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Untangling Emotions (Groves & Smith)

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How do you feel about how you feel?

Our emotions are complex. Some of us seem able to ignore our feelings, while others feel controlled by them. But most of us would admit that we don’t always know what to do with how we feel.

The Bible teaches us that our emotions are an indispensable part of what makes us human—and play a crucial role in our relationships with God and others. Exploring how God designed emotions for our good, this book shows us how to properly engage with our emotions—even the more difficult ones like fear, anger, shame, guilt, and sorrow—so we can better understand what they reveal about our hearts and handle them wisely in everyday moments.

Read Chapter 1


Introduction: How Do You Feel about How You Feel?

Part 1: Understanding Emotions

 1. Sometimes It’s Good to Feel Bad
 2. What Exactly Are Emotions?
 3. Emotions Don’t Come in Single File
 4. Emotions Happen in Your Body
 5. You Relate to Others When You Feel with Them
 6. Why Can’t I Control My Emotions?

Part 2: Engaging Emotions

 7. Two Pitfalls
 8. Engage: A Better Option
 9. Engaging Emotions Means Engaging God
 10. Engaging Relationships
 11. On Nourishing Healthy Emotions
 12. On Starving Unhealthy Emotions

Part 3: Engaging the Hardest Emotions

 13. Engaging Fear
 14. Engaging Anger
 15. Engaging Grief
 16. Engaging Guilt and Shame
 17. A Museum of Tears

Appendix: Does God Really Feel? The Doctrine of Impassibility
General Index
Scripture Index


J. Alasdair Groves (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as the executive director for the New England branch of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He is also the director of CCEF's School of Biblical Counseling.

Winston T. Smith (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the rector at Saint Anne's Church in Abington, Pennsylvania. He is the author of Marriage Matters.


“You might not put a book on emotions at the top of your reading list, but given how everyday life is crammed with our emotions and those of our families, friends, and enemies, the topic is highly important. This book will lead you to engage with emotions in good and fruitful ways.”  -Ed Welch, Faculty and Counselor, Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation

“Theologians and philosophers have often given highly oversimplified advice to people about emotions: Subordinate them to the intellect! Welcome good emotions (joy, peace) and suppress bad (fear, anger)! Such oversimplifications are not true to Scripture, and they hurt those who are struggling with difficult situations. Here Groves and Smith help us enormously as they untangle things, relieve confusion, and help us think through these issues in a serious way. We’re enabled to see that in Scripture every emotion (whether we think of it as good or bad) has right uses and wrong ones. There is good anger and bad anger, good fear and bad fear. We’re shown how to engage our emotions and how to act (or not act) on them. The authors have a deep understanding both of Scripture and of human experience, and they have put their insights into a strikingly well-written book, dealing with difficult questions through vivid metaphors, illustrations, and stories. Most importantly, this book is God-centered. It even contains an appendix showing us the senses in which God does and does not have feelings. I recommend this book to people who are struggling to understand their own feelings and to help others deal with theirs.”  -John M. Frame, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary

“God made us emotional beings. We love and we hate. We rejoice and we lament. We experience guilt and shame. Sometimes, maybe often, we struggle with unwanted emotions. Groves and Smith bring their considerable wisdom as counselors and students of the Bible to bear on the subject of our emotions, helping us to understand and engage our emotions and enabling us to move closer to God.”  -Tremper Longman III, Distinguished Scholar of Biblical Studies, Westmont College