Have you ever wondered about why you are the way you are with emotions? Some people are overly expressive in their emotions, constantly wearing every emotion on their sleeve. With others you wonder if they even have emotions because they never seem to express anything. The reality is we all have emotions and we're wired that way by God Himself. God gave us emotions because emotion is what allows us to react and interact with people and life. Growing up I guess I learned to stay pretty low key with emotions. I fall more on the side of being less expressive than overly expressive. Understand that neither is healthy. Overly expressive people are often run by their emotions. They will often think, act, and make decisions before the rational side of their brain has gotten a chance to process. Those who do not express much emotion are also controlled by their emotions. They are like emotional graveyards that stuff everything they're feeling down and can actually become so emotionally disconnected that if asked how or what they feel, they couldn't tell you! What do you think these extremes do to our ability to succeed in life, business, marriage, family, and even serving God? Most certainly these extremes have a huge impact on how we deal with problems. They have a greater impact on how our life goes and how we succeed than we realize!
David and Jan Stoop in their book "SMART Love" say that researchers generally agree that people experience six primary emotions: anger, sadness, joy, surprise, shame, and fear. When we run into a problem in our lives, no matter how big or small the problem may be, the first place in our brain that processes that problem is the emotional part of our brain which triggers a reaction. From there it goes to the rational part of the brain which begins to process the problem. If we live in emotional extremes, there is a very good chance that the problem will not make it to the rational part of the brain. We simply react emotionally which can cause greater destruction to others and ourselves than the problem ever should have.
So how do we gain victory over our emotions when we run into problems?
1) Learn to recognize the source of your emotions.
There are four out of the six emotions listed above that are negative emotions: anger, sadness, shame, and fear. When we run into problems, we will experience one or more of these. Let's take fear for example. One thing that is helping me is when I feel a bit anxious or fearful, I need to STOP! Stop and ask yourself, "Why am I feeling afraid?" Identifying the problem that is causing the fear kicks the problem over to the rational part of your brain so you can begin to process it
2) Allow God to retrain your brain
The rational side of our brain can work alongside our emotions to produce a better reaction. Romans 12:2 NLT says, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." God wants to help us change the way we think! All of our life before we are born again our rational brain is being trained to think according to the flesh and according to humanistic and worldly philosophies. Once we're born again we become citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom. God's Kingdom operates on very different principles. Before when I felt fear I might question my life, future, and worth. But when we allow God to retrain our brain, we could feel fear but react by thinking like God thinks! Instead of doubt and confusion, we begin remembering God's promises for us.
3) Take responsibility
Notice Romans 12:2 says we need to "let God" change the way we think. We have a part in retraining our brain. There are three basic ways to retrain your brain to think like God thinks: 1) Prayer; 2) Worship 3) Meditation on the Word of God. The more we do these spiritual disciplines, the more we will notice our ways of thinking changing. This is when our emotions begin to serve us rather than us serving them! This is called walking in the Spirit! I pray that this year you will grow in your ability to lead your emotions. And from this may you find greater peace and joy in your heart, make better decisions, find your faith and trust in God increasing, and your relationships becoming more healthy and whole.
Let me leave you with this Scripture from Galatians 5:16-26
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Marc P. Eidahl
New Life Church