Anger. Sadness. Despair. Excitement. Infatuation. Jealousy. Frustration. Fear. Emotions often get us into trouble, don’t they? In a moment we jump from one to another, and in a moment we spew them at everything and everyone around us. Most of the time it isn’t very pretty and we say or do rash things.
For a while I viewed emotions mostly as just something that taught me (over and over again) self-control. And they do. The Bible puts a very big emphasis on self-control… we will get there in a moment. First, however, I want to share with you an important truth that I learned.
Emotions are not only stumbling blocks. They are also gifts. God has given us emotions as gifts. They aren’t just annoyances and sins to overcome. Even Jesus had emotions—He wept, He was sad, He was angry, and He was frustrated. In the Bible we are told to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). In the Bible we see people over the moon with happiness and crying out desperately in lamentation. Emotions are beautiful gifts from a good God.
Emotions only become a problem when we allow them to take the throne of our hearts, when we allow them to take control. Emotions are gifts, but they also don’t convey truth a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong. Many emotions are very real. But what we feel isn’t always reality. What we feel isn’t often accompanied by clear thinking in the moment. The human heart is deceitful and wicked and prone to sin… Which is where the self-control comes in.
Yes, you read that right. Emotions are controllable. Imagine that. Sure, it’s much easier said than done, but as pastor Levi Lusko puts it: “You don’t have to do everything you feel.” In a culture where we are encouraged to do everything that feels good, this is a reality that is hard to swallow.
Emotions can be very difficult to see through. We know that. So then, how do we know what is right, what emotions lead to sin, and what emotions are godly to embrace? If emotions lie, then where do we find truth? In God. In His word, the Bible. And also as Proverbs says a lot about in the wise and godly advisors He has placed around us. Emotions often feel so overpowering, but God has promised this:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. -1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
Through Jesus, we can have compassion even when we are frustrated. We can love even when anger threatens to overwhelm us. We can have joy when the world falls apart and all we feel like doing is curling up in a ball and sobbing. Emotions frequently pose as lions when they are really just rabbits. They seem to be so much bigger than they are that we think of course they should dictate our thinking and actions. But that is wrong! Our God is not a God of drama or chaos. He is a God of truth and light. He gave us emotions so that we could love. So that we can have compassion. So that we can feel justice and injustice. So that we can feel for others. God gave us our emotions to use for Him and to love others rather than to let them untruthfully rule us, so that we are unstable and tossed here and there. It is a hard balance to find, but well worth it.
Your sister in Christ,