Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Harold J. Sala's book, Making Your Emotions Work for You, (Harvest House Publishers, 2009). 

When you’re hit with challenging circumstances, it’s natural to feel emotions like fear and anger.  But just because you experience negative emotions doesn’t mean that you have to let them hurt you.  If you invite God to help you manage your emotions, He’ll use them as catalysts to bring out the best in you.  You’ll discover that your negative feelings can actually lead to positive growth in your life.

Here’s how you can make your emotions work for you instead of against you:

Come to understand yourself.  Pray for God to give you His perspective on yourself, so you can see how you’re a unique and valuable individual who He deeply and unconditionally loves.  Once you understand that, you’ll realize that no matter how much you’re struggling with negative emotions, you can change with God’s help.  The confidence that comes from understanding who you truly are will help you respond in a healthy way when people criticize you.  Instead of lashing out at them or letting their comments create insecurity in your life, you’ll be able to honestly assess their comments to determine whether you should improve a certain area of your life or just let the criticisms go if they’re unwarranted.  Even more importantly, a healthy self-image will give you the freedom to respond in a healthy way to God, empowering you to accept the love, forgiveness, and grace that He offers.  Then you can respond to your emotions in healthy ways and become the person God intends for you to be.

Recognize that emotions are gifts.  God created your emotions to help accomplish good purposes in your life.  Rather than trying to deny or suppress the negative emotions you feel, ask God to show you how they can teach you something valuable and motivate you to grow.  Realize how significantly your emotions can affect you physically, mentally, and spiritually.  If you let negative emotions run wild without directing them properly in your life, they can cause a host of illnesses that can eventually destroy your body, lead to sinful and destructive thoughts in your mind, and alienate you from God by tempting you to pull away from Him.  But if you aim to use your negative emotions as catalysts to positive change, you can experience physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.

Learn how to identify and express your emotions.  Get in touch with your emotions, thinking and praying about what you’re really feeling and putting names to the specific emotions.  Then, instead of bottling your emotions up inside, talk about them with someone nonjudgmental who cares about you, and pray about them, asking God to help you express them in healthy ways.  Whenever one of your emotions leads you to an unhealthy thought, take that thought captive in your mind and surrender it in prayer to God while asking the Holy Spirit to bring positive thoughts into your mind to replace it.  Ask God to take control of your emotions, guiding and helping you to express yourself and glorify Him in the process.  When talking with other people whose words or actions have caused you to feel negative emotions, rather than blaming them, use “I feel” statements to emphasize how they have affected you so they can better understand how to change.

Deal with memories well.  Memories of traumatic events, situations, or conversations can burn negative emotions into your being.  You need to pursue healing to overcome the ways they have affected you.  Confess your sins to God, repent of them, and accept His forgiveness.  Then ask God to help you forgive yourself for your past mistakes and others for how they’ve hurt or offended you.  Remember that forgiveness is an act of the will.