Everyday Emotions

What, in general, do you do when you experience emotions?

  • I push them aside and forge forward.
  • I feel helpless and am often stopped in my tracks.
  • I sense the opportunity to look at what God’s exposing about me.
  • I’m motivated to change and grow.

Emotions expose us. We can feel unmasked. Emotions enhance our experiences, as if a highlighter has illuminated what’s going on in our lives. What do you think of when you think about being exposed?

I think about being on an island. My first thought is of being on the beach. Not the relaxing resort beach where refreshing drinks and snacks are readily available. A deserted beach. The sun is beating down, and there’s little escape if some odd creature or person wants to attack. I’m visible to everyone who is in the area as well as to the elements. I don’t feel safe.

Exposure feels unsafe. It’s unsettling.

I can also feel exposed in the very depths of the island jungle, where the vines and bushes are overgrown and hide the path. It’s a different kind of exposure. It’s exposure to the unknown and uncertainty. I can easily get lost, and I consider what could be lurking in the overgrowth.

Emotions can lead us to depend on God. The small word can is critical, because emotions will not automatically lead us to depend on God.

We can also get bogged down with our emotions. We experience negative emotions and we want to turn them into positive emotions. We experience positive emotions and we want them to last forever. We want things our way, and we usually want them to be easy. But we don’t experience easy emotions, because life isn’t easy. We get uncomfortable, and we want to change. Well, let me rephrase that. We often don’t want to change. We want something to change more than we want to be changed.

Let’s take a look at some changes in Scripture.

God said to Abraham, “I will change the name of Sarai, your wife, to Sarah.” Genesis 17:15

When Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart. All these signs came true that day. 1 Samuel 10:9

You changed my sorrow into dancing. You took away my clothes of sadness, and clothed me in happiness. Psalm 30:11

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

Our faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

By his power to rule all things, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his own glorious body. Philippians 3:21

Now consider the following:

So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. Genesis 1:27

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. Psalm 119:13-14

“I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12

That was not because of anything we did ourselves but because of God’s purpose and grace. That grace was given to us through Christ Jesus before time began, but it is now shown to us by the coming of our Savior Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9-10

I hope you recognized this one: God didn’t mess up His design of you.

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 – whether you’re not following Him and need to make that decision or you’re following Him marginally or you’re passionate about Him. He designed you for more, and 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 – is 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. Rest assured, God did not mess up His design for you.

For a biblical study of emotions, click here to order Pure Emotion, a 10-week study of emotions for individuals or groups.

Real Devotion

WhatIsRealDevoDepend on the Lord in whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)

Ponder It.
When you authentically look at your spiritual journey, where are you right now?
How will you authentically stay connected with God and others?

Receive It and Live It. In order to continue to grow in authentic devotion with God, you need to be intentional. Without intention, time will pass, and you’ll someday wonder where all the time went. Opportunities to grow pass as time passes. Make a plan today. Be flexible as God leads, but step out with discipline.

Schedule regular checkups. Just as you have an annual appointment with the doctor or semi-annual appointment with your dentist, you need to schedule spiritual checkups. Get out your appointment book or calendar and mark it in pen. Take it seriously. I recommend setting monthly checkups for the first three months. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to get a checkup. This is preventative spiritual healthcare, and the only cost to you is time. Since it’s God’s time anyway, I think He’d agree it’s well worth the sacrifice.

Take notes along the way. As the Holy Spirit leads, watch for opportunities to accept the challenge and grow. Jot notes in your appointment book for later references, or carry a small notebook with you. Occasionally read through your notes as a reminder of God’s presence and provision in your life. Watch for words and concepts the Holy Spirit is highlighting for you as you study God’s Word, listen to messages, attend worship services, and so on. Write them in your appointment book or notebook. Write the full verse that speaks to you, not just the reference. It’s too easy to get lazy and glance at a verse reference but not take the time to look it up later to discover why it was significant to you. Claim God’s Word by writing it with your pen and on your heart.

May God continue to bless and challenge you to live life boldly for Him!

Real Perspective

WhatIsRealDevoTrust the Lord and do good. Live in the land and feed on truth. Enjoy serving the Lord, and He will give you what you want. Depend on the Lord; trust Him, and He will take care of you. Then your goodness will shine like the sun, and your fairness like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:3-6)

Ponder It.
With what do you struggle to fully accept about God’s perspective, promise, or truth?
What is the next step you want to take in yielding your perspective to God’s?

