Can God Really Meet Your Emotional Needs?

If anything has become clear to me of late it is that all problems are emotional problems. Whatever your moral, spiritual, relational or even sexual problem is, it’s an emotional problem. What you feel or don’t’ feel makes decisions for you.

This is a new angle for me to look at things through, and I think this angle is so appealing to me because I’m so emotional myself. I’m sometimes refer to myself as “emo”  because of it. I’m sensitive, dramatic, and emotionally aware, and it is reflected in all aspects of my life. In areas where emotional capacity is a strength – like relationships and pastoral ministry, I do well, but in areas where emotional capacity is a weakness, like stability or consistency, I do poorly.

My emotional needs seem to get ahead of me even when I don’t want them to. And this has led me to ask – how do I get a grip? I’ve become convinced that having emotional sensitivity and awareness is superior to lacking it, so I don’t want to just stuff it, but then if I don’t stuff it, how do I manage my life?

I think I’m part of a generation of boys brought up under the feminist regime, where women were told to be tougher and men were told to be more sensitive. It’s reflected in my marriage, my wife is emotionally tough, and I’m “in touch with my feelings.” It’s a bit of a strange inverted recipe, which leaves most women wondering “where did all of the real men go?” (right ladies?) Over the years I’ve done a lot to develop my manly capacities, but fundamentally, I’ve still got these deeply emotional thing, which I’m not sure how to handle.

This drives me to God. I remember when I was in college under the radical campus ministry all answers came back to “you have an idol, God is the answer.” When you thought a girl was cute, it was because you had this idolatry problem. If you couldn’t wake up and do your quiet time it was your idolatry, etc. The notion was that God was the answer to all of your needs. It sounds like it must be true because it’s really spiritual, right?

The only problem is that before the fall God only saw one thing that was not good and that was that the man was alone. God Himself recognized that a  finite created being was going to need like-fellowship so He created the woman. And it should come as no surprise that this new creature was wired really well well for relationships and connection.  She was something that would keep man from “being alone”

Well, unfortunately, since the fall, some things have been broken. Men and women, separated from God try to get from each other what only God is able to give. This does not make the converse true, however – that anything you seek from a human being is somehow unspiritual. The fact is that you need healthy human relationships in your life from the day you are born. You cannot be an island. Trust me, I have a friend who has lived that way, and he desperately wants out. You can’t be spiritual enough not to need other people. Even Jesus, craved human beings to be with him in his times of deepest need.

So all of your answers in that sense are not supposed to come from above.  They are supposed to come from above and around. Sure you may have to rely on only God alone in the hardest moments of your life, or if you get locked away by the Chinese government, but that’s not any different than the solid meals you are also being denied while in the brig. You aren’t wired to live without it.

You, were, however wired to live without all of the other relationship substitutes which you may be using, including TV, internet, novels and the like. Strip those things away, and watch your circle of friends dramatically expand. You will crave and seek out relationships because of the emptiness you feel without these false relationship placebos.

There is something very fundamental that you can only get from God, however, and you have to learn how to get it from Him, and it’s not that easy or natural. You must first learn to experience Him as a loving Father, then you must resist the flesh to actually abide in that love continually allow it to mine into deeper and deeper places n your identity.

The problem I encounter is that as I go deep in this journey, I just keep jumping out of the boat. I progress in my relationship with God, and then some deep “emotional” craving of the flesh begins to feel starved and I jump out in order to feed it. WHAT IS THAT AND HOW DO I STOP? I get afraid sometimes that I won’t progress any higher in God because this my pattern. My  emotional capacity takes me naturally and quickly to a certain place in God, but It also prevents me from getting any higher.  I want off the merry-go-round.

I have only recently come to see that part of the exit is having close human relationships, not just a close relationship with God. And I don’t just mean ideologically close. I mean emotionally close. People that give you that emotional feeling that you are loved and life is worth living. Having these kinds of relationships meets a deep emotional need that is very hard for a non-corporeal being to meet.

There is something else, however. The love of God, when I experience it, normally feels kind of like a nice hug. It’s happy, it’s warm and it’s comforting. The craving of the human heart is something much deeper than this encounter, however.  It’s a longing for an impossibly deep oneness and intimacy.

