Untangling Emotions

By J. Alasdair Groves, Winston T. Smith

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Christians often view their emotions in one of two ways: either they don’t matter at all or they are the most important thing that defines a person. However, neither extreme is true to God’s good purpose for emotions. Written by two experienced counselors, this book sets forth a holistic view of emotions rooted in the Bible, offering a practical approach to engaging with both positive and negative emotions in a God-honoring way. Readers will be encouraged to see their emotions as an opportunity to explore themselves, their values, and their affections, and to move toward deeper worship of God.

Read Chapter 1


J. Alasdair Groves

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

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.

Product Details

Title: Untangling Emotions
Published: March 31, 2019
ISBN-10: 1-4335-5782-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-5782-8
Category: Christian Living
Retail Price: $16.99
Binding: Paperback
Trim: 5.5 in x 8.5 in
Page Count: 240

Table of Contents

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

  1. Two Pitfalls
  2. Engage: A Better Option
  3. Engaging Emotions Means Engaging God
  4. Engaging Relationships
  5. On Nourishing Healthy Emotions
  6. On Starving Unhealthy Emotions

Part 3: Engaging the Hardest Emotions

  1. Engaging Fear
  2. Engaging Anger
  3. Engaging Grief
  4. Engaging Guilt and Shame
  5. A Museum of Tears

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


“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.”
Edward T. Welch, Counselor and Faculty Member, 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, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy Emeritus, 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 and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

“When it comes to navigating personal emotions, Groves and Smith are like river guides on a rafting trip. They understand the currents and get you where you need to go. Particularly helpful is their recognition of the link between what we feel and what we value. In my experience, that link has often been the key to unlocking complex emotions for the people I care for.”
Jeremy Pierre, Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Biblical Counseling, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

“Steering a wise middle course between exalting and ignoring our emotions, Alasdair Groves and Winston Smith develop a biblically rich understanding of emotions as a gift from God, an essential aspect of our image bearing. But they don’t stop there. With practical insight and winsome examples, they demonstrate how to evaluate and direct your emotions in ways that deepen love for God and others. If you have questions about the role of emotions in the Christian life, or if you sometimes wonder why you feel too much—or too little—of a given emotion, you will profit immensely by reading this book.”
Michael R. Emlet, Faculty Member, Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation; author, CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet and Descriptions and Prescriptions

“I've been a counselor for twenty years, and I still don't get emotions. I need help to figure them out, and I’m sure you do, too. Untangling Emotions is now my go-to guide on emotions. It packs a lot into one book, and page after page honors Christ.”
Deepak Reju, Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; author, The Pastor and Counseling and She’s Got the Wrong Guy

“Grab this book. Dig deep. Let the Lord have your heart, for Groves and Smith are spot on: it’s time we engage our emotions. Isn’t it obvious that times are changing? The danger we face— Christians and pastors alike—is that we follow culture and let the love in our hearts ‘grow cold’ (Matt. 24:12). But this book leads us to Jesus. Its life-giving counsel—rooted in Scripture, reliant on the Lord—helps us deal with our most difficult emotions. Read this book. Embrace the process. Live it loud so we can help others—including those lost without Jesus—do the same.”
Thad Rockwell Barnum, Assisting Bishop, Diocese of the Carolinas