4/1 The Psychology of Jesus & the Problems of our World


Multitudes of books have been written on the subject of Christian Foundations and on Psychology, all aiming to explain how and why humans think, feel and behave as we do.  However, the most perfect and concise summary on optimum mental health was set out almost 2,000 years ago in the teachings of Jesus Christ, especially the principles found in “The Sermon on the Mount”.

In this series, we have aimed to set out the foundational views of the Psychology of Jesus.  In our first posts, we will examine Jesus’ view of our personality structure, our instincts and needs.  We will also look at His view of our mental processes, our emotions and resulting behaviour.  Also, Jesus clearly taught that to be truly free, we need to clean out our hearts.

In our next posts in this series on the Psychology of Jesus, we will continue the theme  by looking at the important areas of how our mind works, the principles of inner healing and then onto building trust with our Loving Father God.  We are still aiming at discovering our hidden heart beliefs and allowing Jesus to bring Wholeness in Spirit, Soul and Body.



One of the keys to Jesus’ model of Psychology is the great value He places on individual worth and dignity.  He literally gave His life for the individual.  He rejected the pagan concept that men were merely ‘pawns on the chessboard of life’, that women were simply property or that children were useless and expendable.

Jesus’ teachings shocked the people around Him into realising the importance of even one individual to God.  The Gospels show Him being interested in talking to individuals in no fewer than 19 cases.  He talked about Father God’s awareness of a single sparrow.  Jesus said a concerned Father God has even “…… numbered the hairs on your head..”, Matthew 10:30.   Jesus further revealed the personal, “Daddy” image of God, One who sought out and adopts those who choose to follow Him.



We start our study of human nature – why we think, feel and act as we do, with Jesus’ view of us.  He certainly had a different frame of reference than the World does.

1.  We are made in the image of God

We are very precious to God, as we are His ‘image-bearers’.  We are similar to God in our capacities of personhood.  We are especially created to relate to a loving Creator.  We were created with the abilities of thinking and feeling, just like Him.  We are an eternal spirit, which has a soul and lives in a physical body.

2.  We are ‘fallen’ and need restoration

Adam and Eve accepted the lie, in the Garden of Eden, that we are capable of living a successful, fulfilled life without God’s guidance.  God knows that when self is at the centre of our lives, self-destruction results.  At the centre of sin is “I” or the deceived self, with its blinded, driven choices.  In His love for us, He wants our very best; He wants Himself at the centre of our being.  Jesus’ work on the Cross made that possible.

All our problems then are symptoms of this lack of relationship with Him.  We have a distorted way of dealing with our ‘reality’ and we need a new frame of reference.  Jesus shows us who God is so that we can know how to relate to Him and fix the dysfunction.



1.  God created us to be complex creatures

We are eternal spirits, using a soul and living in a physical body.  All our parts are designed to work together, influencing each other and inter-related in function.

2.  There are Two groups of Mental and emotional illnesses:

            a)  Genetic and Biological causes – inherited defects, chemical or hormonal imbalances and the results of physical abuses, such as drugs or alcohol.

            b)  Environmental causes – childhood abuse and trauma, family of origin dysfunctions, faulty social skills, poor coping methods, poor role models, and so on.

3.  We have Promises that are fulfilled through Jesus

            a)  Since we are made in His image, we have certain basic, God-given needs, wants and deep longings, such as self-preservation, belonging, security, significance and genuine, unconditional love.  These needs are built into our very nature.

            b)  The degree to which these inner needs and deep longings have been met, especially during childhood, the more stable our personality will be.  When we do not approach God-given needs in God’s Way, we will develop problems.  By denying our God-given needs, mental and emotional pain result.

4.  Faulty Coping methods bring dysfunction

            a)  Faulty coping methods lie at the heart of all the non-organic, genetically inherited mental and emotional illnesses.  In fact, faulty coping methods are at the roots of all dysfunctions and all problems and issues we face.   Our problem exists because we cope with our problems in faulty, ungodly ways.

            b)  If a person moves through a series of unresolved conflicts without healthy, mature coping skills, faulty personality issues develop.  We develop faulty strategies to protect our own sense of helplessness and fragility.

            c)  As we continue with these coping methods, we develop self-protection and self-gratification thinking patterns.  This is what produces dys-functional behaviours.  By continuing to practice these paths of faulty thinking and unhealthy defence mechanisms, we block healthy emotional release and so further pain develops.

            d)  Emotional illness is but one of the results of what we do, one of the end products of the way we choose to live.  Handling emotions God’s way develops a true wholeness.

            e)  An example of this is when a person has a broken leg, they would need a crutch.  Coping methods allow us to step aside from the pain of the real problem – for awhile.  The problem develops id we do not lay aside the crutch when healing happens.  Relying on faulty coping methods helps us avoid the pain but if we will not lay aside the coping method for healing to happen, we remain dysfunctional. 

