Follow the Emotions


By Jen Jang

“I wish I could just win the lottery!” While spending the whole day with my friend, this phrase caught my attention. She didn’t say this just once but twice throughout the day. Although she said it jokingly, I noticed a glimmer of hope in her eyes— the kind of glimmer one gets when daydreaming. In such daydreaming, while there is a hopeful longing for a different reality there is also a heartbreaking disappointment in the current circumstances.

Near the end of our trip, she said it again. This time I shared my observation with her. “I noticed that you said that a few times today. Could you tell me more? What does winning the lottery mean to you?” We spent the next hour talking about her upbringing, anxieties, and pressure as the oldest child. Winning the lottery seemed like an instant fix for all her worries. As we talked, we turned to God for comfort and help. If I did not ask her about the repetitive statement, I would have missed this precious opportunity to know and love my sister better.

So what is today’s take-away for engaging in biblical counseling? Follow the emotions. Don’t just listen to people’s words; pay attention to how they speak. Notice if someone’s emotions change and when they change. Does their demeanor change to sadness when they talk about their childhood? Do they talk with joy when they talk about their adventures in hiking? By noticing people’s emotions and patterns, we notice what is important to them. When we notice such things, we can engage in deeper conversation. “You seemed to hesitate before talking about your family situation. What is the hesitancy about?” “As you were talking, you looked a little down. Could you tell me more?”

By following the emotions, we are slowing down and expressing this: what is important to you is important to me. This kind of caring isn’t reserved for professional counselors; rather, this kind of caring is a delight and command for all believers. Count others more significant than ourselves and look at the interest of others (Phil. 2:3-4). By this people will know that we are his disciples, if we have love for one another (John 13:34-35).

Do you think you can love in this way? Remember, our God is a God who delights to love us in this way. I’ve often heard this: what you care about, God cares about more. We can look at the interest of others, because there is a wonderful Savior who is caring for us.

(This idea of following the emotions because it leads to what is important to the person is from my Helping Relationships course I took with Dr. Ed Welch. I highly recommend that you take that course or another CCEF course online!)


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