Tag Archive: emotions


Emotions and Discipleship

Our conversions are more often than not emotional experiences as it is the heart that is spoken to; a meeting with the Creator of all things can certainly be emotional! But to deepen and grow, we need to learn and understand and meditate on God’s word, and this involves both the will and the intellect. The heart and the head work together to create one whole.

The trick is to move our faith from the abstract, from mental assent, to the world of the heart; to trust not in a principal or code but in a Person, with all the risk and reward inherent in any relationship. This is perhaps more difficult for those who (like myself) like to reason things out, and I think this is why meditating on the Bible is so important. It both sharpens the mind and trains the heart.

“The goal of meditation is to drive the mind into the heart” – Timothy Keller

There needs to be a revelation of sorts. We need God to speak to our hearts – and surely meditation on scripture is part of this.

…and going through life with Him. Life’s experiences, submitted to Him, draw one closer. You get to know God better when you’ve gone through some valleys with Him.

The heart is the will that directs our actions and intellect. Emotions are largely responses to events in our lives, and different people experience them at varying levels because of how they were raised, their inherited emotional tendencies and so on.

As such, they’re neither good or bad: it’s the action we take to manage our emotions that reveals where our heart really is. Part of the disciple’s work is to control the emotions by submitting them to God and His Word, and never letting them be the prime director of one’s actions.

Likewise the disciple submits his mind to God. In Romans 12 we read about the “renewing of our minds”. I think this means the conscious decision to learn and promote God’s perspective in our thinking, and I know of no other way than to read God’s word regularly and get together with other believers on a regular basis.

The desire (heart) to please God plus action directed by His Word brings balance and maturity to our own turbulent lives. Just like working on a marriage, if we choose not to act to promote and develop our relationship with Christ we must ask ourselves if He’s really our Lord or just a phase we’re going through.

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The problem is, it’s hard to ignore feelings. We live in bodies that experience this world with its bumps and worries, and experience feelings that are reactions to this reality whether we like it or not. The question is what we are going to do with them. The feelings themselves are neither good nor bad, but how we choose (there’s that word again) to react is a moral issue.

How do can I rein in these feelings? Is it possible to gain a degree of mastery over them? How can I train myself to trust in God – regardless of the emotional noise in my head?

It’s easier said than done, but  developing good habits of the soul will go a long way to helping us. As I write this (originally written in January 2010), I’m facing a layoff from a job I’ve held for more that 23 years. With 5 dependents, believe me when I say that my feelings are all over the map. I’m not sleeping as well, and concern for the future is where my natural inclinations lead. My worry is a reaction to the circumstances I find myself in; yet I am told that God will provide. Memorizing some key passages from the Bible has been a great help, and they are there, accessible and right in my head when I’m lying awake in bed at night with a brain that won’t shut off. If there’s too much static in there, a dose of some helpful passage can restore perspective and calm the waters. This is a habit to train ourselves in: it won’t happen by itself, and I have a long ways to go.

Speak what you choose to believe, not how you feel. Put it into words. There’s a real distinction between feeling and belief that we often forget. It’s a vital difference. Saying what you believe helps unmuddy these waters; there is something special about the spoken word. It’s not some abacadabra to invoke God’s power; but more a point of nailing your colours to the mast, taking a stand unashamed. It bears witness to God’s reality, the “evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It emboldens and fortifies the heart.

We are encouraged to pray for His strength to help us obey. Can we claim to be His sons and daughters if we don’t? We have been invited to be co-maintainers of God’s universe, called to live like the sons and daughters of God we are, to display God’s kind of life and to and to insert it into nature. Talk about being salt in this world! “Be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven”.

This is essentially a work of creation as opposed to being a mere cog in the cause-and-effect machine that nature is. This is the point I want to make: good habits are creative acts – we are injecting a new cause into the chain of events that stretch back to the beginning of time. They are not something that would happen if nature ran its course. Bad habits are merely natural reactions to our surroundings and will occur unbidden: fallen nature works by cause and effect. Moral choices, however are events of another kind – and their source is outside of nature.

If our spiritual side is what defines us as humans, then it follows that those who listen only to their natural, reactive nature are becoming somehow less human, spiritually dead. And doesn’t scripture bear this out? 2 Peter 2:10b-12 says, “…and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption,…” The spirit is what makes moral decisions. To act amorally is to deny the spiritual, to ratify the natural, animal part of ourselves.

I used to get confused when I saw in the Bible that we are saved by grace, and not our works, but then read we were to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”, and that “faith without works is dead”. The two views seemed contradictory. But when you think of “working out” as disciplined, applied effort towards a goal – mindful of the price that was paid to make our spiritual rebirth possible – the contradiction evaporates. If we were given a great gift at enormous expense to the giver and then treated it as a common thing, that would speak volumes about the value we placed in the gift and its Giver. I will be very careful to esteem the gift given to me – to be otherwise speaks of ingratitude and an unchanged, hard heart.

