Who hasn’t had moments where you had a rush of emotion and sent a text or made a decision from that place? Maybe it turns out okay. And maybe it doesn’t. I wanted to do that the other day when I had an upsetting conversation with someone. I felt completely justified in my feelings and drafted an email in response. But something stopped me. Or rather someONE: I think the Holy Spirit put the brakes on the email I wrote. I should say thanks because I’m guessing it wouldn’t have gone too well. We’ve all seen the damage that angry people can do with an email, amiright??
My emotions were real and important and need dealt with, but not all of them are godly and helpful in responding to a situation. Emotions are more like kids on a car trip: you can’t let them take the wheel but you can’t throw ‘em in the trunk either. Truth be told I’m more of a trunk-thrower, but lately I’ve been feeling some things deeply and learning to submit these emotions to the Word of God BEFORE I move on them. I did that this morning, and as I looked back I thought I’d share exactly what I did with God and the Bible in case it would help you process yours.
I began my morning reading and prayer time feeling kinda distant and angry…not at God – just in general as a result of a situation at-hand. I started by writing out the Lord’s Prayer from my heart to God, which is always where I go if I don’t know how to start praying. Today it reminded me that God is my Father, so I can tell him how I feel. So I did.
- I wrote out a prayer with aaaaalllllll the feelings: no holding back. I started with “Father – I am angry…” and then went on from there. I told Him all about the things I felt and then some details about why I felt each way. I said things like “I feel devalued.” “I feel discriminated against”…Some of these feelings I thought I had every right to feel and all the evidence supported my POV. Others were mildly embarrassing, and I wouldn’t try to justify them to you at all. Yet there they were. I didn’t judge my feelings: I just told God what they were as honestly as I could.
- Then I made myself a list of all my feeling words. I wanted to kind of get a vibe of all of them together: (You get a super clear picture here don’t you?!)
This is the tricky part if you don’t regularly read scripture. God can point me different places through the Holy Spirit just because I’m familiar with what’s in there. He has better access to speak to you, prompt you or bring a scripture to mind if you’re building up experience in His Word (That’s why I’m always encouraging people to read their Bible!!!). If this isn’t you I still encourage you to ask in prayer because something may come to mind. But if not, you can also reach out to a friend or a pastor, asking “If you felt like this; (give ‘em your list), what part(s) of the Bible would you read?”
- I read the scripture. For me, today, it was Philippians 2:1-11. This passage is a favorite of mine, so it is easy for God to use to reach me. I thought of it right away when I asked. As I was reading it I just wanted to stay open to anything the Spirit might say so I; a) wrote out the passage piece by piece just to let it soak in; b) thought about why this would come to mind in my current state and jotted some notes about that. For me, today, it was Philippians 2:1-11. This passage is a favorite of mine, so it is easy for God to use to reach me. I thought of it right away when I asked. As I was reading it I just wanted to stay open to anything the Spirit might say so I; a) wrote out the passage piece by piece just to let it soak in; b) thought about why this would come to mind in my current state and jotted some notes about that.
- I summarized what the text of scripture said. For that passage I wrote: “This says if I want to be great then it cannot come from anything selfish: it must come from a desire to serve my Father’s will. The path to significance will always be through lifting others up. What’s good for others should be the basis of my actions and decisions. If I want to be like Jesus then I need to be okay with lower positions than I might think I deserve. When I am like this in my attitudes and actions then I become trustworthy with authority because I am only concerned about God’s reputation and not my own.”
- Last, I prayed and asked God what actions I should take/not take as a result.
For me this was (these are based on the scripture I read):
- I will publicly praise ______ (a person’s name) this week somehow.
- I will keep my mouth shut about my complaints because they appear to be rooted in concern for my own reputation. I’ll trust God with that instead.
- I will not send an email to _____’s boss about what’s been taken from me. I will ask God to fight for me and for the chance to enter a productive face to face conversation instead.
- I asked God to return what’s been taken from me only if I am the one who can get the most glory for HIM with it.
It’s so hard to do this while we live in a culture that encourages emotions to run the show. I still feel what I was feeling. (Though the intensity did lessen just processing them with God). The best advice is not necessarily to ‘follow your heart:’ the Bible actually says we have good reason to suspect our emotions might not be the things that lead us to life:
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.” Jeremiah 17: 9-10
My emotions are helpful and I have to be honest with myself and God. They were not zapped away with this exercise, and I might need to go back to them with God again. But just the practice of putting them underneath God’s Word is huge: it reminds me there’s a Truth higher than whatever emotions are pulsing through my heart today.