Let me be honest, recently I’ve been letting my emotions control me far more than I’d like. So now, I am writing this to remind myself how to contend with these strong emotions, such as depression and anxiety. This victimhood is the hardest to shed, yet the most vital. God says in Jeremiah 17:10, “I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his way, according to the fruit of his deeds.” We must learn how to control our emotions for they shape our motivations and subsequently, actions.
Our feelings and emotions are God given gifts which help us process the world around us. When we find ourselves stressed, it tells us what we value. We grieve over the loss of a loved one. We rejoice at the birth of a baby. But there is a difference between a feeling and an emotion. Fleeting feelings are not necessarily wrong or sinful. Feelings are an impulsive response to a stimulus. I feel happy when I see bubbles. I’m mad when someone walks through the dust pile. On the other hand, emotions are feelings which we foster. I can choose to hold onto that mad feeling and lash out in anger, yelling at my child. This differentiation is what Paul refers to in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” The initial feeling of anger is not a sin, but it can lead to sin if not controlled. When emotions are fostered, they become our attitudes which shape our motivations. There is therefore a continuum from feeling to emotion to attitude. Emotions are the pivotal point where we decide our response to a feeling
That being said, it’s not quite that simple. The line between when a feeling becomes an emotion can be difficult to notice. Then when noticed, it is not easy to simply stop that emotion. Strong emotions want to control us. But when we’re controlled by them, we’re not living in the freedom Christ intends for us. Peter puts it this way in 2 Peter 2:19b, “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” When depression or anxiety hit, they attempt to overcome me, clouding my thoughts and rendering me ineffective. They try to enslave and control me, but I am no longer a slave to them. We are called to freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) We must work to bring our emotions under control to bring Glory to God and live in His freedom.
This message in and of itself is difficult to process because it goes both against the spirit of this world which dominates our culture, and against our own flesh. We are constantly bombarded with messaging that says, “If it feels good, do it.” What a lie! Jeremiah 17:9 counters that mentality easily. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” But that’s not the end of the story. When we choose to believe Jesus is Lord and proclaim so with our voice, we are made new. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26). This heart of flesh which desires to obey Christ is a gift we must daily choose to both put on and guard. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23). With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able to guard our hearts and control our emotions so that we may live for Jesus.
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
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