Is God Really Jealous?

In high school, I was jealous when the guy I liked decided that he preferred my best friend. [Sad confession alert…] As an adult woman, I’ve been jealous when a friend spent more time with another friend than with me.

Jealousy has been personified as the “Green-Eyed Monster,” and it’s a really icky emotion when a human experiences it. Its root is covetousness, which we know is a sin, so it has to be bad. Right?

Years ago, I heard Oprah say that she no longer believes in the God of the Bible since the Bible states that God is jealous. She deemed jealousy as an impossible negative emotion for a great God.

It may be easy to pile-on and criticize Oprah’s beliefs, but based on our human version of jealousy, it’s a strange emotion for God to have. Can we agree on that? It’s a “negative” emotion that a newcomer to the Bible wouldn’t expect from God.

The important thing to remember is that God is jealous for us, not of us. We don’t have anything that God lacks and wants, that He would covet, but He desires that His people give Him their whole heart.

The first time we read that God is “jealous” is in the Ten Commandments where it says, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20: 4-6)

Over and over again in Scripture, God’s jealousy is referenced in relation to idol worship which breaks the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

I’m fascinated by the end of Exodus 20:6 because it shows us the root of God’s jealousy for us. He’s jealous for us because of His great love for us. God, our Creator, also knows that serving only Him is best for us.

God’s jealousy is founded on His goodness–His love and His good plans for us.

That’s also the origin of the last “negative” emotion of God that I’ll cover, grief. Psalm 78:40-41 says, “How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the wasteland! Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel.”

God is grieved by our rebellion and sin. Why? He knows that sin separates us from Him, leading to a life less than the one for which we were created. Walking close to God in holiness and repentance brings Him glory, and it brings good into our lives.

We see the whole gamut of God’s emotions through His Son, Jesus, too:

  • Anger as He turned over the money changers tables. (John 2:13-17)
  • Jealousy/zealousness for His Father’s house in the same circumstance.
  • Grief over the death of His friend, Lazarus (John 11:35)
  • Grief as He faced a terrible death and the withdrawal of His Father (Luke 22:39-46)

In our Bible, God defines Himself, both His character and emotions, and Jesus is the exact representation of His Father (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus displayed a beautiful gamut of emotions that His Father also possesses.

As those made in God’s image, we’re created with a range of emotions too that can be employed for good. So… why are we as a culture determined to numb ourselves?

That’s what I’ll dig into in upcoming posts. Thanks for sticking with me as I wrestle through these new areas of study and thought! I’d love to hear your thoughts on God’s emotions. I’m learning too, and our community is so helpful.

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I’m excited to be booking speaking events for 2020! Spring is close to being full, but there are February and April dates still available. Summer and fall are wide open, and I’d love to speak for your group.

My Exhale Retreat, which can also be done as a keynote, is what I’m most fired up about right now. Why? Because I’m seeing an unprecedented response among women to these messages that are rooted in Colossians 1. Jesus is setting His women free through His Word! Here’s a description:

Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not. Love Who You Are. Live Your One Life Well.

Do you feel like you’re suffocating under the pressures of being all things to all people? The pressure of filling every unfilled spot at church, work and home. The pressure of trying to do it all right, make decisions that benefit everyone else, and keep everyone happy.

There’s a process that can release you from the unbearable weight. Then you’ll be able to live the combination we all long for–fulling the desires of your heart, loving your people well, and bringing glory to God.

Rather than adding more to your to-do list, in this retreat Amy will help you to:

  • Move from running-on-empty to spent-and-content by investing your life in soul-filling ways.
  • Lose the ill-fitting rolls you’ve been trying to fill so that you can be lighter and freer.
  • Love your truest, God-created self with all your glorious gifts instead of trying to shove yourself into someone else’s mold.
  • Live your one and only life in a way that you know truly matters.

DREAM BIG and have Cheri Gregory, my co-author, and me both come. If you want to fill your spring small group studies, imagine using the Exhale retreat with Cheri and me as your launch!

To book me for your women’s event, please click here and fill out the form. Karen Christian, Proverbs 31 Ministries’ speaker coordinator, will get in touch with you for fees and scheduling. I hope to be in the room with you soon!

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The Things that Make God Angry

Since I was a little girl, I’ve been uncomfortable with negative emotions. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve expressed plenty of negative emotions– tantrums, meltdowns, down days that I wanted to stay in bed– but they’ve always felt bad or wrong. For example, I would shut out God if I couldn’t bring my sunny self.

