I glanced down at my phone once again. The gentle vibration was one I had almost grown accustomed to in these last few hours. Another news alert. Another report of the chaos that was ensuing at our nation’s capital. I turned on the television and one by one, my children came into the room and sat quietly. As we watched the events unfold, my youngest turned to me, confusion in his eyes; he didn’t understand. He didn’t understand what might lead someone to act so violently towards another. I wanted to pretend that I didn’t understand either. But, if I’m being honest, I did. Now, let me be clear and say that there is no excuse for what happened at the Capitol. None at all. But, as I watched, the crowds in the streets, I couldn’t help, but understand. How many times have I too felt my emotions running high and hot? How many times have I reacted to what is happening around me rather than seek God’s perspective and respond from a place of grace? How many times have I faced circumstances that were hard or out of my control and used them as an excuse to act out of control? How many times have I allowed my spiraling emotions to dictate my actions, my body language, and even the words I speak? More often than I’d like to admit, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.
Our emotions and the feelings that accompany them. Though slightly different by definition, the two intertwine, and it is unlikely that you’ll experience one and not the other. Our emotions are the natural and instinctive mental reactions we have in response to what is happening around us. Consciously thinking about and reflecting on those mental reactions then gives rise to our feelings. These feelings can be quite strong, but it is important to remember that they always stem from the emotions that surface in the midst of our circumstances. There are several important things to remember about our emotions as well.
First, they are triggered by someone or something specific. As a mom, my kids are usually the ones that tend to stir up my emotions. One leans in for a hug; it stirs my emotions. One has still not completed a task that was asked of him; it stirs my emotions. One is heard encouraging his sibling; it stirs my emotions. One is spewing hateful words towards a sibling; it stirs my emotions. Other people will stir my emotions as well. A driver tailgates me; it stirs my emotions. The person in line ahead of me in the express checkout has thirteen items not the required twelve or less; it stirs my emotions. An elderly gentleman holds the hand of his wife as they walk in front of me; it stirs my emotions. The people we come in contact with on a daily basis will trigger our emotions.
Sometimes though, it’s not a particular someone that triggers our emotions, but a particular something. A sickness or death in the family stirs up emotions. Your baby has a blow out diaper just has you are heading out the door; it stirs up emotions. You receive an unexpected diagnosis or the loss of a job; it stirs up emotions. Sometimes it is the circumstances we find ourselves in regardless of whether they were expected or not that trigger our emotions.
The second thing to remember is that emotions can affect our physical, mental, and emotional health. Our mind and bodies are closely connected, and as our brains take in what is happening around us, it releases chemicals it thinks will help us in a given situation. Positive emotions can help increase our awareness, attention, and memory. They can help lower our blood pressure, help with better digestion, and help us to deal better with periods of stress. Negative emotions can also be helpful in warning us of threats or dangers we may be facing but, chronic negative emotions can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed and can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive issues, a weakened immune system or other health problems.
Think about the emotions that you have experienced so far today. Who or what triggered them? How did they cause you to behave or function? Have obedient children who got along with one another all day, straight green lights on the way to work or a house that looks exactly the same as if did when you left it ten minutes ago, left you feeling joyful, happy, and confident in your abilities as a woman and as a mom? Or have disobedient children who spent the entire day fighting, getting stuck behind a combine on your way to work, or a house that constantly looks like a tornado ripped through it, left you feeling stressed, tired and defeated? Our emotions can have an affect on the way we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The next thing we need to remember about our emotions is that they are a gift. They are a gifted given by God to help us experience this life He has given us to the full. When God created each one of us, no detail was forgotten. Psalm 139 reminds us:
“I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe. You have approached even the smallest details with excellence; Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.”
Psalm 139:14 (VOICE)
God marveled over your unique creation. Each detail He placed brought Him great delight. He gave you the personality He desired and the talents that would help you fulfill the purposes He has for your life. He also gave you emotions. God gave you the ability to feel and to love deeply, to have compassion, and yes, even to be angry. Our emotions are a gift, a gift given to help us experience this life in all its wonder and to its absolute fullest.