Receive It. A protagonist is the leading character of a story. I’m the protagonist of my life. Or am I? It’s a logical assumption for me. It’s my life. I see how I affect others and how they affect me. From my perspective, it seems I’m the main character. I’m not self-centered or inflated because of it. I don’t believe the world revolves around me. I’m just saying it seems as if I’m the protagonist in my story. But when I was studying the book of Jonah, my assumption was challenged.

The entire book of the Bible is named after Jonah, and it’s about His journey, but it’s not all about Him. In Jonah’s disobedience, God strategically used His life to draw others close. Jonah’s disobedience had a significant impact on the captain and sailors of the ship on which Jonah was trying to escape God’s plan. Jonah’s story isn’t about Jonah. It’s about God. My story isn’t about me. It’s about God. God is the protagonist of your story. You might think your story is insignificant, confusing, painful, beautiful, inspiring, tragic, or dysfunctional. What about when you realize your story is God’s story? Does it change the way you see it? God is invested in your life. He created you with purpose. That doesn’t mean your life will go smoothly. It doesn’t mean it will be easy. God gives us choices. He weaves our responses throughout the storyline, entwining our lives with others throughout every phase of our lives. We think we’re the source of the ripples radiating from our lives when it’s actually God. The only authentic perspective is God’s perspective. Let His perspective invade yours today.

Live It. Peppermint is an invasive smell. It’s easily absorbed by substances around it. Keep peppermint with you all day: mints, gum, a candle. As peppermint surrounds you, be reminded to let God’s perspective invade and overwhelm yours.

Real Emotions

WhatIsRealDevoThis is the way we know that we belong to the way of truth. When our hearts make us feel guilty, we can still have peace before God. God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. (1 John 3:20)

Ponder It.
How have your emotions guided your behavior in positive ways?
How have your emotions guided your behavior in negative ways?
What confuses you about emotions?

Receive It. We’re emotional beings. God is an emotional God, and we’re created in His image. However, just like anything else in life, we need to cope with our emotions with self-control. We need to let God reveal the truth about our emotions, not let our experiences and preferences determine our response to emotions. Before we decide to let an emotional control or direct our behavior, we need to know whether or not it is leading us in the right direction. Even though God created us in His image, and He guides us through life as our emotions enhance our experiences, we can’t always trust our emotional experiences, because our perspectives can distort emotions, twisting them in ways that no longer are rooted in the truthfulness of God

We also can’t rely on our own definitions of good and bad emotions. We might experience something as bad that God intends us to rely on Him through and grow. We might experience an emotion as good but in reality, it just makes us comfortable, which may not be where God wants us to be. Plus, a single emotion could draw us toward God in one situation, as we rely on Him to guide us through an experience, but separate us from God in another situation because we let the emotion control us. That’s why it’s critical to rely on God for the truthfulness of every situation. As you know God’s character, including His emotions, you’ll rely on Him to define your emotions as He intends.

Live It. Keep a list of emotions you experience through the day. Make a note of the situation. You don’t need to go into depth; just jot enough to remind you of the context. Place the list in a place you’ll see it in one week. Review it and determine how accurate your emotions were. Keep emotions in the context of truth. Determine the truthfulness of emotions and specific situations drawing you closer to God. Allow your emotions to enhance your spiritual experiences in all areas of your life.

Real Moments

WhatIsRealDevoAt that time Jesus came from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan River. Immediately, as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven open. The Holy Spirit came down on Him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with you.” Then the Spirit sent Jesus into the desert. He was in the desert forty days and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels came and took care of Him. (Mark 1:9-13)

Ponder It.
When has your schedule been interrupted in a beneficial way?
When has your schedule been interrupted in an annoying way?
Do you usually tend to enjoy the moment in which you are, look forward to future moments, or reflect on past moments?

Receive It. In order to fully grow in the scope of God’s purpose, we must embrace what He has planned for us moment by moment. God doesn’t change, and His will doesn’t change, but the specifics of our lives change. Faith requires constant and ongoing obedience. We can’t assume God will ask us to do what makes sense. Of course, every instruction He gives us will be consistent with His will, but it won’t always be consistent with our personal experiences or preferences.

