I don’t know about you, but I know I often find myself fighting my emotions. Don’t get me wrong. I do think we need to control ourselves where emotion is concerned, but there is a difference between fighting to control emotion and fighting emotion itself. The first is an attempt to drive emotions on a constructive course. The second is an attempt to deny an essential component of being human – being made in the image of God. Denying emotions usually leads to destructive choices, resulting in damaged health and/or relationships.
Part of the problem is we have bought into a lie: emotions are bad, especially negative emotions (I wrote about that a bit last week). The truth is, emotions are not really the enemy.
Our sin is the enemy, always has been, always will be.
It is the sinful choices we make without evaluating our emotions and reigning them in with truth that are the enemy. Emotions should drive us – we are physiologically wired for emotions. Problems arise when we let our emotions drive our lives without directing them to the course we want to take.
Can you imagine what would happen if you tethered yourself to a dogsled in the wilderness of Alaska, but didn’t train the dogs who would pull it? The results would be disastrous.
People who race in the Iditarod need the dogs to drive the sled, but they don’t let them run wild with the sled careening along behind them. If you want to use a dogsled, you need dogs. You need strong dogs that are capable of withstanding extreme conditions. You need well-trained dogs if you are going to not only survive the arctic environment, but also arrive at the destination you choose. The point is, if you want to race in the Iditarod you want dogs. You want the dogs to be dogs. You just want dogs to be dogs that will stay on the course, follow your lead, and take you where you want to go.
If you want to live life well (and abundantly) you need emotions. You need strong emotions that are capable of withstanding extreme conditions. You need well-trained emotions if you are going to not only survive life in a broken, fallen world, but also arrive in the kind of relationships and circumstances you desire. If you want to win the race set before you (1 Corinthians 9:24, Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 12:1-2), you need emotions to be emotions, driving forces that move you to action. You just need emotions to be emotions which don’t take the sled off course. You need emotions trained to respond to the reins of truth and righteousness. You need emotions which move you where you want to go.
Emotions are not the enemy.
Emotions are a great and untapped power capable of driving us toward righteousness and mercy or toward complete destruction of ourselves and others in our path. Our call is not to capture our emotions and stuff them into a dungeon, not is it to unleash them on others. Scripture talks about taking our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), but it does not give a parallel instruction about taking (or making) emotional captives. Emotion is to be trained by truth.
Our calling is to take the raw strength of our emotions and train them to drive us to worship God in everything we do (Colossians 3:17, 23; Ephesians 6:7; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Our calling is to evaluate our emotions through the lens of scripture. Our calling is to encourage a rich emotional life that moves us to righteousness. Think horse whisperer instead of POW camp commander.