How to Struggle with Your Emotions, and Win
- Cortni Marrazzo Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2020 4 Feb
Simply mentioning the word itself can invoke the very thing it describes. Chances are you’ve heard the saying “faith over feelings”, but have also read about Jesus’ intense emotions in the Bible. Because of this, it can be confusing to try and find the proper place for your emotions in your life.
As imperfect humans, everyone has had the experience of being heavily influenced by their emotions at various times. But when your life is ruled by emotions, they control your decisions, actions, and your mental health.
When this happens, it takes God out of the driver’s seat of your life, and puts your emotions there instead.
Letting God continually lead your decisions and actions requires a daily and life-long practice of placing His Way and His Word first. This can be a struggle, but it’s a struggle worth engaging in.
Here are 7 things that you can do to help you in this battle.
1. Give Yourself Grace
Self-judgement can be a natural response when you start to feel what are often categorized as “negative” emotions, especially ones that don’t seem to line up with Christian living, like anger or jealousy. Both enjoyable and difficult emotions are part of the human experience, so it’s important to change the way you think if you view emotions as being either positive (like joy and happiness) or negative (like anger, sadness, shame, or jealousy).
All of your emotions are given to you by God and have a purpose. If you condemn and judge yourself for feeling a “negative” emotion, it’s going to make those emotions feel even worse by adding shame to them. So remind yourself that it’s never wrong to feel and experience a difficult emotion.
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..."Romans 8:1
2. Acknowledge and Express your Emotions (Don’t Stuff Them)
Difficult emotions can be hard to endure, especially if you grew up in a family where you didn’t feel safe to express them. This can cause you to fear fully leaning into them because nobody likes to feel sad, angry, or hurt.
In the past, I have personally worked really hard to stuff these types of emotions in my life by rationalizing them and distracting myself with other things because I didn’t want to have to face them. After years of stuffing and denying these difficult emotions, they started to leak out in my life in the form of depression, anxiety, and anger that I could no longer contain. This led me to start seeing a Christian counselor who helped me see the importance of recognizing and actually expressing these tough emotions
Leaning into these emotions and giving yourself the space and opportunity to really feel them is a scary process, but this process actually helps the intensity of the emotions to eventually lessen more and more, rather than hang around in the back of your mind and heart. In addition, when you lean into these emotions, you actually position yourself to experience a new level of God’s comfort and love in your life.
"If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath." Psalm 34:18 MSG
3. Find a Safe Place
Determining a safe place to acknowledge and express your emotions is very important and a good place to start is with just you and God. This can be through prayer, journaling, or however you process best. If you feel stuck or struggle to process alone, it can help to also process with a trusted person/people in your life, like a counselor, a good friend, or your spouse.
Working through your emotions and thoughts with God and with trusted people prevents you from doing so at the expense of others. It is typically not a good idea to process your emotions with the person you are experiencing the emotion towards (for instance if you angry at someone), but if it’s necessary to have a conversation with them about it, it is best to do so after you have had time to think about it and process it, and you have prayed about it. This will help you have a healthy conversation and work toward resolution without saying or doing something you will regret.
"A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, but harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger." Proverbs 15:1 AMP
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Li Yang
4. Explore the Source
When leaning into your emotions, it’s important to explore where they are coming from. God gave you emotions to help you key into what is going on in your heart and mind, so it’s important to listen to what they are saying to you.
“Emotions can guide us to inner wounds we don’t see or understand, and dealing with those emotions in a healthy way is key to healing.” -Why Emotions Matter by Tristen and Jonathan Collins.
I highly recommend reading the book “Why Emotions Matter” if you are wanting to address some root causes of tough emotions in your life. The book tackles six big emotions that people face and where they ultimately come from:
Shame- A signal that your identity is threatened
Fear- A signal you might be in danger
Anger- A signal that expectations have not been met
Sadness- A signal that something needs to heal
Jealousy- A signal of unfulfilled desires
Happiness- A signal that a desire has been met
"Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord." Lamentations 3:40
5. Embrace God’s Comfort and Healing
One of the most precious gifts that God has given us is His Holy Spirit, also known as our Helper and our Comforter (John 14:26 AMP). When we experience strong emotions and explore the source of where they come from, it can be a very raw and painful process, God longs to comfort us through this process. He desires to heal our emotional wounds, but we have to let Him into our hearts and embrace His comfort in order to fully experience that healing.
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [healing their pain and comforting their sorrow]." Psalm 147:3 AMP
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Andreas Dress
6. Look for the Good
While difficult emotions do not feel good in the moment, a lot of good can come from them. Looking beyond difficult emotions in the moment enables us to focus on the value of them. Here are just a few ways that God can use your difficult situations and emotions for good:
They help you grow:
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." James 1:2-4 MSG
They give you the ability to comfort others:
"He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too." 2 Corinthians 1:4-5
They help you better appreciate the joy in your life:
"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory." Isaiah 61:3
7. Choose God’s Word
Emotions can cloud your judgment, so at the end of the day, the most important thing you can do to avoid being controlled by your emotions is to resolve to choose obedience to God’s Word over your feelings, no matter how strong the emotion.
Jesus gave a great example of this when he experienced intense emotions preceding His death and yet He chose to prioritize God’s plan over His own:
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:36-39 NLT
One of the most powerful admonitions addressing the balance of emotions and actions is one Paul shared with the Ephesians: "And don’t sin by letting anger control you.'"(Ephesians 4:26a NLT). This verse is a great encouragement because it reassures us that it is possible to experience an intense emotion, without letting it control your actions. Not letting emotions rule you is a discipline and a practice, but it’s one that God will walk you through and will pay out dividends in your life.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Poike
Cortni Marrazzo lives in Spokane, WA with her husband Jason and their two elementary-age sons, one of which has special needs. She has a Degree in Biblical Discipleship and has a passion for ministry and encouraging the body of Christ. You can contact her at Cortni.Marrazzo@gmail.com or on Facebook.