Being emotionally healthy is a process that requires continual work. This does not mean we will always be checking our emotions or following a list of spiritual dos and don’ts. The goal is to nurture a deep relationship with the Lord that is experiential, trusting, and loving. In this we learn, over time, to more and more love what God loves.
Our emotions flow from what our hearts treasure. We are content when what we love is blessed, safe, and present. We get upset when what we treasure or want is lost, harmed, or threatened. The more we live in the abiding love of the Lord, the more our emotions will flow out in godly ways.
The goal of spiritually wise emotional intelligence is to grow our love for what God loves. Over time our feelings will become similar to the emotional life of the Lord.
We find answers for our emotional health in God’s Word as we have a few favorite verses of comfort committed to memory. In a time of anxiety, it is crucial to be able to grab a handle of God’s Word of hope. It reminds us His power is comfort in the moment. As an example, Psalm 27:1 is a reminder to us in the crisis, as it was to King David in his time of need, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” This verse is reminder to us that God needs to be the source of our hope and grounding. As David said in verse 3, “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” If David needed to remind himself not to fear; we need to do the same. What better reminder than the voice of God from His Word.
God’s Word impacts our emotions; He shapes and turns our perspective toward Him. God’s Words of truth push out the negative thoughts and ground us in His wisdom. A simple spiritual discipline of reading a few verses of a favorite psalm, writing in our journals, as we ask ourselves these questions. How is God speaking to us? How does He want us to respond to what He is telling us? How He would want us to rest in His word to us? What would He want us to resolve to do? A few minutes of reflecting on God’s truth for us grounds our hearts and perspectives toward Him.
To further ground our hearts toward the Lord and give ourselves emotional rest, we might take a walk in the beauty of God’s creation, seeking to encounter Him in all that He has made (Romans 1:19-20). We walk allowing God to reveal Himself from creation knowing that He is present with us. A walk helps to dispel any amnesia about who God is from our hearts.
Negative emotions are not always bad. Anger at injustice is a good thing. We don’t want to sin in our anger, but respond in ways that honor the Lord and keeps us safe. Just as depression is not always a negative response, because it makes us stop, slow down, and keeps us from running from the emotional pain. It is designed to drive us to the Lord, to check our hearts intentions, and align our values with His.
A spiritual discipline for getting the heat of the emotion off so we can think rationally we learn how to lament. We lament as we get out our journals and grumble about all that is happening. We grumble and get all the emotional heat off so we can think and reason clearly. It is not grumbling against God but, about the circumstances. This discipline guides our hearts to clarity and back to gratitude for the Lord and His work in our lives.
The feelings of shame can be a good thing. Good shame is shame for sin against a holy God. It is not an ugly wallowing in self condemnation. It has a purpose to turn us to God who offers forgiveness. J. Alasdair Groves in his article, Nourishing Your Emotional Life, in the Journal of Biblical Counseling (volume 32, Number1) says, “The self-flagellation of “bad” guilt is actually a twisted and disguised arrogance-when I don’t measure up to my own standards of how good I should be, I feel awful about myself and punish myself. The pride-in-disguise is itself a sin for which we need to repent! But “good” guilt is freeing. It calls us to weep and be ashamed of our wicked choices. It helps us feel our need to change and leads us to draw near to God and his mercies. And gospel repentance and change lead to joy and purposeful action.”
Good shame moves us toward change, causes us to draw close to God, and beg for His mercy. Our repentant actions always lead us to increased joy and love toward others.
The negative emotions are not necessarily a bad thing, but an indicator of the condition of our hearts. The fear of the Lord is a good emotion it leads us to a reverence of Him and gives a distrust of false teaching. These emotions help us to cultivate discerning wisdom.
We are to have a hatred for all things that are perverse and godless.
We must be willing to face the uncomfortable emotions, to walk right into them, and face them down. The goal as we weep and mourn is to grow in our love for God and each other.
We must grow in our ability to be pained by the same things that pain God.
Worship is the most beautiful way to reorient our hearts to God. In the community of God’s people, we are reminded we are not alone, we are a part of the bigger redemptive goal that God intends for us all (Hebrews 10:24-25). When we gather for worship it has the ability to shape our emotions. It is not just that we are not alone, but it helps us know we are not crazy for trusting God. Worship reorients our focus from the temporal to refocus on the eternal heart, mind, and soul grounding us in His peace.
Do you mourn what God mourns and love what God loves? What keeps you from being all God calls you to be?