I’m gaining a healthier view, but for a long time I carried an over-simplified categorization of emotions as “positive” or “negative.” You can probably guess the breakdown:

Positive emotions– Joy, happiness, gratitude, love, generosity, peace, hope, serenity, confidence…

Negative emotions– Sadness, despair, stinginess, hate, overwhelm, turmoil, hopelessness, insecurity…

You get the gist, and the funny thing is that some of these came from lists I found when I Googled “positive emotions list” and “negative emotions list.” I’m not the only one that categorizes this way. The internet doesn’t lie!  Yet, I took these categories one step further. One step too far. I wrongly thought:

Negative emotions are unrighteous.

That statement is untrue because our perfect and holy God holds some of what I’ve considered “negative” emotions– anger, hate, jealousy, and grief. Because God also feels these emotions, we can safely say that these feelings can actually lead to righteousness.

Context is really important. I’m pretty sure most of my meltdowns haven’t been a bit righteous, but we can’t define all negative emotions as bad.

Let’s take God’s anger as an example. Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day.” Wow. Wrath every day is a lot of wrath, but the cause of God’s anger is what maintains His status as a righteous judge. His wrath is fueled by:

  • Wickedness (Romans 1:18)
  • Disobedience (I Kings 11:9-10)
  • Dishonesty (Proverbs 11:1)
  • Injustice (Proverbs 17:15)

In relation, there are things that God hates which stoke His anger:

  • Proverbs 6:16-18
    •  haughty  eyes
    • a lying tongue
    • hands that shed innocent blood
    • a heart that devises wicked scheme
    • feet that are quick to rush into evil
    • a false witness who pours out lies
    • a person who stirs up conflict in the community
  • Psalm 5:5
    • the arrogant
    • those who do wrong
  • Psalm 11:5
    • those who do violence

From my last post, we know that God’s feelings are immutable and incorruptible. Now we’ve established that even God’s negative emotions are righteous and leveled at unrighteousness. I’ll write about how these truths inform us how to engage our emotions in godly ways, but let’s part with a few questions to consider:

  • How does God’s anger and hate inform how I look at the world?
  • How does the sacrifice of Jesus expand on the story of God’s anger?
  • How does the cross combine God’s “positive” and “negative” emotions?

I’d love to hear your thoughts as you’re processing with me!

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When I was out shopping yesterday, I was assaulted/delighted by all the Christmas displays. (I LOVE Christmas, as you can hear in this fun episode of Grit ‘n’ Grace, but before Halloween? Really?)

So, like most of you, my Christmas shopping list was jump-started. If you’re in that mode now, I have great news! Christianbook.com is running a great sale on Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not. Love Who You Are. Live Your One Life Well., and shipping is free with a $35 purchase. If you buy a copy of Exhale for Aunt Sally, cousin Joan, your best friend Marge, and your neighbor (you know she really needs it), you’ll have lots of your bases covered at a bargain! Click here to order. Coupon code: MEGASALE19

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Complete Joy

Today, surrounded by warm sunshine, towering palms, and blue water, I feel a rush of joy that seems like it will last forever.

Moments later, my mood is interrupted by a frisson of anxiety over my son’s interview, and less than a half an hour more finds me wrestling with confusion over what to write here.

Our days are like that, aren’t they? Fleeting happiness followed by bouts of worry displaced by teetering faith which is superseded by a spate of doubt. Our human emotions are highly unpredictable and seldom sustainable.

And yet they’re a gift, a reflection of the image of God.

Truthfully, my emotions feel like a mixed blessing, and trying to capture the gift of them while minimizing the curse isn’t easy. I’m starting this “Feel” series with several posts about the emotions of God, but it has required some research on my part to make sure that I stay theologically straight for you, my readers, and for myself, a woman who longs to follow God with as much purity as humanly possible. Before we go on, I want to share a truth that sets God’s emotions apart from our human emotions:

God has emotions, but His are both immutable and incorruptible.

  1. They’re immutable. God’s character and nature never changes, so unlike humans, He is not susceptible to “mood swings”. Every emotion He has is consistent and completely in line with His permanent will and dependable promises.
  2. They’re incorruptible. God is without sin, and His emotions are the same. They aren’t swayed by circumstances or give to fits of extremes based on selfishness. God’s emotions are a beautiful reflection of His perfection.

This quote helped my understanding so much, “There are two wonderful things concerning God and emotions: first, He understands our emotions (since He created us with the capacity to feel them), and, second, His own emotions continually flow from His perfection. God will never have a bad day; He will never change His feelings toward His redeemed.” (Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/does-God-have-emotions.html)

One of the emotions I treasure most in this life is joy, and it’s rich because its source is God Himself. As I read Scripture, God’s greatest joy seems to be in us. Unimaginable.

Zephaniah 3: 17 is often quoted but undeniably beautiful, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

And then there’s this verse that isn’t found on mugs and t-shirts, “As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5) Hearkens back to my last post, doesn’t it?

