By Cherie Hill
Ahhhhh, Emotions. The very thought of the word can wear you out! Our emotions are ever present within us: they define our inner world and give us continual interpretations of the outer world. Our awareness of life, itself, begins with emotions.
Emotions come with great intensity, and we ALL struggle with them. The cliché holds true, “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!” Our emotions can be controlled when we focus on taking them captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), but it is much more difficult to put anger, jealousy, fear, loneliness, or sadness, out of your mind.
When we are filled with anger over a situation, it is the force of that emotion that preoccupies us, not the actual event that caused us to be angry. Think for a moment about nature. In a balanced way, water is vital when it comes to supplying our reservoirs, or keeping crops alive for our food supply. But when to much rain produces floods or we are faced with a Tsunami, it is tremendously destructive. We can even be faced with the opposite extreme, where there is no water and we are faced with losing countless lives due to drought conditions. Similarly, wind can be comforting on a beautiful day as you enjoy the soft breeze, and it is so thrilling when you can enjoy its subtle power in sailing the oceans, but a tornado or hurricane can take thousands of lives within minutes. Fire can be critical when it is needed to keep us warm in the dead of winter, but when it burns down miles of forestry or burns down the home of someone you love, it is extremely devastating. The forces of nature are perfect and productive in “balance,” but under extreme conditions, they are no longer of benefit, but a terrible reminder of what chaos can occur when nature becomes unstable. When the forces of nature are used in a positive, balanced manner, they are welcomed in every way, but when they become extreme in one way or another, out of balance, we want no part of anything nature has to offer. In fact, the shear thought of unbalanced forces of nature creates a fear within us, if we are even able to anticipate their arrival. Before the hurricane, tornado, forest fire, or flood arrives to create destruction in our world, it is not the event in itself that drives our emotions, but the force of fear and all the feelings it brings with it that penetrates the depths of our being. The event may actually never occur, but the fear that it “might” produces a world of chaos within us. And you simply cannot put fear “out of your mind.” We cannot escape our emotions, they drive themselves, and the only way to overcome them, is to manage them. Just like many times we cannot escape a tornado that strikes in the middle of the night, or a Tsunami that comes without warning, our emotions will come unexpectedly, and so we must deal with them and learn to manage them.
In managing our emotions we need to first learn where they come from and why we even have them. How many times do we hear, “Women are so emotional!” As if there is something seriously wrong with us! “This world” has decided that emotions make you “inferior” or “weaker.” Well, I’ve got news for you, God is far from inferior or weak, and He created us in His own image!
So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
Now, not only does truth say that He created us in His image, it goes further to say that God “patterned” us after Himself. According to Webster’s Dictionary, “patterned” means, a reliable sample of traits, acts, tendencies, or other observable characteristics of a person, group, or institution. So there you have it, God is “emotional!” Of course He is, how could God be “love” if He wasn’t?”
But anyone who does not love does not know God--for God is love. 1 John 4:8
We are also told that He keeps His love for us balanced, because He disciplines those He loves.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children." Hebrews 12:6
Emotions are a “characteristic” of His very being. He is our source. So our question now is, what is their purpose, and how do we manage them? And how can we use them as an instrument to display the character of God through our lives.
We can see the purpose of emotions when they are used in a way that exhibits the very nature of God. Our emotions can be beneficial and reflect the very nature of God when our emotions of sadness can give empathy for someone incurring loss or grief, or the emotion of love moves us to reach out to those in need. We can see the extremes of our emotions when we witness anger vs. calmness, love vs. hatred, fear vs.confidence, shame vs. shamelessness, and kindness vs. unkindness. Let me list most of the emotions we encounter and you will find why we are so exhausted by them!
I don’t know about you, but just reading these wear me out, and if you’re someone who prides yourself on doing “checklists” in life, then feel free to check every one of these off, because EVERY being, man or woman, has experienced every single one of these emotions. It is when we manage our emotions in a way that is in agreement with the character of God that our emotions can become our greatest asset. You might think, how can the so called, “negative emotions” be moved in a direction that is positive in our lives. Agitation can cause us to not join in conversations with or walk away from an ungodly person, anger can keep us from remaining in an abusive relationship, boredom can move us out of our comfort zone and challenge us to move higher in our relationship with God, disgust can keep us from watching inappropriate programs on television, homesickness can drive us to return to those we love, jealousy can spur us to try and spend more time with our spouse and focus on our relationship with them, and worry, well that’s a tough one, but we can be reminded to give ALL our worries and cares to God, and it can bring us into a closer relationship and walk with Him. (1 Peter 5:6-7) And there is nothing more beneficial for your life.
Too often however, we find that when our emotions are left unsupervised, they are like an ocean, our emotions tend to come and go out like the tide. One moment we are surging forward consuming everything in our path and the next moment we are rushing back, leaving the debris behind us everywhere.
Made in the image of God means using the wisdom of our truth, God’s Word, to direct and control our emotions in such a way that we reflect His image. The paradigm between wisdom and emotion is “proper timing.” Wisdom is always waiting for the appropriate time to act, while emotion always pushes us to act now! Wisdom will look at how our decision, or act on our emotions will affect the future. Emotions are only concerned with the here and now. In overcoming and managing our emotions, it is definitely not easy. We are going to require the help of God, the source of our emotions. There is one way and one way only to manage your emotions and that is to control them before they ever get “out of control.” We do this by filling our minds with Truth, meditation night and day on the Word of God.
Just because I feel like someone is looking at me or talking about me, doesn’t mean they are. Just because I feel lonely, doesn’t necessarily mean I am, and just because I feel hopeless, doesn’t mean there is no hope. We must test these “feelings” that are driven by our emotions against the Word of God and determine if they are Truth. If we find our emotions are not valid, then we can direct our minds on those things (Philippians 4:8) that are Truth, and we are able to overcome those emotions.
I am convinced that God’s greatest purpose for our emotions is so that we could feel His presence, so that we could feel His comfort, so that we could feel His joy, so that we could feel His embrace, so that we could feel His love, without us ever being physically touched, at all. Now that is a God of love, never leaving us or forsaking us, and if you have never “felt” Him in your life, draw close to Him, and He will draw close to you.
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