Does God have feelings?

I asked a Bible study group one time if God always got everything he wanted. They all nodded. He’s omnipotent, after all. He can do anything. I asked if God was ever sad. They all shook their heads. He reigns supreme on his emerald-encircled throne, gazing imperturbably over the sea of glass, clear as crystal. Thunder rumbles and lightning flashes as he commands the angelic host to execute every detail of his every wish. Nothing could ever bother or disturb his serene imperial majesty.

What do you think? Does God have feelings? If you follow the above line of reasoning, you’d say probably not. And you’d have lots of company, ancient and modern. In the fifth century, for example, Bishop Theodoret called those who ascribe passion to the divine nature “wild and blasphemous.” The scholastic dogmaticians coined a word for the concept: impassibility (from Latin in-, “not,” passibilis, “able to suffer, experience emotion”). Impassibility is the theological doctrine that God does not experience pain or pleasure from the actions of another being.

The Westminster Confession says in its second article: “There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible. . . .”

All of those views make a certain logical sense. But it is important that we do not describe God to the world in ways that we think logical. Far better to let him describe himself, whether that description fits our categories or not. Indeed, God does not have a body, so phrases like “the hand of God” are figures of speech to help us grasp his involvement in our world. But emotions are not dependent on a physical body. Spirits have them too. 

Does God feel regret? “The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:6).

Sorrow? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knelt down and prayed, “‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44). 

Puzzlement? “Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted” (Isaiah 1:5).

Anger? “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1).

Longing? “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt—you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me’” (Jeremiah 3:12,13).

Love? “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’” (John 11:33-36).

You and I worship a God who is indeed omnipotent, majestic, holy, and highly exalted. But you may be assured that he is crazy in love with you and passionately desires that you should spend eternity with him. 

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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