Getting Off the Emotional Rollercoaster
How often do we ignore God's internal warnings and allow our emotions to control us? After all, it's the path of least resistance. There's a lot going on in the world and nation right now that has the power to push us around emotionally. Between the election and the holidays, you might find yourself trying to juggle fragile relationships while riding unsteady emotional roller coasters. However, when feelings are in charge, they can lead us in to trouble with people in our lives and with God. Haven't we all been in situations where we "wish we could take it back"? You are not alone.
If you read Genesis 4, it describes Adam and Eve's two sons, Cain and Abel, who found themselves in a situation where Cain let his emotions override God's leading. The results were disastrous as it led to the world's first murder. Both brothers brought an offering to God, but He only accepted Abel's. Many wonder why. It was because God saw Cain's divided heart. The rejection of his offering made the poor boy very angry. Rather than hesitating long enough to get his bearings and use this opportunity to connect with God and to sincerely repent, Cain let his anger take charge, driving him to turn away from God and target his wrath on his brother. Rage, jealousy, and hatred welled up in Cain, threatening to usurp his better judgment. God warned him, "Sin (actions caused by those strong emotions) is crouching at your door, and its desire is to overtake you! You must master it," (Genesis 4:6-7). Bummer that Cain ignored God's warning! He could've stopped in his tracks and responded to God from that steady, center of his soul where emotions don't have authority. He could've taken those sinful thoughts and feelings captive and ruled over them as his Creator designed him to. Instead, he cooperated with the enemy's plan and became a slave to his passions, serving them with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. The result? He slaughtered his brother and he was banished from his family. And Satan smiled. He loves to divide.
Maybe you haven't literally murdered someone in the heat of the moment at least physically, but what about damaging someone with your words? How often are you at the mercy of your feelings? A lot more often than you wish? What was God thinking when He created us this way anyway? Well, God created order, and He intended for humanity to live according to His design in every area of our lives. This is the ruling structure God intended for us:
(to rule over)
(to rule over)
As a Clinical Counselor, my role is to help others understand that the purpose of our emotions is to serve us, not rule over us, and to help us live a life that puts a smile on God's face. When each of us, "being dead in our sins," decides to accept God's forgiveness through Christ's death (Colossians 2:13-14) and become "a new creation," we are finally made fully alive (2 Corinthians 5:16-18). At that point, we realize how utterly perfect God is and how He loves us more than we could ever love ourselves or anyone else. He can take much better care of us than we could ever take of ourselves.
It only makes sense, then, that we place ourselves under God's authority and care. But since the enemy hates God and us, he uses every opportunity he can to turn God's design up side down. Looking back at the graphic above, that puts our emotions at the top, so we serve them and are ruled by them, leaving God at the bottom. We so often function, unconsciously, as if God is here to serve us, and we are here to serve our emotions, which simply doesn't work. When Paul tells us to "be continually transformed by renewing your mind," he doesn't say that God is in charge of doing this for us; we are (Romans 12:2). It's our job to renew our minds in cooperation with God and in alignment with His perfect design.
Here's an exercise to help you keep the ruling order right side up as you navigate this busy season. When you find yourself stressing out and feeling those unhelpful emotions coming on, do these things:
Stop. Picture Jesus standing or sitting with you, looking at you lovingly, calling your name in a firm but gentle way, saying "(your name), stop!"
Listen. Hear him say directly to you the kind of message He said to Cain: "Sin is crouching at the door of your soul, and it wants to tyrannize you. Instead, you need to master it right here, on the spot."
Breathe. Take a deep breath and know that, in truth, God really is right there with you, offering all of the power you need to walk this out. Physically and spiritually place yourself (with all your baggage, your will, all your thoughts and feelings) under the loving authority of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you might sit or kneel down and picture Him standing before you.
Take control. Take authority over your feelings and remind them that they are not in charge of you. Picture them scattered on the floor beneath you. Command them to be silent and submit to your authority over them. This is your brain, and you get to decide what goes on in it.
Pray. Ask God for the ability to walk by His Spirit, rather than by your fleshy emotions. Picture grabbing a garbage bag and packaging up your lousy attitude and all of your unhelpful feelings. Then hand it over to Jesus in exchange for a sweet-smelling gift He has for you.
Receive. Gratefully receive from Him the fruit of His Spirit, which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Thank Him and ask Him to seal this exchange internally.
Practice. Continue to practice acknowledging God's presence wherever you go, in the car, in every room, every circumstance, picture Him sitting or standing there with you. Talk and listen. This, perhaps, is as close as we can get to Paul's exhortation to "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
This season say, "NO!" to the incessant busy-ness that pulls us away from healthy relationships and intimacy with God. This season, live from the competent center of your being, your will, submitted to your Savior, where emotions have no power to turn you up side down. Invite God to lead you into His design, where the living is right side up and you are continually being transformed into His likeness. I think you will find that your relationships will grow more healthy and satisfying.
I look forward to serving you and interacting with you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how God is working in and through your life. Your greatest life is just ahead.
God bless, everyone! Holly Eaton
Clinical Christian Counselor
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