Big Feelings

January 23, 2023

Big Feelings

Feelings.  We all have them. And many of us have a complicated relationship with our feelings.

A while back, I ran into a childhood friend who I had not seen since I was eight years old. Though it had been more than 40 years, I still had fond memories of playing at his house, kicking the soccer ball around and having snowball fights–you know, fun kid stuff.  We were reminiscing about that when he said to me, “Do you know what I remember most about you, Kevin? I remember being at your house once and your Mom wanted you to wear some shoes that you hated. You threw this huge temper tantrum. I’ll never forget!”  Wow. I did not remember that.  It was a humbling reminder that despite my mostly calm exterior, somewhere deep inside me is an eight year old with big feelings.    

That’s why it is very interesting to read through the gospels and pay attention to Jesus’ emotions. I believe that we can say with confidence that Jesus was the most emotionally healthy person who ever lived.  He was deeply in touch with his feelings:  anger, pain, love, hurt, sorrow, and more.  

11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her… (Luke 7:11-13)

In this devotional series, we are doing a deep dive into a relatively obscure miracle story in Luke 7.  We see Jesus’ emotions on full display in the healing of the widow’s son.  In this story, there are two key words around which this whole miracle hinges.  

This week, I want to highlight the first.  It is a Greek word that is fun to say:  “splagchnizomai.”  It roughly translates as “deep compassion.”  The NIV translates the word in this way:  “When the Lord saw [the widow], his heart went out to her.”  It would be fair to say that Jesus felt a punch to the gut. His heart hurt over this situation.  

What was it about her situation that got to him?  We don’t know.  Was it the fact that he lost his own father at a fairly young age and so he feels the loneliness of the situation?  Does he, as the oldest son and caretaker of his own widowed mother, feel her loss for her son? 

Or is Jesus anticipating the moment when his own Father will experience the gut wrenching loss of his own Son on the cross?  We don’t know.  All we know is that this situation moves Jesus deeply.  

A while back my wife and I were talking with some friends about a difficult pastoral and theological issue.  In the middle of the discussion our friend said:  “This is hard, but I don’t want to be driven by my emotions.” 

My reply to her was, “Funny you should say that, because I am working on this story from the gospels and the whole story turns on the fact that Jesus is driven by his emotions.” And it’s true.  Jesus would have seen dozens of funerals in his lifetime.  But there was something about this one that got to him and moved him to action.

When I imagine this scene, I see Jesus walking toward the funeral procession surrounded by his disciples and a crowd of followers.  Suddenly, he holds up his hand.  His group stops and falls silent.  Then the funeral procession stops in surprise.  I picture Jesus, with tears streaming down his face, walking up to the grieving widow, looking her square in the eye and saying, “Don’t cry.”  I believe that in that moment, we are meant to see what Jesus is seeing and feel what Jesus is feeling. Splagchnizomai.  

As I wrote at the start, we have a complicated relationship with our emotions.  We get too worked up about things that don’t matter, like shoes.  And we don’t feel deeply enough about the things that really matter. Many of us can’t even see how our emotions drive so many of our decisions, like fear, anger, anxiety, and worry.  

A big part of my own growth as a leader has been learning to name and surface my emotional life.  I don’t throw tantrums about shoes anymore. But I still have a lot to learn and a lot of growing up to do.

In my work with Resonate, I have come to learn that stepping effectively and faithfully into mission requires emotional health. Mission work is hard and tends to surface a lot of emotional baggage that lurks below the surface in our lives. 

I am grateful for a Christian organization called Faithwalking that has put me on a journey toward emotional healing and growth. I highly recommend their work.  

Let me ask you a few questions about your own relationship with your emotions. 

As you reflect on this story of Jesus, how is your heart these days? Do you see any signs that maybe you need to do some work in this area?  More specifically, as you reflect on this particular gospel story, is there anything breaking your heart lately that just might be from the Spirit?  And let me ask this even harder question: do you even dare to let your heart be broken with the things that break Jesus’ heart?  

May Jesus our healer renew our hearts and free us to have big and appropriate feelings.    


Kevin DeRaaf

Director of North America Regional Teams
Resonate Global Mission


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