God created us with emotions, and it’s wrong to try to become emotionless, to withdraw to a state in which nothing ever bothers us—a state where we are just numb. That is certainly not what God wants. On the other hand, some folks let their emotions take them on a roller-coaster ride where they are up one day and down the next. That is also not the way God intends for us to live. We were created with emotions, and we are to enjoy them.
God Himself is a God of emotion. First John 4:8 tells us that God is love, which is an emotion. It’s not only an emotion, but it involves emotion. The Bible also says in many different places that the Lord is a jealous God, and that He can be angry. In Ephesians 4:30, it says we can grieve the Holy Spirit. All of these are emotions. They are apart of God’s make up and ours.
The key is to harness our emotions so they benefit us.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word harness means “to bring under control and direct the force of.” I believe that is really descriptive of the way the Lord would have us deal with our emotions. He wants us to harness, to control, and to direct the force of our emotions.
Emotions Are Meant for Enjoyment
I believe it is a wrong reaction when we try not to have any kind of emotional relationship with anyone because of the potential damage. That is an attempt to deny emotions, to deny that they exist, and I believe that is working against the framework, the very makeup we were created with.
We were created in God’s image, and part of that likeness of God is emotions. God gave them to us to be enjoyed. When God created the world, He looked at everything He made and said, “Behold, it was good” (Gen. 1:31). So emotions were created to be good. I believe that emotions are one of the spices of life that really make it worth living. If there was no love in our lives, if there was no joy, what would be the point of being alive? Just think what life would be like if we were to erase every memory of positive emotions, such as the memories of great times we have had. It would radically alter our existence.
At the same time, even though emotions are intended to be good and God gave them to us to be enjoyed, many people find that their emotions are out of control.
Many people do not control their emotions; they let their emotions control them.
Even though emotions were intended to be a positive thing, they can also be the very thing that drives people to depression, which causes all kinds of problems: divorce, anger, bitterness, hurt feelings, and even suicide.
Finding Hope for Emotional Stability
I feel that the world is basically hopeless in the area of emotions. Because they have no real hope, many secular psychologists just try to make people feel better by telling them they shouldn’t worry about their lack of emotional stability. They say they shouldn’t look at themselves as being abnormal, because everyone else is as bad off as they are. That’s a feeble answer.
It is surprising that the church, the Christian community, has really not taught very much in the area of emotional stability. I feel that most of the teaching that comes forth from the church deals with coping rather than controlling. Instead of teaching people how to have victory in this area, the church teaches them to “roll with the punches” and tells them to “learn something” from their emotions. There may be some benefit in that, but nothing lasting.
With God’s help, people cannot only learn to cope and survive; they can learn to hope and thrive in this area of emotions.
I travel around the country teaching a lot on emotions. In my meetings, I often give an invitation asking people to stand up for prayer who have been fighting depression and losing the battle. It’s not unusual to see close to 80 percent of the Christians in those meetings standing for prayer. Many times the number goes up to 90 percent. Sometimes it looks like the entire congregation is standing!
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not condemning those people. I understand their struggle, and I have compassion for them. I pray for them, but I know that is not the way Jesus intended for them to live. The Lord came to deliver not only our eternal spiritual man but also our soulish, emotional personality. Jesus paid for that at the cross.
Mental and emotional health is a part of what Jesus came to bring. There are truths and instruction in God’s Word that if followed and applied, I unconditionally guarantee will cause you to live an emotionally stable life.
You don’t have to have extreme highs and extreme lows. You can live on an even plane of continual joy and peace. Isaiah 26:3 says that the Lord will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon Him because he trusts in Him. Well, peace is an emotion, and you can live in a state of perfect emotional peace.
Responsibility for Emotions
Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever. Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee (Deuteronomy 28:45-48).
Here is a passage of Scripture most people have either never seen or never applied to the area of emotions. In this passage, the Lord was talking to the nation of Israel, telling them that because they had not done certain things, He was going to bring judgment upon them. This judgment was the result of their acts of sin.
In the Old Testament, God judged sin harshly. In the New Testament, our judgment has been placed upon Jesus, so even though we don’t always do what we should, God does not judge us. But we can still benefit from seeing what the Lord judged as wrong conduct.
In this passage, God made an awesome statement.
He said that He was bringing judgment upon His people because they did not serve Him with joyfulness and gladness of heart.
Most people read it and say, “Yes, God hated sin and judged it.” But this passage shows that God not only hated sin; He hated negative emotions. It was because His people had not served Him with their emotions that He was bringing judgment upon them.
Very few people see emotions in that light. Most people look at emotions as being optional. They would like to have positive emotions, but they don’t feel responsible for producing them. I don’t know anyone who gets up in the morning and prays, “O God, help me to have a bad day. I want to be bummed out and depressed to the max.” No one desires that. Yet when certain things happen and they begin to feel that way, they don’t feel guilty. They don’t feel they have done anything wrong. Instead, they feel justified.
When people come to me for counseling and I begin telling them what God desires for them, they immediately respond, “But look at what has happened to me.” They start telling me about all their negative experiences. Their thinking seems to be, I’m justified in feeling this way because of my circumstances. How else can I feel?
Most people believe that if something negative happens, there must be a negative emotion to correspond with it. They see emotions as simply a response, not a choice. To them, emotions are not something they have any authority or control over; therefore, they have no responsibility for them.
Emotions are just something that happen. That’s the current thinking of our day. Yet that cannot be true, or God would have been unjust to bring judgment upon the nation of Israel because they did not serve Him with their emotions. It would be unjust for God to hold us accountable for something we had no control over.
Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled
Let not your heart be troubled (John 14:1).
On the very night before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke to His disciples and told them not to let their hearts be troubled. That wasn’t a suggestion; it was a command. Jesus wasn’t speaking to those men in a time of prosperity and peace when everything was going great. Most people feel that when everything is going fine, they should be praising God and operating in joy and peace. When negative things come, they act as though they have some responsibility for their emotions. But when big problems come, they think that relieves them of all responsibility for their emotions: No one can be expected to overcome in this situation!
The Lord was talking to His disciples just before they would face a tremendous trial. He knew that what they were going to experience was greater than anything they had ever known. He knew they were going to see what they considered their whole lives—their whole calling and everything they had sacrificed for— crucified, destroyed, and defeated. He knew they weren’t going to understand what was happening to them in that terribly trying time. Yet He told them, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.”
Jesus would be unjust to give someone a command like that if that individual did not have the power to do what He said. Those disciples did have the power to keep their hearts from being troubled. They didn’t exercise it, and the Lord wound up forgiving them, ministering to them, and comforting them. But His best was for them to put their trust in Him and not let their hearts be troubled.
I am not trying to put condemnation on anyone, but I am saying that before we can really start experiencing victory in this area of harnessing our emotions, we are going to have to get rid of the lie that we have no authority over our emotions. Emotions are not just something that happen to us like a chemical reaction we have no ability to control. We are not like animals that just respond to their environments. We are people created in the image of God who have the power of choice (D eut. 30:19). We do have authority over our emotions through Jesus Christ, and it is time to walk in that authority and take control of our feelings.