God is an emotional being. The Scriptures tell us that God feels things like joy, delight, grief, and anger. Being made in God’s image, we are created to be emotional beings as well. The normal human being experiences a wide range of emotions. Some of those emotions, like peace, joy, happiness, and contentment are pleasant to experience. Others however are more painful and difficult and are apt to cause trouble for us if we don’t learn to interpret them well.
Often, when we feel troublesome emotions like anger, irritation, anxiety, worry, fear, jealousy, envy, guilt, and shame, we simply allow those emotions to dictate our choices and behavior. We kick the cat, text our child for the twentieth time that day, avoid that difficult conversation, work harder to prove we are good enough, fight with our spouse, or eat things we know we shouldn’t. And that’s what happens when we don’t take time to look deeper at what’s going on in our souls. Like Cain, who disregarded God’s call to examine his anger (Gen. 4:6) and to look inside at what was the root, we simply react out of those emotions in ways that do damage to ourselves and to others.
God has actually given us an amazing alarm system in these difficult emotions. Rightly understood, they can help us understand lies that we believe about God, ourselves, and others. As we face those lies and embrace the truth, then we can be set free from being controlled by our negative emotions and learn to respond to people and circumstances with grace, courage, kindness, and love.
Although much more could certainly be said about these negative emotions, here is what they generally reveal as we take the time to look inside and examine them:
ANGER (including milder forms like irritation and frustration)
The lie: There is something I think I NEED in this moment that some person or circumstance is preventing me from getting.
The truth to embrace: I may not have what I desire, but I have all that I need in my relationship with God and what he has chosen to provide for me. By God’s grace, I will be okay if I don’t get what I desire.
ANXIETY (including all forms of anxiety like worry and fear)
The lie: There is something I believe I need in this moment that feels very uncertain. I am not sure if I or others will come through.
The truth to embrace: While something I care about may be uncertain, I have certainty that my true needs are met by God and what he provides for me. I will be okay no matter how things turn out.
JEALOUSY AND ENVY
The lie: There is something I believe I need that others have or that others could take from me.
The truth to embrace: While others may have things I desire, or take things that I would prefer to keep, they do not have the power to take what I most need. My needs are met by God and what he chooses to provide for me.
GUILT AND SHAME
The lie: There is something I believe I need that I have failed to make happen. I need to perform perfectly to get what I most need. If I don’t I am worthless.
The truth to embrace: I have been given what I most need by God, not because I am good enough, but because he is. I am forgiven for my sin and embraced in spite of my inadequacies because of the finished work of Christ.
As we embrace the truth of what we have in Christ, we are set free from chasing after those things we wrongly believe we need. As we stop chasing and demanding those things from ourselves and others we are able to become people who live to give and respond with wisdom and love even when we don’t get what we desire.
So next time you find yourself feeling a difficult emotion, don’t let it just control you. Take control by looking inside at what that emotion is telling you. Lies often feel more true than truth, but don’t let those feelings dictate what you believe. Embrace the truth as taught by the Word of God. Choose to live it out. In time and with practice the result will be a growing sense of peace, joy, and contentment in what you have in Christ. Those are emotions that can rule in our hearts.