Do you want better emotions? Who doesn’t?!
Your difficult emotions like anger, fear, and sadness — and your happy-joy-love ones too — communicate important information to you. This is wonderful: As you grasp the meaning of your emotions and learn how to view them, you can begin to switch negative emotions for positive emotions, based on God’s word.
Emotions Say Something Important
Emotions result from your thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. Try to identify the thoughts in this parable, a story told to make a greater point.
And he (Jesus) told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’
And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’
But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21, ESV)
As biblical counselor Sherry Allchin likes to say:
“We feel what we feel because we think what we think and do what we do.”
In other words, your emotions have their origin in your thoughts and actions. In the parable, the rich man thought he’d have his crops a long time and told himself to relax, eat, drink, and be merry (actions). His thoughts and actions were based on the godless belief that pleasure is what matters, not God.
Anna’s Story Exposes Her Belief
Years ago I counseled a Christian woman I’ll call Anna. She and her husband met several times with my husband and me for marriage counseling, and I met with her separately. (While each spouse had difficulties, here I’ll zero on Anna’s.)
Anna’s unstable upbringing and hush-hush sexual abuse by a family friend at age 13 influenced her thoughts and actions. She came to see herself as a sex object and used sex to get want she wanted from high school boys: the false love of naked embraces and murmured “I love you”s.”
People-pleasing and self-sufficiency describe two of her root heart issues. The heart (your inner person) is the focus of biblical counseling and transforming your life. Here are two of the scriptures that speak to the centrality of the inner person.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23, NIV
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:18-19. ESV
Also Anna had a twisted image of God. She believed God was weak and uncaring, even evil, and didn’t have the power to protect her.
Her beliefs and actions led to the difficult emotions of anger and fear.
Think Right, Feel Right, Act Right
To improve your emotions, learn to think right and act right. Out of right (or godly) thinking comes right words and right actions. Out of right actions come right habits and life choices.
Believing the Word of God is crucial to right thinking. As you believe God and spend time reading and meditating on Bible verses, God renews your mind. Check out Romans 12:2.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
God transforms your thinking and right actions follow. For instance:
- You thank God for your home rather than complaining about a small kitchen.
- You pray more often because you want to draw near to God.
- You play less Candy Crush and spend more time at the park with your kids.
As you take your eyes off your emotions and think rightly about God, guess what happens? You begin to experience inner contentment, joy, hope, and peace.
But It’s Not That Easy!
You’re right. Changing a habit is hard. Developing the habit of godly thinking takes practice. But you can do it. Here is a download on changing your response to anger to get you started.
ASSIGNMENT: Here’s quick “home work” to help you work on the habit of godly thought control.
First, identify a difficult emotion you have. Second, ask God to reveal to you an ungodly thought that contributed to this emotion. Third, ask yourself, “Is the thought true?” Fourth, replace an untrue thought with biblical truth. Then every time the ungodly thoughts pops in your mind, remember the biblical truth. As you repeat these steps, you’ll make a new godly habit of right thinking.