Do You Have a Handle on Your Emotions?
Dr. Benjamin George
We are emotional beings. So is God our maker. The Bible says we are ‘made in His image’. Some of the basic emotions that we are accustomed to are love, hatred, anger, jealousy, envy, happiness, grief, etc. We see in the Scriptures, these emotions are expressed by God and also His people. The emotions of God are righteous but ours are often unrighteous.
Apart from these basic emotions, we see people, both Christians and non-Christians suffering from emotional problems as diverse as anxiety, depression, panic, abnormal fears, resentment, guilt, despair, fatigue, tension, boredom, loneliness, withdrawal, obsessive and negative thinking, worry, compulsive behavior and a variety of others.
Advances in Emotion Research
The researchers are well on their way to finding answers to questions that have baffled scientists and all others affected by the power of emotions. The ultimate quest of this new science is to pinpoint the cause-and-effect relationships between emotions, health and disease, to develop more precise treatments for effective disorders such as depression and anxiety and to identify pathways that promote positive mental health, physical well-being and resilience to disease.
Biological Impact of Positive Emotions
The Health Emotions Research Institutes seek to use state-of-the-art scientific methods to study the relationship between positive emotions and health. The results will have profound consequences on our understanding of the biology of positive emotion and thinking, our concept of health, the prevention of disease and the promotion of resilience.
Meditation Produces Positive Changes in the BrainIn a small but highly provocative study, a University of Wisconsin research team has found, for the first time, that a short program in “mindfulness meditation” produced lasting positive changes in both the brain and the function of the immune system. The findings suggest that meditation, long promoted as a technique to reduce anxiety and stress, might produce important biological effects that improve a person’s resiliency.
Meditation on God and His Word Heal Our Emotions and Transform Lives
‘One hour that can change your life’, is the title of one of the chapters in my book, ‘YOU CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE', published in 1984. Let mequote a portion from it for the benefit of our readers.
"Sandra, a middle-aged business woman, wasin a restaurant eating breakfast with a successful marketing consultant, Tom, who was in his sixties.It was Sandra's birthday. During the business conversation she confessed to Tom her nagging feeling of emptiness. "Want to fill it?" Tom asked."Sure" replied Sandra. "Start your day with an hourof prayer", said Tom. "I don't have time for that!"she gasped. "Exactly what I said twenty years ago!"exclaimed Tom" I was president of a big firm and running every which way just to keep up. I believed in daily prayer but couldn't find the time forit.
I had the sinking feeling that my life was getting out of control.
"You are trying to fit God into your life", my friend said. "You need to fit your life around God and you do that with a commitment. An hour a day now that is commitment!" Tom's eyes twinkled and he continued, "I thought my friend was off his rocker. To find an extra hour for God, I would have to get up an hour earlier. I'd lose sleep and ruin my health." The twinkle turned into a grin and he said,"But I haven't been sick in twenty years!"
Sandra left the restaurant in turmoil. She couldn't get Tom's advice out of her mind. Saying nothing to her husband or her three teenagers, she set the alarm for 5 am the next morning. She said,"Well God, here I am!" Thus, she began to sit and read and meditate on God's Word and pray – not the usual hurried 'gimmies!' though. With dogged determination she continued day after day.
Sandra's emotional and physical life was transformed through her daily devotion to God and meditation of the Scripture and prayer. You too could receive emotional healing and good health, mentally, physically and above all spiritually when you approach God. The psalmist, Asaph said, "When I tried to understand all this (his anxieties and problems), it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God, then I understood!" (Psalm 73:16,17 ).
You Need Emotional Support
Apart from seeking an individual relationship with God, those with emotional disturbances alsoneed constant support and prayer from Christian family members and friends. Those in great emotional distress would definitely require counselling by Christian counsellors and psychologists. For those with protracted emotional stress or anxiety and depression, God in His goodness has given professional psychiatrists and appropriate medications for cure. We Christians should not feel embarrassed or guilty in seeking such help. It might even be detrimental to the person's mental and even physical health if he doesn't do so!
The Bible Lists Most Negative and Positive Human Emotions
Here in this section I want to help you see from the Scripture how to handle the various unhealthy and often unholy emotions that bother you and destroy your testimony for Christ. First of all, you must realise and admit before the Lord that wrong emotions are SINFUL. You cannot and should not tolerate them or give them a foothold in your life. Never consider them as'only little sins'. Remember, what you read of the little foxes in the Bible? "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom? (Songs of Solomon 2:15). If unchecked and not eliminated, your 'little emotional sins' will eventually destroy you and others too!
Let me quote from the Bible an important passage that deals with much of our daily emotions, negative and positive.
Here are the negative emotions that lead to sinful and harmful actions: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Now for the positive emotions: "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal. 5:22,23).
How Should Christians Handle Wrong Emotions?
Let us take some of those negative emotions one by one, starting with those that are common and considered not serious sins by us – but not by the Holy Spirit!