God calls us to be agents of change – both in our own lives and in the world. We need to cultivate these good habits – forgiveness, grace to others, prayer, thankfulness.

Being Yourself

Who are you?

What determines how you live your life? Many just sort of let life happen, taking things as they come, a series of reactions to what life deals them. But is that the best way to live? I think we can determine our life’s path by the choices we make.

Reason and Morality are siblings; or perhaps it might be better illustrated by saying that morality is a reasoned response, and therefore you can’t be moral without being a reasoning being. They hint at something uncreated, not a result of chaotic, senseless processes, but of a higher, rational and moral source, because they are not an effect of some cause. In fact moral choice (for instance, to love an enemy or forgive someone who has hurt us) often run exactly opposite to our natural reactions.

Some Christian apologists have written strong arguments supporting the existence of God based on these realities, and it really does make sense – the best kind of sense. I am a believer largely because the concept of a rational, moral God simply scratches the most itches. The universe makes sense. And of course these are things that set us apart from the animal kingdom. Whereas animals simply react, people can reason and make moral choices. We can be proactive; nature is exclusively reactive.

If we do away with reason and moral truth, we are left with our emotions.  Emotions are something we share with the animal kingdom, and are reactive rather than proactive in essence. We don’t make feelings; they happen to us.  We feel a certain way because of what is happening around us; but as a motivator, emotions are dangerous: they are variable, unpredictable, and can be manipulated.

In a democracy, the direction of government is determined by the will of the people. But what happens when those people are ill-informed (and it’s impossible to be adequately informed about all the issues we face these days) or worse yet, are subjected to the spin doctors? Politicians and their hirelings play on our fears and hopes to get us to vote them into power. Advertising agencies spend millions of dollars trying to make us feel we must have the latest toy. We become more the product of our environment and influences than ourselves; what I consider my “tastes” are often the result of somebody else telling me what is cool and fashionable.

The best defense against such ploys is to have a solid belief in a moral framework that determines how all these other inputs are evaluated.  When you hold high values, you can’t be spun or manipulated as easily. And this moral construct has an Author, One who yearns for relationship with us. As we give ourselves to Him, we become more truly ourselves.

We live in the world of Enron, of the Subprime crisis and banking scandals, of spin doctors and opinion polls. If more folks approached politics and finance on the basis of ethics instead of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the present day, I think we’d be in a lot better shape.

Who are you?

What determines how you live your life? Many just sort of let life happen, taking things as they come, a series of reactions to what life deals them. But is that the best way to live? I think we determine our life’s path by the choices we make.

Reason and Morality are siblings; or perhaps it might be better illustrated by saying that morality is a reasoned response, and therefore you can’t be moral without being a reasoning being. Reason and moral truth hint at something uncreated: not a result of chaotic, senseless processes, but of a higher, rational and moral source, because they are not an result of some cause but exist all by themselves. These reasoned moral choices (for instance, to love an enemy or forgive someone who has hurt us) often run exactly opposite to our natural reactions.

Some Christian apologists have based arguments supporting the existence of God on these realities, and it really does make sense – the best kind of sense. I am a believer largely because the concept of a rational, moral God simply scratches the most itches. The universe makes sense. And of course these are things that set us apart from the animal kingdom. Whereas animals simply react, people can reason and make moral choices. We can be proactive; nature is exclusively reactive.

If we do away with reason and moral truth, we are left alone with our emotions. Emotions are something we share with the animal kingdom, and are reactive rather than proactive in essence. We don’t make feelings; they happen to us. We feel a certain way because of what is happening around us or within our own bodies.

But as a motivator, emotions are dangerous: they are variable, unpredictable, and can be manipulated.
In a democracy, the direction of government is determined by the will of the people. But what happens when those people are ill-informed (and it’s impossible to be adequately informed about all the issues we face these days) or worse yet, are subjected to the spin doctors? Politicians and their hirelings play on our fears and hopes to get us to vote them into power. Advertising agencies spend millions of dollars trying to make us feel we must have the latest toy. We become more the product of our environment and influences than ourselves; what I consider my “tastes” are often the result of somebody else telling me what is cool and fashionable.

The best defense against such ploys is to have a solid belief in a moral framework that determines how all these other inputs are evaluated. When you hold high values, you can’t be spun or manipulated as easily. And if this moral construct is really true – absolute reality- it must have an Author, One whi cares about right actions and who yearns for relationship with us. As we give ourselves to Him, we become more truly ourselves.

We live in the world of Enron, of the Subprime crisis and banking scandals, of spin doctors and opinion polls. If more folks approached politics and finance on the basis of a transcendent ethical truth instead of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the present day, I think we’d be in a lot better shape.

And that’s just for starters.