There are others, but one of my favorites points directly to Jesus’ motive for His sacrifice, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2b) It’s overwhelming to think that Jesus gave His life because of the anticipated joy of being reconciled to us!

In every case, including Jesus’ crucifixion, God’s joy is unchanged by circumstances and pain. It’s uncorrupted by evil or malice.

God’s joy is complete, and ours becomes complete in Him. (John 16:24)

So here we are, wrapped in God’s immeasurable love and the object of His joy. Knowing that we’re the recipient of His emotions– love, joy, mercy and compassion is an awe inspiring truth.

But what’s to be done with His “negative” emotions? I’ll address that question in my next post.

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Immeasurable Love

May 25th was the day we all waited for, counting down the months and then the days. The time seemed immeasurable, unbearable even, but the date finally arrived.

Wedding day!

The previous October, my youngest son, Nolan, and his beloved, Madison, got engaged, and everyone was thrilled. Nolan and Madison had dated for almost 2 years, and both families watched as the trust and love between them grew. Madison was the girl I had dreamed of and prayed for since Nolan was born– the just-right mix of godly and sassy in a beautiful package. She’s the girl of Nolan’s dreams, and we couldn’t wait to officially fold her into our family.

On the morning of the wedding, I reflected on a call I’d had the week before with my friend, Lisa. “Tell me what I need to know that I don’t know I need to know!” I pleaded. Lisa’s son had gotten married around the time of Nolan’s engagement, and I knew that she’d give me great girlfriend advice me about how to handle my mama-heart.

Lisa replied with wisdom as I knew she would. “You need to have your ugly cry before the wedding,” she said. “When you feel it coming this week, don’t hold back. Just let it go and cry your eyes out. That way, you’ll feel what you need to feel, but you won’t be a mess on the big day.”

I tried to follow her sage advice. The week before the wedding was busy and filled with emotion. Every time I felt the tears prick, I attempted to let go. I tried to feel the full gamut of emotions: the joy of gaining a daughter, the thankfulness of knowing that Nolan had chosen well, the sadness of the changing season, the overwhelm of all there was to do, and the gratefulness of two God-loving families joining in this union.

As the wedding processional began to plan and I settled in my seat, I felt a little smug. I was good. My ugly cry was over, taken care of the privacy of my own home in the days before the wedding.

And then this happened…

My son saw his bride. Overcome with deep love and awe of her beauty, the tears started. And they flowed, and flowed, and flowed.  I thought my big cry was over, but seeing Nolan’s emotion re-engaged my own and everyone else’s. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

Every time I see this beautiful picture, I’m reminded of one of our family’s happiest days. My heart soars over the way this marriage was birthed so full of love.

But I also think of Jesus.

There’s a coming wedding, and Jesus will be the groom at the end of the aisle. When He sees His bride, the church, I can imagine He’ll react just this way out of His deep, deep love for her and in awe of her radiant, righteous beauty that He bought with His own life.

It’s easy to give mental assent to this illustration, thinking of Jesus’ love for the church, but you know that the church is YOU, don’t you?

When Jesus sees YOU, He’ll be overcome with love immeasurable, and He’ll be in awe of YOUR beauty. Jesus is going to look at YOU this way.

That’s what I thought about when my son cried over his bride. My tears flowed as I watched the earthly wedding in front of me and anticipated the heavenly wedding to come.

(So much for mascara and avoiding the ugly cry.)

As we start this series called “Feel,” I want to spend a few weeks on how God feels. Considering His emotions and how He engages them makes my own feel more like a gift. I’ve often treated my emotions as something to be squelched or a problem to manage, but if we follow in His footsteps, our emotions are something precious to be engaged.

So let’s start with the emotion that is God’s very essence: LOVE.

I Jn 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Exodus 34:5-7a, “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.'”

God is love. It defines who He is, and it’s the characteristic that He proclaims about Himself. He also declares its primacy among His gifts to us.

I Cor. 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

God is love, and He gives it lavishly to us.

Ephesians 2:4-5, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 3:17-19, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

In total, there are 686 uses of the word “love” in the Bible describing God Himself, the way He loves us, and the way we are to love Him. I know “love” has become a hippy dippy word in our culture, describing the rush of infatuation at the beginning of a romantic relationship, but it’s so much more.

Let’s determine now to engage all of loves facets and power in order to knock down the walls of fear, rejection, and hurt that have kept us from divided from others. Let’s pray for help!

Lord, You are love. Because it is the core of who You are, You love us. Help us to begin to love others the way You love, without conditions or limits. We want to be people of lavish love, following the way Jesus loved by laying down His life. Amen.

