Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Look beneath the surface

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Look beneath the surface

by: Bo Noonan

posted on: Jun 22, 2017

Pete Scazzero writes the following in his book The Emotionally Healthy Church, “Emotional health and Spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”

This is the foundational statement that we are working from over the five-week series.

We humans are made up the following components:


All of these need to submit to and become followers of Jesus. This is a holistic view of discipleship. We are not just spiritual beings, nor was Jesus. This series is about discipling our emotional side.

The first principle we are looking at is: LOOK BENEATH THE SURFACE

Our lives are much like an iceberg; 10% of us is shown while 90% is below the surface. The challenge is to bring our emotions to the surface in a healthy way. If we bury them alive under the surface they will rise up in some unhealthy ways (i.e. tension headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, isolation, etc…)

I am more likely to bury my emotions than to express them clearly. My wife is the opposite. As you can imagine, this can be an issue in our marriage.

At the end of the day, immature emotions prevent us from loving well. Which is the end game; love God, love people.

As always, it’s extremely helpful to look to Jesus not only for our salvation, but for a model of true life. Jesus was the ultimate man. He had the ability to separate himself from the crowds, his family and his disciples. His relationship with his Father freed him from the pressures around him. He didn’t let others set his agenda.

But we can’t miss the fact that the Gospel writers record Jesus’ raw emotions.

  • He shed tears (Luke 19:41)
  • He was filled with joy (Luke 10:21)
  • He grieved (Mark 14:34)
  • He was angry (Mark 3:5)
  • Sadness came over him (Matt. 26:37)
  • He felt compassion (Luke 11:35)
  • He felt sorrow (John 11:35)
  • He showed astonishment and wonder (Mark 6:6, Luke 7:9)
  • He felt distress (Mark 3:5, Luke 12:50)

He was fully man, emotions and all.

Dan Allender and Tremper Longman provide this insight into emotions in their book The Cry of The Soul,

“Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality; listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God… Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives our heart a voice. In neglecting our intense emotions, we are false to ourselves and lose a wonderful opportunity to know God. We forget that change comes through brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.”

But an authentic relationship with Jesus takes us into the depth, into the shadows, into the deep parts of our souls. He wants to redeem and restore all of us, not just the 10%. This is good news, but it can be a painful journey at times.

It’s been said, “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.”

Truth is, there is always something lying beneath the emotion we are feeling.

When we feel emotions that are intense it helps to ask the WHY question. Why am I feeling this way?

For instance… Why do I feel ________________? Then, it’s followed by another question.

  • RAGE/ANGER: “How was I hurt?”
  • FRUSTRATION: “What did I feel helpless about?”
  • SHAME: “What was I hiding?”
  • RESENTMENT: “What did I expect or hope for?”
  • DEPRESSION: “What did I lose?”
  • JEALOUSY: “Where did I feel inadequate?”

Our emotions are like the ‘check engine light’ in our car. Seeing the light go on is not enough, we must ask WHY.

It’s also good to slow down and ask other questions about your life. Questions like:

  • Why am I always in a hurry? Why am I so impatient?
  • Why am I so anxious?
  • Why I am overly concerned that others tell me I’m doing a good job?
  • Why I am so concerned about running into this person?
  • Why do I avoid confrontation?


Here is a very helpful exercise. This is best done with a friend or spouse on a regular basis. It won’t help to do this once. If you don’t have anyone to do this with, do it with God. Envision him asking you the following questions.

NOTE: The question asker is just there to ask the question and to listen well: Eye contact, not distracted, nodding their head, attentive. They are NOT there to fix! Just listen. Just allow them to get under the surface and see where their emotions are coming from. To be clear, you don’t address their feelings with a solution. Just strive to understand.

David Augsburger wrote, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” So, be a good listener!

Here are the questions…


We finished with taking an inventory of our emotional and spiritual health. You can get a copy of that inventory by emailing the office, info@ncctacoma.org

Next week we will tackle the subject of Break the Power of The Past.

Please attempt to complete a GENOGRAM before next week's gathering. For more information on GENOGRAMS, click here.

If you missed last night or want to hear the talk again, click here for the audio from the event.

additional resources


Genogram Symbol Sheet

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