October 23, 2012
How to Manage Emotions Part 1
Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28, NIV).
Friend to Friend
You have probably discovered the truth that you simply cannot trust your emotions because they are unreliable, misleading and will constantly betray you. A friend verbally blasts you and rage consumes your spirit. Your business is in decline and depression slithers into your heart. Caught in the comparison trap, you find yourself avoiding those who are more successful. Anger is a constant companion, finances are tight and rest is a distant memory. A sense of bone-deep weariness saturates your soul as your own heart ridicules the authenticity of your life. “You might as well give up. It’s no use. Just quit!” the enemy taunts.
Each day seems to offer the perfect setting for negative emotions to take hold of and destroy a life, but daily life is also the perfect setting for emotional control to shine. Control puts emotions in their God-shaped place, discarding negative emotions as the spiritual leeches they are while safeguarding and reinforcing positive emotions. I am amazed at the number of people who base eternal decisions on feelings while seeking confirmation and even direction from emotional responses. I almost missed one of the highest plans for my life because it didn’t feel right.
My husband, Dan, was Youth Pastor at Sheridan Hills Baptist in Hollywood, Florida, where Bill Billingsley, one of the greatest men I have ever known, was senior pastor. He and his amazing wife, Betty Jean, had an enormous impact on me personally and on the ministry of speaking and writing to which God has now called me. It was in the midst of my God-ordained transformation at Sheridan Hills and the youth program’s greatest growth that Dan dropped the bomb – he felt God calling him back to Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Well, I felt God calling him to stay put!
I loved Sheridan Hills. It was home. Going back to seminary meant I would have to go back to teaching elementary school. Teaching wasn’t the problem, but placing our son, Jered, in daycare was. We had waited so long for this chosen baby, and the thought of handing over his care to strangers broke my heart. How could this possibly be God’s plan when it felt so wrong?
My favorite worship time at Sheridan Hills was the Wednesday night service -- for two reasons. I enjoyed the contemporary worship and in-depth Bible teaching. I also treasured the fact that, each week, while Dan was in meetings and Jered was in the nursery, I could slip into the empty, darkened auditorium for an hour of solitude. However, the Wednesday night after Dan shared the numbing probability of our return to seminary, my usually refreshing solitude dissolved into a tantrum of crying, praying and pleading with God to let us stay.
When a hand gently patted my shoulder, I looked up into the tear-filled eyes of my pastor. “I have something to tell you,” he said. Pastor Billingsley was not only a spiritual mentor in my life, but a loving father figure as well. Expecting a word of wisdom or encouragement, I was shattered by his words, “I have cancer.” Speechless, we sat in pain-filled silence, weeping; each flailing in our own sea of emotions and questions. Bill Billingsley then spoke the words that have guided my steps from the moment he gave them life. “Mary, just remember that God’s will penalizes no one.”
I immediately knew I had a choice to make. I could stubbornly hold on to my emotional comfort or submit to God’s will. My choice to obey God plotted the course for an incredible journey filled with purpose, a life of sharing God’s hope and healing with women across the world through speaking and writing. Had my emotions ruled, I would have missed God’s best and highest plan for my life.
Emotions are a gift from God. While emotions themselves are not sin, the place we give them can be. Since God created us with the capacity for strong emotions, we can rest assured that He has a plan for managing them. It is a step-by-step plan that begins with our commitment to being honest and transparent about every emotion, especially the negative ones.
Step one:Identify the source of negative emotions. Proverbs 23:7 (NIV) reminds us of a simple but powerful truth, “For as a man thinks, so is he.” Negative emotions are nourished in many ways – by daily challenges, a painful past, hurt or rejection, an undisciplined thought life or Satan himself. Some people qualify as “carriers” because they not only transmit negative emotions but constantly use others as their personal dumping ground. In managing negative emotions, it is imperative that we identify their source and eliminate it.
Step two: Label negative emotions correctly. We are masters at mislabeling emotions because we fear exposing our true emotions will affect the way others see us. It is time for us to take off and burn the emotional masks we wear because healing and restoration begin at the point of emotional integrity.
Going back to seminary proved to be a spiritual marker for our family. At first, I cried every day and seethed in anger each night. I couldn’t blame God so I blamed Dan! I missed being home with Jered, even though he loved the seminary daycare and Miss Nancy, his incredibly gifted and caring teacher. I complained about others raising my son, even though Dan picked him up after lunch each day and kept him every afternoon. I resented having to work, even though my teaching assignment was at one of the best elementary schools in Fort Worth and my principal was a precious Christian man.
Gradually, God broke my hardened heart as I realized that Jered was flourishing in daycare as he made wonderful friends, learned how to adjust to changes, and enjoyed priceless time with his dad. Teaching school became a passion and, in many ways, prepared me for the calling I now live.
Looking back, I now see how I gave negative emotions free reign. The result was wasted emotional energy, health problems, spiritual disobedience, and mental exhaustion. Do not walk that path, girlfriend. Instead, right now, commit to emotional integrity and discipline. God will surely empower that commitment.
Father, I come to You, knowing I have allowed emotions to dictate my actions. I no longer want to live at the mercy of my fickle emotions. I want to control and manage them in a way that pleases You and brings emotional discipline to my life. Today, I choose to surrender the control of my emotions to You. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Take a few minutes to make a list of the top five emotional responses common in your life. What one of these emotions do you experience the most?
Beside each emotion, write one habit you can incorporate into your life that will enable you to control that emotion.
Identify the activities, relationships or habits that drain you instead of replenish you. Eliminate those that are negative.
Keep an emotional diary for 5 days. Record any emotional outbursts and the reason behind those outbursts. Surrender each emotion to the power of God.
More from the Girlfriends
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