Our lessons this quarter address an aspect of the human mental make-up which we share in common with our Creator--the capacity to feel and experience emotion, an affective state of consciousness encompassing a wide range of feelings including love, hate, fear, anxiety, pain, compassion, and sorrow.
This Insights overview endeavors to provide a context for human emotion in light of the cross.
In the beginning when God created our world, He said, "'Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness' . . . So God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:26, 27).
To be created in God's image includes the ability to think, feel, experience, reason, and believe as God does. "Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator--individuality, power to think and to do" (Ellen White, Education, p. 17)
Before sin, the intelligent beings within God's creation knew only the happy emotions of love, joy and peace. The entrance of sin, however, brought about a change. Even before the creation of this world, Lucifer's subtle insinuations and subsequent fall led to anxiety and sorrow throughout the angelic host. These were feelings heretofore unknown save in the heart of God. From eternity past, the knowledge that sin would one day enter the universe brought unspeakable pain to the Father and Son.
In the garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by Satan to partake of the forbidden fruit. She followed inclination rather than the Word of God. Allowing feelings to be her guide, she brought the whole human race under the control of Satan down the path of ruin. In the book Early Writings is recorded an in-depth account of the fall of man: "Sorrow filled heaven as it was realized that man was lost and that the world which God had created was to be filled with mortals doomed to misery, sickness, and death, and that there was no way of escape for the offender. The whole family of Adam must die. I then saw the lovely Jesus and beheld an expression of sympathy and sorrow upon His countenance. Soon I saw Him approach the exceeding bright light which enshrouded the Father. Said my accompanying angel, 'He is in close converse with His Father.' The anxiety of the angels seemed to be intense while Jesus was communing with His Father. Three times He was shut in by the glorious light about the Father, and the third time He came from the father we could see His person. His countenance was calm, free from all perplexity and trouble, and shone with a loveliness which words cannot describe. He then made known to the angelic choir that a way of escape had been made for lost man, that He had been pleading with His Father, and had obtained permission to give His own life as a ransom for the race, to bear their sins, and take the sentence of death upon Himself, thus opening a way whereby they might, through the merits of His blood, find pardon for past transgressions, and by obedience be brought back to the garden from which they were driven. . . . Then joy, inexpressible joy, filled heaven, and the heavenly choir sang a song of praise and adoration. They touched their harps and sang a note higher than they had done before, because of the great mercy and condescension of God in yielding up His dearly Beloved to die for a race of rebels. Then praise and adoration was poured forth for the self-denial and sacrifice of Jesus, in consenting to leave the bosom of His Father, and choosing a life of suffering and anguish, and an ignominious death that He might give life to others. Said the angel, "Think ye that the Father yielded up His dearly beloved Son without a struggle? No, no. It was even a struggle with the God of heaven, whether to let guilty man perish, or to give His darling son to die for them" (Ellen White, Early Writings, pages 126, 127).
Ever since the fall, feelings have proven to be an unsure guide. Do you know what it is like to be powerfully drawn by your emotions in one direction, but to be pulled in another direction by what you know to be right? Every thinking person who has ever lived has experienced this, but none has ever experienced it to the degree that our Savior did on account of our sin.
