When given a list of a dozen factors, including finances, uncertainty, weather, and music, and asked which affect emotions, either positively or negatively, not a single factor was identified as having no effect. We’re emotional beings. The people and situations surrounding us impact our emotional responses. We’re drawn to some situations because we experience them as positive, and we avoid negative experiences. It’s like cleaning your closet. Keep what you like and what feels good. Get rid of the things you’re tired of or don’t fit well.
What about those negative emotions we want to toss away? Why do we see them as negative, and should we always avoid them?
First, the messages we’ve paired with some emotions are devastating to us. Consider the messages you’ve stored about fear. Jealousy. Anger. Anxiety. Guilt. Whether or not the messages we attach to emotional experiences are true, they wash over us as we experience similar emotional experiences. What voice interrupts you in the midst of your emotions?
- When you’re rejected by a close family member, do you feel worthless?
- When you’re anxious about a test result, do you feel incapable of proceeding?
- When you’re fearful, do you feel victimized?
Not all messages that accompany our emotions are inaccurate. God can speak to us in all times, and God is an emotional God. (Exodus 34:14; Psalm 78:38; Zephaniah 3:17; 1 Corinthians 14:33) Emotions saturate Scripture.
God is an emotional God but not in the same way we talk about an emotional woman or emotional person. However, he’s certainly aware of our runaway emotions. We can’t escape from God’s presence. And if we let him, God will replace the untruthful emotional messages with truthful messages reflecting his character, will, and commands.
Another reason we experience emotions negatively is we can feel victimized by our emotions. Emotions can make us feel as if we’re on a board game. Perhaps you know some of the rules.
- Your move is dependent on others’ moves. (Your emotions are responses to others.)
- Only one person can occupy a space at one time. (Your emotions prohibit you from some experiences.)
- You’ll incur penalties for landing on certain spaces. (Some of your emotions will only end in trouble.)
- Where you land is determined by the roll of a die. (You don’t have control over your emotions.)
- You might need to go back several spaces. (Your emotions can get you stuck.)
Do you find it ironic that we think of our emotions making us feel something? In other words, because we feel, we feel. If (insert emotion), then (insert emotion).
We also use emotions to mask other emotions. Emotions can become tied together.
We often try to replace negative with positive emotions, but the truth is – negative emotions can be energizing. We might not like them. We might complain about them. But we’d rather feel something than nothing. Negative emotions are often more intense than positive emotions. We’re energized and consumed by them…and less willing to give them up.
We want something to change, but we’re not willing to be changed.
Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. Romans 12:2 (NCV)
I want God to work through me, but I have to constantly remind myself that in order for God to work through me, I have to be willing to allow him to work in me. He’s changing me from the inside out. And it’s not easy for me to allow him to change me.
Emotions expose us. We feel unmasked. In the vulnerability, emotions can lead us to depend on God – emphasis on the word can, because emotions will not automatically lead us to depend on God.
Consider a time your emotions have led you to depend on God. What about a time your emotions didn’t lead you to depend on God?
The more we know God’s emotions, the better we can discern what’s positive and negative about the way we experience various emotions. We can avoid getting caught up in the emotion itself without moving beyond the emotion. We can let the emotion be a clue of what’s going on and what should happen next.
God didn’t mess up his design of you. (Geneses 1:27; Psalm 119:13-14; Jeremiah 29:11-12; 2 Timothy 1:9-10) He’s not capable of messing up. He created you in his image. He has a plan for your life. He even knew what mistakes you’d make throughout your life, and he still loves you and wants nothing more than to be in an ever-deepening relationship with you. He will pursue you, tapping you on the shoulder, whispering in your ear, and knocking on the door of your heart so that your daily life – including your decisions, attitudes, and yes, emotions – are impacted in the purity of who he created you to be and the everyday messiness of living on earth as you move ever closer to eternity – with God or without him.
If our emotions aren’t reflecting the character of God, we’re probably distorting something and need to get back on track. Our anger doesn’t reflect his anger. Our jealousy doesn’t reflect his jealousy. Our guilt doesn’t reflect his guilt. But we can grow closer to God, getting to know him better, and committing to reflecting him more and more on a daily basis.
Excerpted from Pure Emotion, a new women’s Bible study. Download a free sample or preorder your copy today.