Editors Note: This article is written as part of our series on Pursuing Peace. In this series, our counselors are unpacking how to find peace in all areas of your life.
If we believe that we are at peace with God and we are pursuing peace around us with others, we will experience more peace within us. The position of peace motivates us and enables us to partner with God, pursuing peace within us and around us. Because peace is both a position and disposition, our trust in the peace that God offers should impact the way we experience peace in our souls.
Philippians 4:9 promises that peace can be with us if we practice the right thing, thus it is wise to ask, “What are we to practice if the God of Peace will be with us?” If we look back through this passage, we can figure out how knowing and understanding the God of Peace will impact the way that we deal with the difficulties of life.
Our emotions are a gift from God, to help us experience life more fully. Every emotion is good, and we are to experience them all, at the right time, in the right way.
So how can we discover the peace of God and how the God of Peace helps us shape healthy expressions of emotions that honor God, bless others, and benefit ourselves?
If we are going to experience peace within and around us, then we have to become skilled at identifying, expressing, and managing our emotions. Disordered emotions hurt those around us, hurt ourselves, and often dishonor God. We all have disordered emotions. We all struggle emotionally. Ask yourself, does your experience with emotions reflect any of these common ways that emotions can become disordered?
- None: Some struggle to express any emotion at all
- Out of Control: Some struggle to control their expression of emotions (“I can’t help how I feel”)
- Exaggerated: Some experience emotions disproportionate to the circumstance
- Impulsive: Some pursue emotions as a substitute for wise planning or thought
- Dismissive: Some dismiss other’s emotions because they find it personally uncomfortable
- Disown: Some dismiss their own emotions because they find their expressions embarrassing.
How do our emotions reflect us?
Emotions reflect the condition of our hearts – Brian Borgman, in a great book called Faith and Feelings, talks about the importance of our emotions: “Our sinful thoughts, actions, and feelings all originate in and shape our heart! We don’t just feel apart from what we believe or love. Emotions are more than feelings, they tell us about what we value and what we believe, producing desires and inclinations that affect our behavior.” Pg. 27 – Faith and Feelings
Emotions reflect our level of hope – We often have raw emotions when our level of hope is the lowest, and our emotions tend to be steady when our hope feels secure. Beyond that, our emotions reveal not only where we find our hope, but what we truly love and desire. Emotions don’t just happen by accident or randomly. They reflect the condition and beliefs of our hearts. A “hardened heart” will not produce tender emotions towards God or our spouse. This is why watching over our hearts and keeping our focus on the grace of God is so important in the marriage restoration process.
Emotions reflect our beliefs and what we worship – This is why the Bible focuses so much on what we believe and what our heart loves. A life that is focused on loving money will never be able to fully love God or others. Sex, power, comfort, success, or peace will all stop us from loving God and others when they become our highest love. Only our belief in who God is can break through and change this sinful pattern. Through repentance, we are able to put God and others first.
How does the peace of God impact our emotional health?
In the six emotions that we experience most frequently (happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise), the peace of God impacts the way that we process and experience these emotions. Below are six examples of how the peace of God, both understood and experienced, will impact us for good. (Phil 4:4-9)
The peace of God helps me experience true happiness with gratitude (v. 4, rejoice in the Lord) – Why is happiness so elusive in our culture? Rather than rejoice in the Lord, we rejoice in ourselves. We largely see ourselves as responsible for our success and responsible to keep it. We think so highly of ourselves, however, God calls us to find our joy in Him, not in our stuff, success, power, or influence.
The peace of God helps me transform my anger with compassion (v. 5, let your reasonableness be known) – Why is anger such a struggle for so many of us? Anger isn’t always bad, because there are many things that we should be against. But if the peace of God is guarding our heart, we don’t have to flame up on others in anger, we have a quiet trust that God’s purposes in our trial will be good, no matter the outcome. Apart from the peace of God ruling our hearts, we won’t get anger right, but with God’s help and with His peace, we don’t have to act unreasonably and make a fool of ourselves in our anger.
The peace of God helps me accept my surprises with wisdom (v. 5, the Lord is at hand) – When you think back through the twists and turns in your life, we can often feel the discomfort of surprise, the unexpected, perhaps even shock. It may be the loss of a loved one or career opportunity, or it may be the elation of unexpected love or kindness. In the Joseph narrative in Genesis, there is a phrase that is repeated multiple times at pivotal points in the story. The phrase is “Joseph knew that God was with him.” The God of Peace doesn’t leave us, even when we don’t consciously remember that God is near. Some surprises change our life for the better; others seemingly change our lives for worse. God calls us to respond wisely to either type of surprise.
The peace of God helps me overcome my fears with hope (v. 6, Do not be anxious about anything) – The God of Peace invites us to come to Him, and let Him know what is on our heart. He challenges us not to respond anxiously to our fears, but rather come to Him for hope, answers, and strength to face the challenge at hand. If we believe that God has the power to rescue, the resources to rescue, and the character to act, we can trust Him in the boat during the storms of life.
The peace of God helps me face my sadness with perspective (v. 7, guard your hearts and minds in Christ) – Too often we hear this verse quoted to bring comfort during tragedy without really thinking it through. Sadness is permissible for Christians and is often an appropriate response to life in a fallen world. God calls us to embrace it, but with the right perspective.
The peace of God helps me replace my disgust with resolve (v. 8, what is your focus in trials?) – When we experience circumstances in life that bring on the emotion of disgust, we can easily get focused on the wrong things that take us down an even uglier path in our response. If we let our minds wander into dark places, our level of peace will diminish. God can give us peace even in moments that disgust us. In response to hurts like slander, abuse, or adultery, we can go really negative. In fact, it feels right and good to go negative, but after disgust, we have a choice: will we be defined by the sin that was committed, or will we be defined by who God says we are? Will we resolve to grow from this hurt, or will we let this hurt destroy us? We can’t choose how we are sinned against, but we can choose if the pain will destroy us or make us stronger.
The peace of God impacts every emotion. However, we must pursue God’s peace and practice the means of experiencing God’s peace. God wants us to have a healthy expression of emotions, and we can if we are willing to pursue the God of Peace.