How to Find the Positive Messages in Negative Emotions
- Thursday, June 06, 2013
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jeff Schreve's upcoming book, Runaway Emotions: Why You Feel the Way You Do and What God Wants You To Do About It (Thomas Nelson, 2013).
God has created you to experience the full range of emotions. But it’s much more pleasant to feel positive emotions such as excitement and peace than it is to feel negative emotions like fear and anger, so you may be tempted to ignore or suppress the negative emotions you feel.
It’s worthwhile to pay attention to negative feelings, because they have positive purposes behind them. God intends for every negative emotion you feel to act as a smoke alarm, alerting you to a dangerous fire burning somewhere in your life that you should deal with to grow spiritually.
Here’s how you can find the positive messages in the negative emotions you feel:
Discover what embarrassment says about your self-worth. Feeling embarrassed indicates that you’re insecure about yourself. God wants you to discover that you have infinite worth, because He has made you in His image and loves you completely. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind every day so you can think about yourself the way God thinks about you. Keep in mind that worth is really determined by what someone is willing to pay for it, and since God paid the ultimate price to redeem you by sacrificing His Son on the cross for your sins, you’re immeasurably valuable. Base your sense of worth on your identity as one of God’s beloved children.
Discover what loneliness says about your desire for companionship. God built a desire for authentic relationships – with Him, and other people – into your soul. When you feel lonely, it’s a sign that you should engage more with God and others. Recognize that God is a true and loyal friend who is always ready to listen to you and wants the best for you. Make it a top priority to spend time with God in prayer regularly, expressing your deepest thoughts and feelings and listening for what He has to say to you. Engage with other people by sowing seeds of love, friendship, concern, and encouragement whenever God gives you opportunities to do so. As you reach out to others, God’s love will flow through you, blessing them – and you’ll be blessed too, because the more love you give, the more you’ll receive in return.
Discover what frustration says about your desire for meaning and purpose. If you’re feeling frustrated that your life isn’t going the way you’d like it to go, let your frustration motivate you to seek God’s plans for you, which are greater than anything you can imagine on your own. Seek God diligently, as you do, you’ll naturally discover what He wants you to do in life. Enjoy your relationship with God. The more time you spend communicating with God, the better you’ll learn how to recognize His voice speaking to you. Be willing to let go of your own plans for your life so you can fully embrace God’s plans for you, which will lead you to experience the best life possible. Keep in mind that God will equip you to accomplish everything He calls you to do.
Discover what worry says about your sense of security. While God wants you to have a solid sense of security, worry damages your ability to accept the security that God is offering you. Pay attention to worry’s warning that you’re jeopardizing the peace God wants you to enjoy – peace that comes from trusting Him. Realize that God actually is aware of the situation you’ve been worrying about, He does care, and He is more than able to do something about it when you place your trust in Him. Entrust every part of your life (from your health and your relationships to your job and your finances) to God, and invite Him to intervene in every situation you face. Seek God every day and rely on Him day by day to provide what you need.
Discover what anger says about your desire for control. Feeling anger reveals that something is happening in your life that you wish you could control, but can’t. Recognize that only God is truly in control of what happens to you, and that the only thing you can control is how you will respond to God. Although God rarely explains why He allows specific circumstances to enter your life, He will always sustain you through any situation when you choose to trust Him. Rather than grasping at control, welcome God’s grace into your life by humbling yourself before Him and obeying His command to forgive the people who have hurt you.
Discover what guilt says about your sense of moral uprightness. If you’re feeling guilty, that indicates your conscience speaking to you about sin that God wants you to deal with so it won’t harm you any longer. Acknowledge your sin, confess it to God (and to any people whose lives it has affected), turn away from the sin and toward God, and accept the forgiveness that God offers you. If you feel guilty about a sin that you have already confessed and repented of, choose to believe God’s promise of forgiveness over your emotions, since feelings can change but God’s promises are always reliable.
Discover what discontentment says about your desire for peace and happiness. Feeling discontent reveals that you’re troubled by the fact that God has allowed certain circumstances to enter your life. When you trust God, He will accomplish good purposes through every difficult circumstance that He let enter your life. God will make sure that everything you go through strengthens your faith, which is the most important quality you can develop because it has the most eternal value. Although your circumstances constantly change, God always remains the same. So let God Himself be your source of contentment. Choose to rejoice that you have a relationship with God, nurture that relationship through frequent prayer, and discipline your mind to think correctly about your circumstances (in ways that reflect biblical truth).
Discover what depression says about your sense of hope. If you feel depressed, that indicates a threat to your God-given sense of hope. Pay attention to the alarm that depression is setting off in your life by checking three key parts of your health: your physical condition (how much rest, sleep, water, and healthy food you’re getting – and whether your depression may be caused by a chemical imbalance that a doctor can treat with medication), your spiritual condition (how focused you on God rather than on your circumstances), and your mental condition (what kind of thoughts you’re allowing to fill your mind). Fight depression by taking good care of your body, spirit, and mind, as God leads you.
Adapted from Runaway Emotions: Why You Feel the Way You Do and What God Wants You to Do About It, copyright 2013 by Jeff Schreve. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Jeff Schreve passionately communicates God’s Word to connect people with Jesus Christ and experience His love and plan for their lives. He is pastor of First Baptist Texarkana and founder of From His Heart Ministries, a national and international radio and television ministry. Jeff holds a BA in Business Administration (UT-Austin) and a M. Div. from Baptist Theological Seminary. Jeff and his wife, Debbie, have three daughters, one son-in-law, and one granddaughter. Visit his website at: http://www.fromhisheart.org.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and ebook formats. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: June 6, 2013
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