Dwight Fletcher | Voices in your head
We are now having a lot of rainy days. When it rains, do you 'catch feelings' and get depressed? Or if a love song plays on the radio, do you feel lonely if your spouse isn't around? God gave us our emotions, but how often do we respond to those feelings in a healthy way?
Society tells us that it doesn't matter what the facts are or what's right or wrong. What matters is doing what you feel like doing. Marvin Gaye's song Let's get it on betrays this sentiment: "There's nothing wrong with me loving you, baby no, no ... And giving yourself to me can never be wrong if the love is true ..."
But last week, we looked at how our emotions can get us into trouble and why they need to be managed well. Our feelings can be unreliable and can be manipulated. We must, therefore, take control of them to please God and to live successful lives.
So how do we manage our feelings well?
If you can't name the emotion, you can't take it to God or change it. We may, at times, feel like David, "My thoughts are restless and I'm confused." (Psalm 55:2 GW). To become an emotionally strong person, ask these two questions:
What am I really feeling? Go beneath the surface. Sometimes you think, 'I'm feeling a little down today.' You think the problem is depression, but if you look a little deeper, you may find that you got criticised at work and didn't like it. Some repressed anger may be building up. You need to look deeper to identify what you are really feeling.
What are my triggers? Sometimes the trigger can be something you saw, smelled, heard, touched, or tasted. A trigger can elicit an emotional response. So what brought on the feeling?
Are things really as bad or as good as you feel they are? Probably not! Ask God to help you honestly evaluate it. And ask a trusted friend. Job had a friend like that. In Job 15:12 (NIV), Job's friend Eliphaz asked him, "Why has your heart carried you away, and why do your eyes flash". That's a poetic way of saying, "Why are you talking like that and why so angry?"
To challenge your emotions, ask yourself these three questions:
What's the real reason that I'm feeling this way? Maybe it's fear or worry. Maybe it's tied to something your mother said to you years ago. So when your wife said something similar, she received all the pent-up wrath.
Is what I'm feeling right now true? There's a point where Elijah in 1 Kings 20:10 (NASB) got so discouraged that he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord ... and I alone am left...". But God challenged that feeling in verse 18 by mentioning the 7,000 believers remaining in Israel. So what's the truth of your situation?
Is what I'm feeling helping me or hurting me? You may be frustrated with someone, but is expressing that frustration going to actually help you or hinder you? Will it make your relationships and your life better or worse?
You can tame your emotions by changing your attitude. In this way, you determine what your mood is and how long it is going to last. This eventually results in a change in your feelings.
Philippians 2:5 (NIV) says this, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." So ask yourself, how would Jesus feel in this situation? Would Jesus get irritated with the cashier? Would Jesus yell at the other driver? No. Let go of those emotions that are leading you to act contrary to the will of God.
Sometimes you can even take a negative feeling and channel it to use it for good. Take, for example, Ephesians 4:26 (NASB), where it says, "Be angry and yet do not sin...". Anger is not a sin. It's what you do with it and the reason you're angry that may be a sin. If you're angry at an injustice, will you vandalise the perpetrator's car or calmly speak to him?
So you can take a negative emotion and use it in a positive way.
ALWAYS RELY ON GOD
You may think all this is easier said than done. True - you can't do it. But, Zechariah 4:6 (NCV) says, "'You will not succeed by your own strength or by your own power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord All-Powerful." Ask God to fill you with His Spirit every single day to help you manage your emotions.
God is faithful. When you partner with Him daily to name, tame, challenge, and channel your feelings, he will enable you to manage your emotions well.