Week 2: Internal Relational Skills
DAY 8: God’s Purpose for Emotions: His path to Healing
I have often asked my clients, “Are emotions meant to guide or decide?” I get an almost 50/50 split on the answers. I think when we yell, throw or hit, we are letting our anger decide for us. I think when we binge eat, drink, or shop, we are letting our insecurities or anxieties decide for us. When we hide, self-protect, or criticize ourselves, we are letting shame make some decisions for us. If we look at it this way, it is clear that letting emotions make our decisions for us, can be damaging to us and others. I like to look at our emotions in the same light that I look at street signs. Have you ever seen a stop sign stop the car for you? Of course not! You have to see the sign, acknowledge that it is there for your good, start assessing why it is there, and assess if it is safe to proceed. If you ignored it, there is extreme danger for you and others. If you treat it responsibly, there is great safety and blessing for you and others. I believe emotions play the same role in our lives. God created emotions to give us awareness that something is going on, but we have to engage the mind He gave us as well to get the intended benefit. God created every emotion for a reason. We need to guard ourselves from embracing or not embracing an emotion simply because it feels good or bad. The “feel bad” emotions are created by God and are just as beneficial as the “feel good” ones! I know this is a novel concept to some. However, think about fear and anger. If we did not have the capacity to feel these emotions, we would not be able to react with quickness if we saw a two-year-old running out into the street when a car is coming. We would be too relaxed and unable to respond with the necessary speed, strength, and volume of tone. If we did not feel a little anxiety, we would not stay on task and do the necessary disciplined work to get bills paid, go to work, and clean our homes. Dr. Daniel Amen’s research actually shows that the “don’t worry, be happy” types actually die earlier than those that have a little anxiety. A little anxiety about our future health keeps us exercising and eating right so we don’t face future health issues that are avoidable if we are disciplined. On the other hand, if you are one that lets your emotions decide for you and experience high anxiety, you end up with some of these same health issues due to unmanaged stress! So, ignoring your emotions takes you to one extreme.(Like children who get negative attention if you ignore them, our ignored emotions tend to do the same.) But giving our emotions total control takes us to extremes as well. So what is the balance? How do we live healed and whole lives?
I let King David take the lead and show me a great example of letting emotions have a proper role in our lives. Here is a person who lived with some stress! There is much to his story so suffice it to say in the many seasons he lived as a son, a servant of his king, a warrior, and then as a king himself, he faced some very difficult stressors. He felt angry, sad, scared, betrayed, murderous, anxious, worried, confused, and much more. Since he is “a man after God’s own heart”, I thought it wise to pattern what I did with my emotions after what he did. If you read the Psalms, you will see a pattern. He first “vented” to God. He purged it all. He did not clean it up because God knew what was in his heart anyway. After he “got it all out”, he then recalled who God was in Israel’s history and in his own personal history. This encouraged his soul and spirit because he remembered the God who never changes would continue to be and do mighty things in his current circumstances and he applied the truth to those circumstances. He then, in faith, praised God for the victory in those circumstances knowing the God who came through before would come through again. In essence, when he went to God in this manner, he was letting God heal his soul from the damage that was occurring through hatred, bitterness, and betrayal. Those were things happening to him, but if he hadn’t gone to God with each fresh wound, he himself would have been the hateful and bitter one! Instead, he was a man after God’s own heart. He prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24) He turned to God when his heart hurt, laid down his own ways (which at times were murderous!), and adopted God’s heart on the matter. That is the refining process! That is what God is referring to when He says “offer your bodies as living sacrifices” and renew your mind. (Romans 12:1-2)
Practice this week taking each emotion to God. Ask Him what character trait He has or what promise has He made that you can mindfully stand on in that specific circumstance that caused the emotion. Thank Him in advance for how you will see this first hand in your life. It can help to look at your circumstance as an opportunity to heal and grow.
Declare, “I am so excited! God always shows up when I have a problem. As I cast my anxieties on Him, He fills me will His strength, power, and wisdom for the situation I am facing. He will never leave me nor forsake me. As I give him my mourning, He gives me gladness. When I am weak, He fills me with strength. When I hand Him my broken heart, He brings healing and comfort. I experience Him as a refuge in the emotional storms of my life.”
Author of this post: Melanie Connell