ANGER (hatred, discord, fits of rage, dissensions,factions, etc.)
This is a very common emotional problem withmany of us but it is the work of the flesh and thereforesinful! We get upset and angry very easily. We takeit out on our family members, church members andeven outsiders!
Hence the Bible clearly teaches us, “In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devila foothold" (Eph. 3:26,27). Somewhere I picked up this biblical principle before I got married. My wife and I agreed to practice it in our married life. Hence, not only has our marriage survived but also it has flourished for so long! This principle must be upheld in all our relationships with others for peace among us at all costs. If only church members and even leaders practised it, what tragedy, pain and shame we could have avoided!
JEALOUSY (selfish ambition and envy).
This too is a sinful emotion but rampant among believers. But we must deliberately resist this by the help of the Holy Spirit and not give it occasion to act in our lives. Most of the fights and factions within the family, office and even church are because of jealousy and envy spawned by selfish ambitions. You want to get what others possessor hold!
The Bible asks, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" Then it answers, "You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God" (James 4:1,2).
SEXUAL IMMORALITY (impurity, debauchery,and orgies)
While sexual emotion is natural and God-given, sexual immorality is sin. A vast number of Christians entertain and give way to all kinds of secret or open sexually immoral emotions. The main reason is that they do not consider them SIN. But God does! The world’s view of sex isliberal and immoral by God's standards and that of the Bible. The first step to sexual purity then is to agree to God's unchanging standard of morality and hold firmly to it.
Instead, the Christians and their churches have taken a lackadaisical attitude towards what is going on around them. We act as if it doesn't concernus but we don't realise that it is subtly eroding the morals of our younger generation and even the older ones! How else could we explain the gross moral failure that is seen even among well-known Christian leaders?
Quit Rather Than Squat!
Don't stay put in the presence of sexual immorality. Don't let your sexual emotions run wild and turn uncontrollable. The apostle Paul told young Timothy his spiritual son, “Flee also youthful lusts”(2 Timothy 2:22). Isn't that what another brave young man of the Bible, Joseph did when tempted by the Egyptian temptress, Potiphar's wife? He left even his clothes (which she pulled off) in her hands and ran out of the house for his life and soul! Joseph didn't let his emotions overtake him. But look at King David; he acted foolishly! If only David had run for his life instead of hanging around watching that beauty queen Bathsheba, Uriah's wife bathe! He let his sexual emotions bearoused beyond control. How often we too have foolishly stood and watched sin parade on our monitors, screens, and printed pages and in real life situations! Blinded by Satan we just follow the world, half-believing ‘after all it is only harmless entertainment and enjoyment’. We do not call sin –‘SIN’ like God calls it! So we sin against God and man.
Do not give occasion for sinful, sensuous emotions and temptations by being in compromising situations with those of the opposite sex. It is said of the evangelist, Billy Graham, that he had made a covenant not to be alone with a woman under any circumstances! How many are the godly servants of the Lord who have unwisely spent time conselling women alone, only to fall victim to sexual sin and destroy their ministry?
Don't ever believe the devil's lie that your sexual emotions are uncommon (1 Corinthians 10:13) or unusual. It is the same emotion that your fellow men throughout the world are undergoing. Don't fool yourself by thinking that your tempting emotions are any stronger than that of your neighbour next door!
Your best bet is to FLEE! IT IS NOT THE TIME “TO STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH, ACT LIKE MEN, BE STRONG!" (2 Cor. 16:13). Better to be coward and run than stand there and fall, making a 'damnedor cursed fool' of your self before God; others and the world!
You have heard the saying, "You cannot stop birds flying over your head. But you can stop them making nests in your hair!" Wrong emotions must quickly bechased and right emotions cherished and cultivated. Deal decisively and summarily with every kind of sexually immoral emotions including pornography and homo sexuality and do not give them any foothold in your mind.
Impurity and Drunkenness
I consider smoking and drinking as habits that are impure and harmful to your body.They excite your emotions and make you an addict indulging in what you in your right senses wouldn't do! Any addiction isbondage to Satan and therefore sin! The apostle Paul says, "Do you not know that your body isa temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God withyour body" (1 Cor. 6:19,20).
Let Not Your Emotions Lead You To Hell!
Finally, take note of the apostle Paul's stern warning, "l warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this (according to their sinful and wrong emotions) will not inherit the kingdom of God".
Cultivate Positive Emotions
The Word and wisdom of God do not leave you with your hopeless, sinful, negative emotions. Rather it recounts and exalts before you all the virtuous and positive emotions. Renew your mind and fill it with them. They are: "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control".
All these positive and divine emotions are the "fruit" of the Holy Spirit of God. It is He who produces them in your life. Meditate on each of them. Desire, long for and covet them. Keep praying and asking the Holy Spirit to grant them to you. He will! For God is faithful to give us what He has promised, when we ask, seek and knock!