We, like our first parents, have sinned. Our hearts condemn us. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, and despair tell us that our cases are hopeless. The gospel teaches that in becoming a man, Jesus entered into our experience. "The faith of Jesus is that He 'Himself took our infirmities' and was touched 'with the feeling of our infirmities,' being tempted in all points like as we are.' If He was not as we are, He could not possibly be tempted 'like as we are' "(1905, ATJ, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, 38.7). Christ was strongly tempted to believe that the weight of guilt he bore on our behalf would eternally separate Him from the Father. "In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ prayed, " 'O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.' "Three times has he uttered that prayer. Three times has humanity shrunk from the last crowning sacrifice. But now the history of the human race comes up before the world's Redeemer. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, just perish under the Father's displeasure. He sees the power of sin, and the utter helplessness of man to save himself. The woes and lamentation of a doomed world rise before him. He beholds its impending fate, and his decision is made. He will save man at any cost to himself. He accepts his baptism of blood, that perishing millions may through him gain everlasting life. He left the courts of heaven, where all was purity, happiness, and glory, to save the one lost sheep, the one world that had fallen by transgression, and He will not turn from the mission He has chosen. Having made the decision and reached the final crisis, he fell in a dying condition to the earth, from which he had partially risen…. God suffered with His Son. Man cannot comprehend the sacrifice made by the Infinite God in giving up his Son to reproach, agony, and death. The angels who had done Christ's will in heaven were anxious to comfort Him; but it was beyond their power to alleviate His sorrow. They had never felt the sins of a ruined world, and they beheld with astonishment the object of their adoration subjected to a grief beyond all expression" (Ellen White, Present Truth, December 3, 1885).
Through the amazing sacrifice He made on our behalf, Jesus, our Savior and elder Brother, has come very near to us. When we mourn the loss of a loved one, He is near. When we wrestle with a temptation that seems too strong to bear, He is near. When we feel the waves of despair crashing over us, He is near. When we feel that no one in the world understands, He is near. When the sense of our own sin weighs heavily on our hearts, He is near. He is a sympathizing Savior who is touched with our feelings. No one understands like Jesus. It is in the cross of Christ that we find comfort in sorrow, hope in despair, cleansing from sin, and healing for our emotion-scarred hearts.
"Do not be afraid to confess your sins and to clear the King's highway. Jesus is not far away. He is at your right hand to help you. The promise is 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' When you confess your sins, it is your privilege to believe this promise, but not because you have a happy flight of feeling. Feeling is not faith. Faith is just as distinct from feeling as the east is from the west. You are to believe that God will accept you when you fulfill His conditions, believing His word because He has spoken it. You must rely upon the word of God” (Ellen White, Review and Herald, June 25, 1889).
"We should believe that God will answer our prayers, and not trust to feeling. We should say, My gloomy feelings are not evidence that God has not heard me. I do not want to give up on account of these sad emotions, for 'faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ . . . We are not to believe because we feel or see that God hears us. We are to trust to the promise of God. We are to go about our business believing that God will do just what He has said He would do, and that the blessings we have prayed for will come to us when we most need them." (Ellen White, Signs of the Times, May 7, 1896).
"Never give up your faith and hope in God. Cling to the promises. Do not trust in your feelings, but in the naked word of God. Believe the assurances of the Lord. Take your stand upon the plain thus saith the Lord, and rest there, feeling or no feeling. Faith is not always followed by feelings of ecstasy, but hope thou in God. Trust wholly in Him” (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases Volume 4, page 410).
"Many people mistake strong feeling for an assurance of faith, though they are essentially different. Strong feeling may be an accompaniment of faith, though it is not faith itself. And many suppose that there can be no faith without a happy state of feeling, which is a great mistake. Paul had great faith, though circumstances caused him to have great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart. Faith rests entirely upon the word of God, but feeling is often the outgrowth of impressions, produced in various ways. Self-complacency, deep satisfaction over one's own experience, is very often mistaken for assurance of faith, while, oftentimes, the individual has no faith at all--no clear conception of the teachings of God's word. Full assurance of genuine faith is unwavering confidence in God, with knowledge of his Word and implicit belief of the word" (E. J. Waggoner, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Volume 67, March 18, 1890).
In the closing events of this earth's history, God's people will have opportunity for their faith to be tested. Our feelings will be completely against us. Like Jacob's night of wrestling with the angel, we will feel that our sins are too great for God to forgive. To live by faith is not to live by feeling, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, for we walk by faith, not by sight--or by feeling. "Peace that depends on feeling will depart as soon as we begin to feel tribulation. But nothing can make any difference with the peace that comes by faith. 'These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (E. J. Waggoner, The Present Truth UK, October 11, 1894).
Because of Jesus' victory, complete emotional healing is promised for all who love Him: "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" Revelation 21:4. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).