Those Pesky Emotions!: Part 1—Handling Emotions Maturely

October 29, 2014

Those Pesky Emotions Part 1—Handling Emotions Maturely
Sherry Allchin

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Sherry Allchin

Those Pesky Emotions Part 1—Handling Emotions Maturely

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 1 of a two-part blog series by Sherry Allchin on emotions. Today Sherry explains biblical principles for handling our emotions maturely. Tomorrow, Sherry explores biblical principles for understanding our emotions and bringing biblical balance to our emotional life.

The Purpose of Emotions

Emotions at times can be a trick for all of us! Sometimes we wear them on our sleeves, while other times we stuff and deny troublesome emotions, pretending they aren’t bothering us and hoping they will go quickly away so we feel better. Yet, they do bother us as well as those around us! And they keep counselors in business!

Our Triune God expresses emotions appropriately, so emotions do have a good purpose. They alert us that something needs to change, either in us or through us. We are created in His image and therefore must learn to align our emotions to His sinless emotions, even though we live in a fallen world with sin affecting our emotions as well as our thoughts and behaviors.

Learning to express emotions in ways that honor God requires growing in self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, matured by bringing “self” under the control of the Holy Spirit, allowing His work of teaching, convicting, correcting, and training us to conform us to the image of Christ that we might engage in the work of Christ.

The sinful responses we tend to blame on our emotions must be replaced by biblical thinking that reflects the mind of Christ about circumstances that trigger negative emotional responses. Righteous thinking then results in righteous behaviors that reflect the character of Christ. In our culture, many believe we have no control over our emotions but are rather held captive to them. Scripture lays a clear foundation for how to control our emotions by consistently controlling our thoughts (Philippians 4:8) and behaviors (Proverbs 4:23), bringing them into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We can choose to have positive emotions, to live out the fruit of the Spirit in everyday life.

Understanding Our Feelings

Consider this basic biblical principle for understanding emotions:

We feel what we feel because we think what we think and do what we do!

We respond to our life experiences through emotions. Just bang your thumb with a hammer and see if the physical pain you feel doesn’t also produce an emotional response! When you have a deadline to meet, the pressure produces an internal stress that you very much feel in your body and your emotions. Arguing with a beloved relative may lead to hurt feelings that send you onto an emotional rollercoaster. As we grow in understanding that our everyday experiences contribute to the emotions we feel, we must also be quick to understand that circumstances do not cause the emotions.

Anger, fear, depression, shame, confusion, and loneliness are some of the negative emotions we are quick to feel and express. These emotions are not caused by the circumstance of our experience, but by the way we interpret those circumstances. When we put God into the interpretation of our circumstances, our beliefs about that circumstance begin to change and we act on those beliefs in ways that honors God. Then our emotions begin to reflect the fruit of the Spirit, combining beliefs, actions, and emotions: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We experience true happiness, joy, peace, gratitude, and contentment. Positive emotions prevail even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

David As an Example

Take David for example. The Israelite army was quaking in fear of Goliath, and their action was to run away from the dangerous circumstance. Their belief system interpreted that Goliath was too big and too dangerous; they were victims of disaster. David faced exactly the same dangerous circumstance; Goliath was much bigger and stronger than he, equipped to battle in ways of which David knew nothing.

However, David’s belief system interpreted his God as bigger than Goliath; his God had always been faithful, helping him kill the lion and bear to protect his sheep; his God would help him kill the giant that was defying the true and living God and mocking His people. David’s actions then reflected his beliefs, and he defended God’s honor by killing Goliath.

What emotions David must have experienced as the victor who won the battle! I do believe they were positive emotions of jubilation that came out of his God-honoring beliefs and lifestyle choices.

A Modern-Day Example

Let’s take another example. Another driver cuts you off and nearly causes an accident. You spew and sputter for twenty minutes about this driver, and you’re tempted to speed up to cut him off and show him how it feels.

What belief system rules you at that moment? You have a right and he violated your right to that spot on the road. You deserve better treatment. You are angry and therefore believe you are justified in your actions that reflect your belief system.

Are your emotions at that point positive or negative? Is your anger righteous (reflecting God and His glory) or is it unrighteous (reflecting your selfish desires)?

However, on another day, another driver may cut you off again…same circumstance, but let’s say this time you are worshiping God as you drive along and your car reflects the sanctuary of your heart that wants to honor God. Your belief system has changed from selfishness to honoring God and others, so you slow down to allow him to safely enter, you pray for him to get home safely without killing himself or anyone else, and you go right back to your praise and worship, thanking God for His tender mercies of safety toward you and others.

Now what emotions are you experiencing and expressing? The emotions, then, are a by-product of what you think about your circumstances and about your God, and how you act out on those beliefs.

The Rest of the Story

Please return for Part 2 when we examine how to communicate feelings accurately.

Join the Conversation

How can you apply this principle to your life and ministry?

We feel what we feel because we think what we think and do what we do!

2 thoughts on “Those Pesky Emotions!: Part 1—Handling Emotions Maturely

  1. Sherry, if we are not careful, emotions will become who we are not. I see teens with this saying, “wearing their emotions on their shoulders”. Come on… it not what it seem or if it is then just create it be something that it seem. That is why its important to get a Relationship with our Creator first when counseling. The view point of a carnal mind is a dead end street.

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