After Jesus was baptized, He was sent into the desert and tempted by Satan for 40 days. Are peaks and valleys always so close? Sometimes. Other times, the transitions between highs and lows are so gradual we might move from a valley to a mountaintop or vice versa with little notice. What’s consistent isn’t where we find ourselves but that we find and trust God no matter where we are. He knows what we need to prepare for “here” and how our now equips us for “next.” We can’t predict where we’ll be and why, but we can be certain we’ll be required to seek, listen to, and respond in obedience to God is every moment of our lives. When we live in and fully embrace the moments God has for us, we can receive the blessings He purposes for us – through our highs and lows.

Live It. Place a couple dozen coins in your pocket in the morning. Each time you experience God’s presence through your day, move one coin to another pocket. See how many coins you have in the second pocket by the end of the day. You can also take the same approach with paper clips on your appointment book or by using a basic text note on your phone.

Real Prayer

WhatIsRealDevoListen to my prayer; save me as you promised. (Psalm 119:170)

Ponder It.
In what areas do you feel inadequate in your prayer life?
What benefits have you experienced through your prayer life?
What is the difference between an authentic and inauthentic prayer life?

Receive It. The key to knowing anyone, including God, is a relationship. Because relationships grow through communication, an authentic prayer life is essential to a growing relationship with God. Prayer life is an area in which most people feel as if they fall short. Not being satisfied with our prayer lives can spur us in two directions: We can feel hopeless and retreat from God in defeat (not the preferred response), or we can use the discontentedness to motivate us to seek God, learning more about prayer through trial and experience (definitely the preferred response). Building an authentic prayer life isn’t easy, but these tips can help you get started.

Keep it short and simple. You don’t need to use fancy words or talk for hours. It’s okay to speak conversationally, just as you would talk to someone sitting beside you. Of course, it’s important to revere God, but He knows your heart. God wants your willing heart. As conversations deepen and lengthen with people as you get to know them better, so will your prayers.)
Keep it honest. God knows what’s going on in your heart and mind. He doesn’t need your information; He wants your trust. Share more of your life with God than anyone else in your life.
Keep it private. Praying with others is important, but God also instructs us to pray in secret (Matthew 6:6). Foster a vibrant prayer life between just you and God. The more intimate you are with God, the more time you spend talking to God, the more you’ll listen to His voice.

Live It. Identify how you typically communicate with people. When you have something to share, do you talk in person, text, Facebook, call, or another approach? Use that same approach to share with God anytime you have news, a concern, or question through the day. (You might want to create a series of private notes if social networking is your option, text yourself, or leave yourself a message. It might seem silly at first, but when your perspective changes from simple reflection and venting to sharing with God, you’ll reap rewards of a growing relationship.)

Real Diet

WhatIsRealDevoYou prepare a meal for me in front of my enemies. You pour oil of blessing on my head; you fill my cup to overflowing. (Psalm 23:5)

Ponder It.
How do you struggle with your diet?
How do you struggle with your body image?
How fully do you accept how God created you and live by His intentions for you?

Receive It. Our diet issues are usually about our body issues as well as actual diet. We want to look and feel good. When I was on the beach a couple years ago, I looked around and noticed a lot of overexposure. I prefer modesty. However, my modesty isn’t just about guarding my own body and reducing temptations for myself and others. Truth be told, I don’t have the confidence to walk around nearly naked even if I didn’t have a standard for modesty. But God created me, and I’m unique. My body image should be a reflection of God’s image of my body, the one He created just for me.

We need to accept the connection between body image and diet, which means we can’t become too consumed with either. The two have something important in common: what we put inside vastly impacts the result. With our body image, if we keep God’s perspective, we focus on the beauty of His image more than our discontent, distorted image. With our diet, what we feast upon directly affects our bodies. And our diets aren’t just physical. Consider your spiritual diet. When our spiritual diet is well-balanced, it nourishes every aspect of our lives. Our spiritual diet impacts our energy, attitude, faith, and perspective. If we feast on junk, we become malnourished. If we choose a balanced, nourishing spiritual diet, we’re prepared for God’s plans for the day. We have just what we need. God will always guide and provide. He provides everything we need for our daily bread, but He expects us to get involved and do some baking.

Live It. Eat some kind of bread or pastry today. You choose. Bake your own, pull something convenient from the pantry, or pick up a treat from a local bakery. As you enjoy your treat, consider how your choice in how much you decided to invest in your feast is similar to making similar choices in your spiritual diet and growth.