Handling Emotions: Genesis 4:4-7

Emotions are powerful, and sometimes seem as though they are either a blessing or a curse. God has given us emotions for a purpose, but it can be so easy to let our emotions run our lives instead of seeing them as God has intended.

In this blog, we will briefly discuss the place of emotions in our lives, as we study this famous passage from Genesis 4:4-7:

And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’

How blessed we are to have the Word of God to guide us in every area of our lives – even in our emotions! Here, we see a glimpse of the story of Cain and Abel. Cain had presented an offering to God that He rejected, and yet He accepted the offering of Cain’s brother, Abel. We see in this section that Cain then became jealous and angry, and his “countenance fell.” Other versions of the Bible say things like “his face fell” or “he looked dejected.” Cain was experiencing some very powerful emotions – both anger and despair – and God, in His graciousness, speaks directly to Cain to give him the answer to his emotional problems: do well, and your countenance will be lifted up.

We’re not talking about a works-based religion here. We know that since Christ came and died, we are only saved and can only be pleasing to Him because of that work on the Cross, not because of anything that we have done or could ever do. What our Lord is saying here is that Cain cannot allow his emotions to run his life. He is responsible for choosing to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord, and God is so gracious that He even promises Cain that if he focuses on this goal, then his emotions will follow.

At Faith Church, we often refer to a train to illustrate the proper place of emotions in our lives. Many people live with their emotions as the engine that is pulling everything else behind it. The emotions are usually followed by actions, and then thinking is the caboose. So, we tend to feel, the act/react, then think about it later which leads to worse feelings/reactions/thinking as so on. Do you see the cycle?

God calls us to reorder our train, placing thinking as the engine, followed by actions and then emotions. He calls us to filter our thinking through His Word and then, no matter how we feel, act on what we know to be true from His Word. Oftentimes, the emotions will follow, but that is not our goal: our goal must be to please Him no matter what and dig into His Word as our authority, not our shifting emotions.

We all know the end of Cain’s story: he does not heed the instruction of the Lord but rather acts/reacts to his emotions by killing his brother. Then, thinking follows and he tried to hide what he has done. The Lord brings judgement on Cain, and all because he chose to be ruled by his emotions.

We don’t want to take emotions lightly. They are there for a reason and are a blessing, both to experience joy and other positive emotions, and also to indicate when something deeper is going on in our hearts with negative emotions. They should not be shied away from or disregarded, but how wonderful it is to know that we can stand firmly on the solid foundation of the Word of God and don’t have to live by the shifting sands of our emotions. We can ask God for help to have the correct focus, and we can trust Him to help us with our emotions.

Bethany Dunn
Bethany heard about Vision of Hope while attending Word of Life Bible Institute in Florida. When she began praying about what God wanted her to do after graduating, He kept bringing Vision of Hope to her mind. Knowing that there was an internship available, Bethany applied, was accepted, and began her internship with VOH in July, 2012. Since then she has been amazed at the opportunities God has given her to learn more about His Word and how it applies to everyday life. Bethany now serves on staff at Vision of Hope.