The following is a prayer which may or may not have passed your lips: “God! I am so sick and tired of feeling this way! Can you please take this away? I can’t take this anymore!”
It can be easy to get wrapped up in an emotion. When used for good, they give us the capacity to bond, protect, love, worship, empathize, nurture, and even fight for what is true. On the flip side, temptation can also come in the form of feelings (James 1:13-15); furthermore, emotions can just be downright confusing or feel more out of control than an onslaught of water gushing over your head.
For instance, you may have had the experience of waking up one morning, and for no good reason, you feel down. Blah. Your roommate or spouse takes one look at you, and immediately decides they need to retreat and put on their armor ‘cuz they ain’t sure what’s going to come at them, whether it be Grumpy, Mopey, or even Woe-is-Me. There is no logical reason for this dearth of sparkle in your eye; you are just down, and may even want to cry without knowing why!
If you have ever wondered why you feel the way you do, then look no further. There is hope for managing your emotions!
What we think about continually – whether we realize it or not – directly affects our emotions, which affects our hearts. You may have heard someone say, “You are just an emotional creature; you can’t help the way you feel”. In answer to that I would day: “Yes, some people tend to be more emotional than others, but you can help the way you feel”. Emotion can color a person’s soul with such richness, but feelings can also be crippling. It all boils down to the mind and its connection to the emotions. In essence, your feelings will follow the nature of what you think about. Let me say that a different way because it might be helpful if you want to chew on it: How you are feeling stems from what you thinking and believing.
For example, I’ve often gotten caught in the trap of continually wondering about how others perceive me. As you probably know, it just ended up producing a lot of anxiety and fear in my heart. Conversely, if we dwell on God’s truth – the fact that He is for us (Rom. 8:31), and to esteem His opinion far above anyone else’s, then what people think will pale in comparison to God’s thoughts about us. Sure, realistically speaking we will still be concerned with how others see us, but it does not have to overwhelm you or drag you down (there is a difference).
Expectations Set Us up for Disappointment. I used to think God was sorta like a math equation. It went like this: I do this and this = God doing what I wanted. Basically, I was making God into a personal Santa (and I still make this mistake). Yes – God always works for the good of His children (Romans 8:28). No – we humans don’t always know what that good means (Prov. 16:9; Isaiah 55:8-9). Have you ever had something go completely different from how you thought it would happen? Yup. It happens to all of us. When we expect God to work in certain ways according to our agenda, it sets us up for feeling resentful, even bitter, against Him when things don’t go the way we expect. I admit I’ve been in that place!
The good news is that you can expect goodness from God based upon who He is, but exercise caution when making expectations of Him for your circumstances (Prov. 19:21). We’ve all done it, but there is greater reassurance in knowing God’s way is better than anything you could possible think of! Sweet! (Eph. 3:20)
Out of everything we’ve said, there is nothing more important than how we think of God. For years, I believed things about God that just were not correct, and it caused me a lot of stress. Why? Because, my dear friend, what I was thinking about was simply not true! (Phil. 4:8) That’s it – it’s as straight forward as that. Today, I am still learning so much about Abba, my Father; it will be a lifelong journey. The lesson I’ve learned is that the more accurate thoughts I have about God from His Word, the less likely I am to sit and entertain those dark thoughts because I recognize them as false ideas (Psalm 19:7-11; Rom. 12:1-2).
Now, let’s briefly talk about thinking too much (of which I am notoriously guilty too). When you catch yourself starting to over think about X,Y, or Z, use that tendency to instead ruminate about God – “He already knows the outcome and is preparing me for it”. Yes – this can mean a moment by moment choice to replace your harmful thinking with accurate thoughts (II Cor 10:3-6). Is it easy? No! It’s harder than swallowing smelly, curdled milk! To be specific, let’s make it a gallon of curdled milk. However, the more we practice discipline in our thought life by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24), the easier it gets and the more we realize it was Him and not us at work! (Phil. 2:13) I don’t know about you, but that just makes me wish I could get jiggy like those Irish dancers I see on TV!
Let’s face it: Some days we want to pay big money for a control board in our heads that would allow for an “on/off switch” for those emotions, but that’s not reality. We may never be in full control of our feelings, but we can learn to manage them – for the joy of loving God with our minds and for the sake of those around us. (Matthew 22:37-39).
Sunshine is a teacher living in the East Bay of California. She has traveled to Ethiopia, Cambodia, Ireland, England, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Darien Jungle in Panama. Sunshine enjoys discipleship at her church and makes a mean tortilla soup.