At a ladies conference I attended few weeks ago,we were given a magnet with a list of words describing a variety of emotions-words such as confused,ecstatic, angry,frustrated, sad,confident,happy,lonely,and depressed. Above each word was a humorous line drawing a face depicting that particular feeling.
The list came with a smaller magnet in the shape of a frame that said, “Today,I feel…” This piece was designed to be placed over any one of the cartoon drawings to express “how I am feeling today.”
If some of us changed the marker each time our emotions changed, we would be kept quite busy. In fact,many women feel most of those emotions at least once a month! More than anything else,it is probably our female emotional makeup that sometimes causes men to throw up their hands and say, “I give up. I just can’t figure you out!” And in a sense,who can blame them?
When we wrestle with out-of-control emotions,it is easy to conclude that emotions are inherently sinful or wrong and should be suppressed. We need to remember that being created in the image of God means we have the capacity to experience and express a variety of emotions.
God exhibits a spectrum of pure emotions,including joy,delight,anger,jealousy,and sorrow. And He has designed us to be able to feel and express many different emotions in a way that reflects His heart and brings glory to Him.
The problem is not that we have emotions-they are a gift from God. The problem is,our emotions(unlike God’s) are tainted by the fall. The challenge is to let the spirit of God sanctify us in the realm of our emotions so that they can be expressed in godly ways.
I know of no tool that the enemy uses more effectively to lead us into bondage than our emotions. He does so by causing us to believe things about our emotions that just aren’t true.
- If I feel something,it must be true
The enemy wants us to believe that if we feel unloved,we are unloved. If we feel our situation is hopeless,then there must be no hope. If we don’t feel saved,then maybe we aren’t. If we don’t feel forgiven,then we must not be.
The truth is, due to our fallen condition,our feelings often have very little to do with reality. In many instances, feelings are simply not a reliable gauge of what is actually true. When we allow them to be tied to our circumstances-which are constantly changing-rather than to the unchangeable realities of God and His truth, our emotions are prone to fluctuate wildly.
It doesn’t take much to put your emotions on an upswing- a clear,sunny day, a raise at work,a compliment from a friend,the successful completion of a big project,or losing ten pounds. Meanwhile emotional lows can be as a result of a variety of factors including ( but not limited to) a series of cloudy days,a tough day at the office,a disappointing phone call,the realization of your clothes have become too tight ,a sleepless night,or a pizza you ate too late the nights before.
In the midst of the roller-coaster ride our emotions sometimes take us on,we have to constantly bring our minds and thoughts back to the truth- God is good,whether I feel like He is good or not. The truth is ,God loves me whether I feel loved or not. The truth is,God will never forsake or leave me; He is with me all the time even when I feel alone and forsaken.
If we want to walk in freedom,we must realize that our emotions are not necessarily trustworthy and be willing to reject any feelings that are not consistent with the truth.
- I cannot control my emotions
The enemy uses this lie to make us believe we have no choice but to be controlled by our emotions. While it may be true to some degree that we can’t help the way we fell,the truth is that we do not have to let our feelings run our lives.
You may not be able to help feeling apprehensive about an upcoming medical exam,but it does not mean you cannot stop worrying and fretting about the outcome. You may not be able to help feeling edgy or irritable at a certain time of the month,but that does not mean you cannot help speaking “rudely” to acting roughly towards whoever happens to get in your way on those days. You may not be able to help feeling vulnerable in a lonely season of your life when a married man takes an interest in you,but that does not mean you can’t help “falling in love” with him.
The truth is,regardless of what emotions are whirling inside,you can choose to fix your mind on God. When you do this, you will experience His peace and the grace to be faithful, even though your circumstances may not change.
The much loved author,Hannah Whitall Smith was plagued with circumstances that could have left her an emotional basket case. She was married to a preacher who proved to be spiritually and emotionally unstable and who was repeatedly unfaithful. Two of her five children died of scarlet fever. One daughter abandoned her husband and ran off with an artist, another daughter married an outspoken atheist. Hannah herself suffered from painful arthritis. But she refused to let her life be dictated by her feelings. Her writings reflect her steadfast determination to exercise her will in obedience to God,regardless of her emotions.
We must choose,without any regard to the state of our emotions what attitude our will will take to God. We must recognize that our emotions are only the servants of our will..
Our will can control our feelings if we are steadfastly minded to do so.
Many times when my feelings have declared contrary to the facts,I have changed those feelings entirely by a steadfast assertion of their opposite…
Surging emotions-like tossing vessel,which by degrees yields to the steady pull of the anchor-finding themselves attached to the mighty power of God by the choice of your will,must sooner or later give allegiance to Him.
- I cannot help how I respond when my hormones are out of whack
If we accept the lie that we cannot control our emotions ,we will also believe we cannot control how we act when we are feeling emotionally vulnerable or out of control. Not only are we to quick to believe our feelings,we are also far too quick to obey them.
So if we feel a sudden craving for a big bowl of chocolate ice cream at ten o’clock at night,we head for the freezer and pull out the ice cream. If we feel like staying up and watching a late night movie,we do so. If we don’t feel like getting out of bed the next morning,we pull the covers up over our head and call in sick at work.
The challenge is ,if we cater to our emotions and let them control our actions in these kinds of daily routines,we will be more vulnerable to being controlled by our emotions in the major transactions and difficult seasons of life.
Certainly what happens in our bodies does affect us emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. We cannot isolate these various dimensions of who we are-they are inseparably intertwined. But we fall into the trap of the enemy when we justify fleshly,sinful attitudes and responses based on our physical conditions or hormonal changes(as the case may be)
God did not offer an an easy or trouble-free process of growth. But He surely gives grace to respond to the challenges and difficulties associated with every stage of life.
Here is a thought about handling emotions by Bishop of Geneva,Francis de Sales.
Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear, rather look with full hope that,as they arise,God,whose you are,will deliver you out of them. He has kept you hitherto-do you but hold fast to his dear hand,and He will lead you safely through all things,and when you cannot stand,He will bear you in His arms…The same everlasting father who cares for you today,will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at a peace then,and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.