Acting on Emotions
Do you like roller coasters? I can’t say I’ve ever liked them. I rode a lot as a teenager but that was more because I was trying to impress a boy. Really, I was terrified. My kids kind of feel the same way. They beg us to take them to Canada’s Wonderland but then have trouble making themselves get on any big rides.
I also hate emotional roller coasters. Yet I tend to get on them much more often than I would like. After that first fateful phone call, I was on a roller coaster. And just as at Canada’s Wonderland, it terrified me. I was all over the place. Up and down, flipping upside down, twists and turns, it was a wild ride. For a long time.
There was a very important lesson to be learned and I needed to learn it fast. I had to learn that I did not have to act on every emotion. Obviously, my husband is still alive, so at least I managed that part right off.
But it had to go so much deeper than that. My emotions told me that I couldn’t deal with life, that I needed to hide in bed. And yet in that first week we moved, enrolled our kids in school, said goodbye, packed then unpacked, signed lease papers, put our house up for sale, changed addresses, and a million other details. I didn’t have the option of hiding in bed.
So, okay, my husband was alive and we were moved. Those ones were obvious. Then it was time to deal with the more subtle lies that my heart believed. Ones like, you’ll never love this church as much as your last one. You’ll never be able to have a close girlfriend again. You are unloveable. You can’t trust anyone. Your marriage will never be good again. Emotion after emotion flooded out of me and they were mostly wrong. If I had acted on all of them, my life would be a mess. Not that my life is perfect mind you, and not that I never acted in anger or hurt, but I quickly learned that I needed to act differently than my emotions were telling me.
Because they were lying to me.
There’s a recurring theme in the Psalms. Have you ever noticed that at the beginning of most Psalms, David is in complete despair? He feels all sorts of things, including that God has abandoned him. Yet by the end of almost every psalm, he is praising God and thanking Him for His goodness. How is this possible?
Because David learned a lesson. Acknowledge what you’re feeling, then remember what you know to be true.
David didn’t necessarily try to change how he felt. He was often hurting and discouraged or needing to repent of sin. He spent time telling God exactly how he felt. He sang songs, wrote psalms, got it all out. Laid it all bare, even when it was ugly and wrong.
But he didn’t live there. He didn’t act on it. Instead he started reminding himself of what he knew to be true. He reminded himself that God really was there for him. That he was not alone. That grace and forgiveness were possible. Even when he didn’t feel like it.
Especially when he didn’t feel like it.
And you can do the same. Maybe today you’re feeling like God has abandoned you. Or that you’re unloveable. Or that you can’t forgive. Can’t deal with the stress of your life. That you are unforgiven. That your worth or value is based on other’s opinions of you.
You can feel all those things. That’s okay. What’s not okay is living there. Acting on those emotions. Maybe today you can join me in reminding myself?
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. Philippians 4:7-9