We have been taught ‘crutch ways’ by our parents, society and other significant others around us as children.  Becoming adult means laying aside these crutches and taking up our own responsibility for healing.

4.  Jesus believed in our ability to make changes

Jesus’ model of psychology emphasises our ability to change, by taking in God’s principles and acting on His directions.  He believed that people were capable of making choices and that we have the power to change.  Again this is a different frame of reference to the world.

5.  We have choices when faced with blocked goals

            a)  We can strive harder to reach the unattainable goals we have set for ourselves – We ‘Do it’, and follow other’s patterns.

            b)  Or, we can attempt to deal with the resulting emotions by faulty methods, or ‘defence mechanisms’ such as repression, denial, blame, and so on – We ‘Fight it’ try to do the opposite.

            c)  Or, we can choose to change our behaviours and find God’s goals, such as Forgiveness, correct conflict resolution patterns, and so on.

We need a re-education of the inward heart attitudes before the outward can change.  Like the precious child that we are, we must learn we cannot do it alone.  Jesus knew the roots of dysfunction are in living outside Creator God’s principles.  We become neurotic and psychotic whenever we live outside our God-given design.  Much of emotional and mental disease is caused by the faulty or ‘mal-adaptive’ ways we have learned to handle our thinking and our emotions.  We gain health by returning to Creator God’s patterns for us.



1.  Emotions must be Handled in a Healthy way

Psychologists have long seen emotions as the driving force of the personality.  Our emotions will impact our drives and instincts, our needs and wants.  Emotions can upset every gland in the body, thus causing up to 85% of the treated illness seen by doctors.

We can define emotions as “The state of mind that produces a feeling, which then shows itself in a physical change within the body.” (EDWJ, 5/98).

Emotions are also messengers from our heart, sent to tell us its condition.  We must learn to hear those messages.  We don’t always need to obey the message, but we must listen to what is going on inside of us.  Ignoring these valid messages may produce ‘war’ within ourselves.

2.  Ways we handle emotions

Dysfunctional people perceive emotions in two major ways:  as their enemies or their masters.  Some people have lost touch with their emotions, by repressing or denying them.  Others are controlled by their emotions, perceiving them as ‘truth’ to live by.  Healthy humans appreciate  their emotions as their allies, they understand the messages and have learned to face their inner world courageously.

3.  The “Families” of emotions

Emotions are a gift from a loving Father God.  They are the messengers from our heart.  How we learn to handle these ‘gifts’ will determine the emotional and often, the mental health of our whole personality.  The challenge is to see them the way God does.

 In another post, we have included a list of these ‘Families of Emotions’,

4.  Healthy, God-given ways to handle emotions

            a)  Face and acknowledge all difficult feelings.  Denial has no place in the Psychology of Jesus.

            b)  Understand what makes emotions “troublesome”, restrictive or destructive.    Does the emotion reflect movement away from a loving God or pull us towards Him?  If the feeling hinders relationship with Him trace the feeling to its roots.  The presence of destructive feelings indicates a heart problem.  Something is going on inside us that need correction.

            c)  Use troublesome emotions as a check on your growth.  Our internal dynamics are of concern to Father God too.  Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to repentance and growth.  Learn to examine yourself.

            d)  Be free to express your emotions but learn to limit the expression by the law of love.  Learn to accept responsibility for your own emotions.  Circumstances and others don’t make us angry’.  We choose to be angry, sad, lonely and so on, by the attitudes we have.  Nothing we say or do should violate the commitment to being in a living relationship with Jesus.



Many viewpoints have been presented on emotions.  Faulty emotions are signs of deeper problems; not necessary sin, but they can lead to sin.  If our mental and emotional structure does not have a strong foundation to withstand the strain of modern civilisation, illness will develop.  God wants us to be emotionally mature, adequately equipped, able to adjust and profit from life’s traumas, and having good health.

Accepting God’s design of human nature is the sure foundation that we are not building on “the sand”.  Knowing and choosing God’s principles can correct mental and emotional problems. An inner orderliness brings harmony.

As we continue the ‘Psychology of Jesus’ in our next post, we will look at the heart of our problems and Jesus’ way of correcting such issues.  We will also look at the Father Heart of God and why we need to understand His very nature and character.



1.  Check through the list of the eight basic Families of Emotions.  Are there any of these that you struggle with?  Keep a watch on these emotions over the next week.  Think through the root attitudes of the emotion.  What is your usual way of handling this emotion, what is the entry point, and what is Jesus’ way of handling this emotion?

2.  Review the basic points on Jesus’ psychology of emotions.  Agree or disagree?  Bible verses to support either view?

Have a try at the ideas for homework for this post….or maybe find other ways to explore the topics we have presented here.  Remember, the more you put into this blog and our posts, the more you will benefit from the wisdom and truth we have learned over our 25+ years of counselling.   May you find more and more peace with your emotions and the wounds we all carry,  We are also inclluding several worksheets, such as the ‘Families of Emotions’ to think through as well.

Susanne Fengler,

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