But, sometimes we take this gift of emotion and use it in ways that God never intended. We find ourselves in the midst of something hard, negative feelings rise up, and instead of responding in a way that would ultimately bring glory to God, we allow those negative feelings to control our responses. We feel anger. We lash out. We say things we don’t mean. Just now, as I write these words I think back on a response I had just this morning.
I have a deadline to meet with the words on this page. A deadline that I know will only be met with time, quiet, and allowing myself to be still so God can speak through my fingers. But, my youngest doesn’t understand deadlines. He doesn’t understand the pressure I feel to place words on this page. With a day off from school, he swings between boredom and grand adventures both of which must be expressed to me in the greatest and often most exhausting detail. As the door opened once again and I lost my train of thought once again, I felt frustration well up within me. I spoke his name sternly, explained once again that I was working, and that I would have to lock the door if he was unable to give me some quiet time. His response? “I know, mom, but I have just one thing I have to ask you!” He simply wanted permission to build a fort using a table I’ve been using for a jigsaw puzzle. But, in asking permission to use the table, he felt it was important to included a detailed explanation of the two ways he could handle the puzzle pieces, what might occur if the pieces came apart, how he would resolve the problem of a broken puzzle, and debated on what might be the wisest course of action. The longer he spoke, the greater my frustration grew. It finally got to the point that I interrupted him, told him rather sternly to go make his fort and to not interrupt me again. Regret filled me as the words left my mouth and hurt filled his eyes. He apologized and quietly left the room, closing the door behind him. I closed my eyes as I felt defeat wash over me. Why did I respond the way I did? Instead of offering patience and grace and seizing the moment as a gift of time to marvel in how God uniquely created my son, I chose anger and hurtful words. And, if I continue to respond in this manner towards him, will there come a day when he no longer will want to approach me and share the thoughts on his mind? I grieve that very thought.
Far too often, we allow our emotions to control our responses, direct our words, our actions, and how we communicate with others around us. Far too often, we give the negative emotions that rise within us far more power they deserve. We give them the power to steer us away from the sacred moments God has for us each day. James 1 reminds us:
“If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things that God wants done.”
James 1:20 (CEV)
And Ephesians 5 tells us:
“So be careful how you live; be mindful of your steps. Don’t run around like idiots as the rest of the world does. Instead, walk as the wise! Make the most of every living and breathing moment because these are evil times. So understand and be confident in God’s will, and don’t live thoughtlessly.”
Ephesians 5:15-17 (VOICE)
When we allow our emotions to direct our steps, we can easily find ourselves on a path that God never intended for us to walk.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Our emotions do not have to be the guiding force behind the way in which we respond to others or our circumstances, and they shouldn’t be! Our guiding force should be the Holy Spirit, God living within us. The transformation of our responses comes as we learn to recognize our emotions, bring them to God for His refinement, and allow Him to renew our thoughts. Romans urges us to:
“ . . . Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may (discover) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 (NASB)
We can be angry and respond calmly. We can be hurt and extend forgiveness. We can face circumstances out of our control without acting out of control. We can do all of this through the work of His Spirit within us as He renews and transforms us into His image.
Our emotions, they are a gift from our Creator. He created us with the ability to feel deeply, to love richly, and to experience this beautiful life to its fullest. When you face circumstances that are out of your control, are you choosing to trust Him? Are you choosing to trust that through Him, you can respond in ways that ultimately will bring Him glory?
“But blessed is the one who trusts in Me alone; the Eternal will be his confidence. He is like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots beside the stream. It does not fear the heat or even drought. Its leaves stay green and its fruit is dependable, no matter what it faces.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 (VOICE)
Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.
Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emotions. Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.
Terkeurst, Lysa. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 2012.
“What does the Bible say about managing/controlling emotions?” GotQuestions. https://www.gotquestions.org/managing-emotions.html. Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.