Don't let your emotions rule you
Our emotions, given us by the Lord, are intended to serve – to serve the truth in love. They are never to be our masters. The world, especially through the media, will try to tell you that you need to fully express all emotions whenever you feel them. They say, let them “rule” you and determine how you will think and act in every situation. The world defines that as an expression of “freedom.” Do you know that is a big lie? When God created us, he gave us an emotional package that – when used under the lordship of Christ – can fuel just anger, courage, hope, love, confidence, joy and peace. In short, we are given the means to serve the Lord and his people with true joy.
But we must decide to follow the priorities of the Gospel – not those that the world tries to sell us through the media. What are your priorities in life? Do they square with Scripture? If your priorities are based on God’s truth, then your emotions can “get in line.” Your emotions can become the servants of the truth.
It is a process. Most of us are formed more by the world’s values than we would like to admit.
So often, thoughts, born from temptations and other personal experiences that do not reflect God’s priorities can “lead” us down certain paths (with all the attendant emotions) – lust, greed, power, jealousy, envy and hatred, for example. When we allow all the emotions that accompany sinful thoughts and actions to dominate us, our emotions quickly become our masters. Those “masters” – our feelings – promptly gain the first place in our thoughts and decisions. Little by little, they achieve full “authority.” Reason is pushed into a very secondary place. Then we are “led” precisely where we do not want to go: broken relationships and marriages, mistrust and suspicion, loss and failure, “hating ourselves and hating one another,” as Scripture eloquently summarizes our predicament. See Titus 3:3-8
When emotions are rightly used – as servants of the truth – we will know true peace and freedom. It is a struggle; it is a battle; but if you are willing to fight it, God’s Holy Spirit will work a marvel in your personal life. Some emotions need to be banished – such as the hatred that fuels a desire to kill another. Yes, some emotional expressions need to be cut out of our lives. They don’t befit our dignity or the dignity of others. But most of our emotions don’t need to be repressed. They need discipline and redirection. The Holy Spirit will strengthen you in that process if you are willing to be “re-formed” according to God’s priorities as revealed in his word. Are you willing?
Reflect on this true story
The main characters are a minister and an Orthodox priest. Our immediate inclination can be to say – “Oh, these are holy men – not like me!” In other words their example does not apply to my life. But it does! Priests and ministers have to fight all the same battles you do and, sometimes, they are even worse because their service, their ministry, attracts the work of the enemy to lie to them and seek to rob them of hope and confidence. So don’t use their vocations as an excuse not to heed what these men conquered and the victory they won.
In 1969, under Communist domination, Eastern Europe was in captivity: suppression of all religion, threats, fear, imprisonment, torture and death were the experience of many. In Romania, Pastor Richard Wurmbrandt, a Lutheran, was imprisoned for religious activities. In a very crowded cell with many men – a scene of hopelessness and despair – Pastor Wurmbrandt experienced a miracle. Near the pastor was an Orthodox priest who was dying from the torture he had undergone. Suddenly, that priest’s agony was interrupted by the cell door being thrown open and a man, bloody and beaten, was tossed in. (He was a prison guard who had been charged with a crime.) The prison guard began to cry out and it went on for a long time. “I have no hope, I am going to hell for my sins. There is no hope for me!”
In the midst of that noise and sobbing and despair, the Orthodox priest lifted his head from his cot and looked at the prison guard’s face. Then he turned to two other men and asked if they could drag him over to the prison guard – the priest could no longer walk because of his many broken bones. Pastor Wurmbrandt said he heard the interchange between the priest and the guard. The priest said, “Do you want me to hear your confession?” “Why”, said the guard. “No one can forgive me. I am damned.” The priest said “If I can forgive you, God will forgive you!” (The priest had recognized the guard as one of the men who had tortured him!) That night, in that prison cell, Pastor Wurmbrandt said he witnessed a miracle. The murdered man forgave his murderer. God’s forgiveness covered them both according to their needs. Both men died that night. It was Christmas Eve 1969.
God can work miracles, God can meet our everyday challenges – if we allow our emotions to be governed by the truth.
This month’s exercise:
• Reflect on the story: Have there been times in your life you haven’t been able to forgive yourself?
• Read Titus 3:3-8 and ask if your self-hatred leads you to treat others badly.
• See how men and women, just like you, allowed God to harness their unruly emotions and bring them to serve holiness of life and the building of his kingdom.