Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination.
In December 2017, I wrote this post. Nothing much has changed regarding my sinful thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. But something else has changed. If asked to write this post again I’d write it differently because I’ve learnt that our emotions are not guides but gauges, pointing us to a deeper problem that only the gospel can cure.
Emotions are a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. They are an instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge. In many ways, they help us see the trouble within. They are pointers.
Every human being is susceptible to acting at the impulse of their thoughts and feelings even when they are wrong and misleading. This is our natural predisposition. Our thoughts, emotions and attitudes are influenced either by external or internal factors and since emotions are powerful, they eventually force their way out. Often times we let them out in sinful and offensive ways.
Emotions are like a full river. It breaks the banks that have long been standing, the water flows out, and destruction is caused. Other emotions are like still waters that run deep. They have an appearance of calmness but one can possibly drown in them. Emotions vary; some more painful and memorable, some more lasting and causing more damage, and some are necessary, bringing good to us.The truth about emotions is that they are most of the times misleading. Coming from our hearts that are deceptive, emotions can be blind-guides. There is need to tame them and bring them under the submission of God’s word.
Perhaps David has the largest record various emotions in the Bible. He cries for distress to the Lord (Psalm 18:6), he asks why God has forsaken him (Psalm 22:1), he grieves over his sin (Psalm 51), he is pursued by his enemies and cries out to God (Psalm 10), and more.
On the other hand, Jesus experiences the highest height of forsakenness and suffers greatly emotionally. History says that there are other people who have suffered physically to the point of death, more than Christ did. What makes Christ’s suffering unique and severe is the fact that at the moment He was crucified, on that dark hour, He was abandoned by the Father. He qualifies to have felt the most alienation. It is no wonder he cries, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46).
Emotions are not everything. They do not make the sum total of our lives. We also have the mind and the will. Our lives should not stop when we feel intense emotions. Our actions should not be dictated by flickering emotions. One of the most effective way to deal with intense emotions is to evaluate them in light of scripture and address them in obedience to scripture. Firstly, the bible offers something in light of emotions about Jesus that we are to believe, it speaks of Jesus as a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53) What a blessedness to know that since Jesus suffered these intense emotions, He understands us and knows us best! He has been tested in every way just we are. (Hebrews 4:15) He understands what it means to have emotions and even so he sympathizes and empathizes with us, and now seats at the right hand of God interceding for us. (Romans 8:34) In believing what Jesus endured for us, we can now be like him.
I am not in any way advocating for stoicism. We ought to acknowledge our feelings. We are at danger when we divorce mind, heart and will in believing the truth. The right kind of use for our emotions would be to seek to truthfully deal with the problem that they point us to. For instance, any Christian who feels a strong sense of guilt for committing a certain sin should willingly and consciously repent of their sin and believe in God’s promised gift of forgiveness according to scriptures, and His grace that covers our sins. Unfortunately, most of us capitalize on the guilt that causes us to doubt God’s love and forgiveness towards us.
As Jonathan Edwards resolved, we can also resolve to subject ourselves to strict scrutiny (in light of scripture) when we notice any uneasiness within us. This would lead us to consciously act in obedience to the truth of scripture that we believe in and not be led to action merely by our emotions.