“[C]hoose for yourselves this day whom you will serve … but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24: 15
Emotions are a mixed blessing. Sometimes they are wonderful, pleasant, thrilling, exhilarating. Other times they make us miserable, anxious, terrified, grief-stricken, or enraged. But one thing is certain: Life would be very boring without them.
What part should emotions play in our lives as Christians? It’s certainly wonderful to feel God’s presence, His joy, His peace. But what about when we don’t? What about when our prayers seem to hit the ceiling, when darkness seems to be swallowing up the light, when we ask God for a sign and see nothing? What about when we are plagued with guilt and feel certain that God is angry with us and that we are alienated from Him with no way back?
Choices: There are times when our emotions and our minds tell us different things. For example, if you have ever seen a scary movie, you can remember feelings of terror, even though you know in your mind that you are seated safely in a theater or in your own living room. You have a choice to make: You can believe your emotions and run screaming from the room, or you can keep watching through the suspenseful part to see what happens. You may be clutching your spouse or a sofa pillow, but deep down you know that ultimately you are probably safe.
The same can apply when the world, the flesh, or the devil messes with our emotions. We can choose to worry, or to trust that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) When hurt or offended, we can choose to try to even the score ourselves, or to give it to God, knowing that He has said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” (Romans 12:19) When bitterly disappointed, we can choose to wallow in self-pity, or to trust God enough to thank Him for promising that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) When guilty, we can sink into depression and self-loathing, or we can take responsibility, apologize to God and to the appropriate people, and trust that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) And we can choose to make it right as best we can and go on, even if the feelings are still threatening to keep us mired in the mud.
Is any of this easy? NO! But it is a choice, a choice that no one else can make. And choosing God’s truth, even when emotions make it seem counterintuitive, eventually does affect the emotions. (I have found that it helps to speak God’s promises out loud, so that I hear myself saying them. It also helps to share them with another person, especially someone who will pray with and for me.) Eventually it will get easier – maybe not easy, but easier. In the meantime, hang onto Jesus, like “some of us” hang onto that husband or sofa pillow. Choose God’s perspective, obey what He has told you, and don’t let your emotions boss you around!
Prayer: Lord, we thank You for emotions that confirm the Truth, but we also acknowledge that Your Truth stands alone and needs no confirmation from us! Thank You for the emotions that motivate us to do what’s right, but also for the power to choose to do what’s right, even when we don’t feel like it! Thank You, Lord, that when emotions lie to us, they don’t get to define us, or to dictate what we say, do, focus on, or believe. YOU are King, not our emotions, and we willfully, purposefully delight ourselves in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.