This is why, God showed me recently, he equates idolatry and adultery. It is not simply a metaphor. God is not likening adultery to idolatry. He is not comparing false worship to harlotry. He is saying that they are of the same essence. Adultery happens because you have a deep emotional craving that you want met by someone else. It’s a love for the illicit rather than the good. It is of the very same essence as worshipping false gods. Which may be how all of those women pulled Solomon away. It wasn’t just their religion, it was the satisfying of his lusts which in his heart formed a different religion. Sex outside of marriage is false religion, not just one of the side effects. Sex and the associated love in marriage is an act of true worship. It is actually redemptive. And it involves loving what is good. Onan sinned because he hated the good so much that he could not have proper sex with his wife and so God killed him for it. He was a worshipper of evil.

In the deepest moments of physical intimacy with your spouse, you experience oneness, freedom from concern, and peace. This is the same kind of depth of intimacy that is available in God. However, like a powerful lovemaking experience with your spouse, it doesn’t just fall out of the sky. You have to actively pursue this kind of depth that touches and rewires these deep places.  And if you allow yourself to be touched this deeply, trust me, you will bawl your eyes out. And once you are there, you can’t live without it that long before you are back to how you were. How long can your marriage be healthy without sex? Honestly, in normal circumstances, not more than a week. How long can you stay soft and fulfilled without a deep consciousness altering encounter with God? I doubt much longer.

And yes, I am equating deep worship with sex. Sex is nothing more than a physical act of emotional union with another person. It’s represents and expresses the deepest cravings of humanity. It’s where you are “naked”, vulnerable to another person, your true identity and emotions cannot be hidden. The place you have to tap in God must address this same level of depth. If the place you are touching in God is not as deep as the place you can touch in the bedroom, then it is simply not deep enough to satisfy your human longings. You are living on a starvation diet. I think I need to quit mine.

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  1. I just read this for the first time thank you so much it is relieving to know that other people out there feel as I do

  2. Thank you very much for your piece,
    Now I do have a problem! I am also as emotional, I had a long journey with God and I am thankful to His Grace. But truth to be told, I am 27 and I am not in a relationship because I haven’t found a suitable partner yet. Now, since I am a guy and emotional, I have this very deep and scathing emotional need. It is very hard for me to have relationships with my female friends without being emotionally dragged. I do control myself, but it’s very painful either way. Any thoughts?

  3. Mina,

    I am in the same boat you are (I am emotional, 29, and single). And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Having female friends is fine and good, and the emotional closeness you feel with them is good, too. Now, where this gets tricky is when you want to ask them out, but fear their rejection and loss of close friendship. Honestly (and this is just my opinion), it would be better to ask them out and see what they say than continue to put yourself through such emotional strain. On the other hand, if there are girls you are not interested in, and you start feeling emotional attraction to them, seek wisdom from God in how you should handle it. I personally would limit the amount of time I spend with such girls. Additionally, once you find a girl who reciprocates your feelings, let all your other girl friendships go to the background, and pour most of your girl focus into her.

    Just a few humble pieces of advice from another imperfect man. 🙂

    May Jesus give you wisdom and guidance through these relationships.

  4. In this article it said that I must first experience God as a loving father. I realized immediately that that’s where my problem lies. I can’t experience God at all. Because believing something is true and actually experiencing it are not the same thing. Just like owning something and having possession of it are not the same thing. I am like you, I am very emotional for a man. To the extent that in my previous marriage and now again in this one it seems a lot like a role reversal. However, I have never experienced any kind of connection with God. I pray a lot and try to read my Bible but it’s all just me, there never seems to be any Him. I turn to him frequently but never experience anything in return.

  5. This article was amazing, and an answer to a struggle and question all my life, what percentage of my emotional needs are met my God, and which are met by my husband. After a failed marriage (partially because I was needy) this question has become even more central. It seems the answer is “neither God OR human relationships are exclusive” and therefore the struggle is to keep them in balance? I appreciate you giving insight on this relevant and rarely talked about issue.

    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Liz. I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself regarding your former marriage. It’s good to be aware of yourself and grow, but the flip side is that a loving spouse is supposed to help us get our needs met in the best way possible. We do know from the Bible that we need both vertical and human relationships, so don’t feel bad for needing them. when you have a spouse that can’t or won’t meet your horizontal needs, it’s good to seek relationships with other women, and other life goals that can help fill some of that. Many blessings to you.

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