon. You’d think I would have understood it was one sermon from the fact that it is called the “Sermon” and not “Sermons” on the Mount. But for whatever reason I just missed it. I’d spent my life reading Jesus’ most famous sermon as little TED talks where He discussed different principles, and not seeing that these ideas flow into and out of one another. The little headings in my Bible (that aren’t present in the original manuscripts) tricked me into thinking that Jesus was only hitting highlights, not communicating one big idea. 

What is the idea - Life in the Kingdom of God.

I learned about this life in the Kingdom principle most poignantly from Matthew 6:19-34. In these verses, it’s not that Jesus is teaching simply on money and worry - He is teaching about what can take our allegiance away from the Kingdom of God. When this happens, chaos ensues. The planets of our passions are meant to be held in their proper orbit by the King and His Kingdom. When the King is dethroned in our hearts, things go bad. Fast.

“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…”

That’s where I always stopped reading, but Jesus keeps speaking.

“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life.”

Wait. Jesus just said something important, and if we slow down long enough to hear it we will be offended. But if we stop and consider what He is saying, letting our offense be converted to curiosity, we can be set free.

Jesus links worry with treasure, put plainly - what I worry about is what I treasure. 

My emotions flow from my heart. What I treasure makes its home in my heart. Therefore, my emotions reveal something about what I treasure. Jesus then applies this principle to the lives of His listeners by giving several relevant examples: food and clothing.

I wonder what examples Jesus would use with my life?

“Adam, consider your relationships - how cared for you are, how well your community knows you, how many people love and celebrate you. Don’t worry about your life, whether people like the songs you write or produce, the things you have to say. Your Father knows what you need. He loves you, He has welcomed you into His family, and Has given Jesus for you. Adam, consider your family, consider your health, consider your finances, consider your ministry - your Father knows what you need and has given you exceedingly more than that.”

What examples would Jesus use in your life? The way to find out is by asking where you worry, where you are prone to anxiety, where your emotions are difficult to control. These are penetrating questions that cut to the core of things. In His teaching, Jesus shows that our emotions are not morally neutral. In fact, they reveal what is in competition with Jesus for first place in our hearts. 

What is the solution then to such a subtle, pervasive, and fundamental struggle? The answer can’t simply be “well don’t worry about that so much.” Nor can it be “you are good at these other things, you don’t need to be insecure.” The first response is vapid and simplistic. The second trains us in self-righteousness. Jesus’ solution? Seek a different kingdom. Repentance.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

According to Jesus, the solution to my anxiety, my worry, my unrighteous anger, whatever the out of order emotion may be, is to seek first His kingdom. Not to simply tough it out, get over it, or squash it down. The solution is a change of mind, direction, and action.

Have you ever thought about your emotions this way? Rather than something to be overwhelmed by or to ignore, they can be signposts and guides to freedom because they point us to the surprising joy of repentance. Is every emotion sin? Of course not. God Himself has emotions of grief, anger, judgment, etc., - but they are all oriented toward His kingdom, His glory, and what is best for His people and world. What about yours? Does your heart reveal that there is “one thing that you seek after” or are your affections divided? Jesus longs for your allegiance because He longs to set you free. Bring your real and honest self, emotions and all, to the God of the Psalms. He hears your prayers, your processing, as worship. You are invited in. Will you come?


  • Where do your emotions easily get out of order? What do they reveal about what you treasure? Pray and ask Holy Spirit to reveal specific areas of your heart that are out of alignment with God’s kingdom

  • What Kingdom of God oriented pursuits can you engage in as a means of practical repentance?

  • Who in your life can you enlist as support and encouragement as you engage in this pursuit?


Adam Westlake

Adam is a Producer, Mix Engineer, and Guitar Coach at The Worship Initiative and a counselor with BetterDays and Courage Christian Counseling. He holds a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and serves in the Worship and Counseling ministries of Northway Church in Dallas, Texas.