During the wedding reception, something unusual happened. The DJ stood at the end of the family speeches and gave one of his own. He said that in over 30 years of DJ-ing wedding, he had never seen a reaction quite like Nolan’s, and then he gave my son a challenge. “Nolan,” he said, “if you’ll look at Madison like that every day, your marriage will last a lifetime.”

Every morning this week when you wake up, I want you to pause a minute before you roll into your day. Imagine Jesus, your bridegroom, looking into your eyes with greater love than my sweet son (or any human) could ever muster up. Every day. That’s the way your Savior loves you. Not just for a lifetime but for eternity.

Living in the light of that loving look will change you. And me too.

ps. I knew you’d want to see a picture of the beautiful bride, too, so here’s the whole happy Carroll family on wedding day!

 

 

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Numbed Out

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Have you ever caught yourself saying or thinking things like this?

The news stresses me out too much. I’m not going to watch it anymore.

I can’t think about that problem. It’s too big for me, and I’ve got enough of my own stuff to handle.

Man, this has been a day. I need ___________ (food,  binge-watching, a substance) to help me relax.

Being close to people always ends in pain. I’d rather be alone.

I’ll go ahead and confess that I’ve had each one of those thoughts at one time or another.

None of us likes to hurt or feel pain, but numbing out has become an American obsession. It’s reflected in shelves full of pain relievers, the way we shelter our kids from adversity, and how quickly we turn to entertainment to dodge or dull our pain. There are times when all those choices may be appropriate, but we’re a people (I’m person) who too often chooses numbness over pain.

Pain has a purpose.

In his book Where is God When It Hurts?, Philip Yancey uses the physical disease leprosy to show us that pain can be a gift. People with leprosy lose feeling in their extremities. Their hands, feet, nose, ears and eyes become numb. The tissue damage that’s symptomatic of leprosy isn’t caused directly by the disease. Instead, tissue damage happens because there’s no feeling to let a person know that they’re damaging themselves. For example, one boy with leprosy lost a finger because of turning a key in a sticky lock. When the key wouldn’t turn, he just kept pushing, not realizing that the metal was lacerating his skin. Pain would have kept the boy from injuring his finger beyond repair.

Other physical diseases also prohibit pain, and Yancey says, “Insensitivity to pain dooms such people to lives of constant peril.”

Emotional pain is the same. It’s an indicator that’s something’s wrong or that something has been lost. Although it’s not pleasant and is sometimes downright devastating, pain lets us know that losses and evils like death, divorce, financial ruin, racism, wandering children and sexism are not part of God’s original plan. These things, and many others, are the problems of our broken world.

Pain points to our problem.

When we turn away from pain, blocking it complete from our lives, we actually miss out. Tender hearts feel pain by definition. Numbed out hearts don’t feel, so they can’t:

  • Solve problems
  • Empathize with others
  • Connect through relationship
  • Feel joy either

Numbing may seem like a solution, but it only works temporarily and it brings greater consequences down the line. One is the absence of joy. Jerry Sittser, in his exquisite book A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, tells the excruciating story of the year after the loss of his wife, mother, and child in a crash caused by a drunk driver. At the end of the book, he says,”Yet the grief I feel is sweet as well as bitter. I still have a sorrowful soul; yet I wake up every morning joyful, eager for what the new day will bring. Never have I felt as much pain as I have in the last three years; yet never have I experienced as much pleasure in simply being alive and living an ordinary life. Never have I felt so broken; yet never have I been so whole…. What I once considered mutually exclusive– sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure, death and life– have become parts of a greater whole. My soul has been stretched.”

If we’re to make a difference in our world, we have to engage our hearts fully in both pain and joy, so that we can connect with the people we want to help.

In the series that I’m doing to develop tender hearts and strong voices, you’ve heard the four steps.

  1. Listen.
  2. Feel.
  3. Do.
  4. Speak.

In my Christian circles, I believe feelings have gotten a bad rap. Yes, it’s true that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (Jeremiah 17:9) But it’s equally true that God created us with emotions–the whole range including pain– that are meant to be gifts.

In the “feel” part of the series, we’ll talk about how to leverage emotions rather than being led by them. Next week I’ll write about God’s emotions, so please pray for me as I study!

How about you? How do you process both the gift and curse of your feelings?

Note: I don’t want to leave those adrift who are currently in deep pain or feeling like I’ve minimized your suffering here. In the year after my friend Linda died from breast cancer, the two books I quoted in the post, Where Is God When It Hurts? and A Grace Disguised were a life-line to me in my grief. They are my most highly recommended and most often given when people I love are in pain. Yancey’s book is more of a theological textbook, though it’s easy to read. Sittser’s book is a first-hand account. It looks unflinchingly at grief, but it’s full of hope even though it’s not a bit sugar-coated. Both were exactly what my heart needed–truth and understanding– as I grieved my friend.

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