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2. To Laugh and To Cry:


Emotional Freedom

Feelings without Shame

We all have feelings. In general, the emotions are nearer the surface in women, but men still have them—Happinessthough they're more likely than women to suppress their expression.

Accepting your emotions means finding a balance between emotional expression and emotional control. This balance is within your reach, with the Lord's help.

Where do emotions come from?

a. The image of God in people

Emotion has its origin in the nature of God himself. When he 'created man in his own image' (Genesis 1:27) God built into human beings the emotional dimension of his own being. His emotions include:

Psalm 7:11 'God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.'

See also Hebrews 3:7-11.

Psalm 145:8-9 'The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.'

b. The example of Jesus

The nature of God the Father was perfectly expressed in Jesus. who has 'made him known' (John 1:18). 'I always do what pleases him,' he claimed (John 8:29)—and this included his emotional expression. Notice,Wearing a mask: don't do it! among others:

Matthew 23:27 'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.'

When some Pharisees opposed his healing work on the Sabbath, 'He looked round at them in anger… deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts' (Mark 3:5).

Feeling grumpyMark 6:34 'When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.'

c. The effects of sin

The image of God in human beings, which is the source of our emotions, was tarnished by the Fall. That's why there's so much emotional imbalance and misdirection in people today.

But in Christ things are put right. Now that you're born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, your emotions can gradually find healing.

Factors governing your emotions

Genesis 4:4-7 'The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?"'

That last sentence could more literally be translated: 'If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted Delightedup?' (NASB) or: 'If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling' (Good News Bible).

Bad behaviour (sin) produces bad feelings, which are expressed in frowns and angry looks. Right behaviour, on the other hand, produces good feelings, expressed in smiles. More on this later.

The dangers of uncontrolled emotion

a. A roller-coaster existence

Feelings are largely unpredictable. They come and go, high and low. So if you let your feelings dictate how you act, you'll have a life of instability.

See the tragedy of uncontrolled feeling in the life of David's son, Amnon (2 Samuel 13). First he 'fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom' (v1). A slave to his own passion, he eventually raped her (v14). Then his emotions did a rapid turnabout:

2 Samuel 13:15 'Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her.'

In the end, Amnon's failure to control his feelings led to his own violent death (v28-29, 32).

b. Unsociability

People who are a prey to their emotions will find few friends. Who wants to get close to a person who's prone to moodiness, explosions of temper and unpredictable 'highs'?

c. Sickness

Emotional states and bodily functions are closely related. Anxiety can put you off your food. Worry can bring you out in a rash, and…

Proverbs 14:30 'A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones .'Out of sorts

Healthy, Christlike emotions are a source of physical well-being but ungodly, sin-provoked emotions attack good health. Read Psalm 32:1-5 and see how David's sin affected his health. Notice that confession and forgiveness made him feel 'blessed', that is, happy.

Controlling your feelings

Control doesn't mean suppression. To blow up with anger is clearly wrong but to clam up, keeping the anger inside, is just as wrong. Implosion is no less harmful in the long run than explosion.

Nor does control mean adopting a stoical, 'stiff upper lip' approach, or even regarding your emotions as private property. Good emotions are to be both expressed and shared:

Romans 12:15 'Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.'

Control means bringing your emotions to a place of proper balance in your life so that you're like Jesus. How can you do this?

a. Imitate the divine emotions

Actively copy your heavenly Father, who longs for his children to be like him (Ephesians 5:1). See from Scripture his active love, which reaches out and takes the initiative; his righteous anger that burns against sin and injustice; his compassion towards the weak and helpless; his sadness over people's Getting crosswaywardness and refusal to repent. Cultivate the same emotions yourself.

Notice the feelings that God does not have—bitterness and malice, for instance—and eradicate them from your own heart (see Ephesians 4:31).

Actively copy Christ. He wept at a graveside, so you can do the same. He denounced hypocrisy in passionately expressed terms; so can you. His face expressed genuine love towards an enquirer whom he probably met only once (Mark 10:21); so can yours. He was the perfect person and his emotional life was rich. Imitate him with confidence.

b. Renewing your mind

Before you were saved, your thought-patterns were those of the world. But now that you're a Christian your thought-life needs to be gradually renewed so that you think the way God thinks:

Romans 12:2 'Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.'

How you think governs the way you feel, so if you're to be godly you must think God's thoughts. Soak yourself, then, in the Scriptures until your thinking is renewed.

Here's an example. As you feed on the Word of God, you'll become increasingly aware of God's hatred for sin. What the world writes off as unimportant—'nobody's perfect', 'it's a white lie' or 'everybody's doing it'—you'll come to hate as God hates. The things that break God's heart will begin to break yours, and in your emotional life you'll come to appreciate what Jesus meant when he said: 'Blessed are those who mourn' (Matthew 5:4).

c. Obey the Lord

Everybody wants to be happy, and happiness comes chiefly from doing what is right. That's something you can choose to do. To a large degree, therefore, happiness lies within your own control. Jesus was the happiest man who ever lived, because he was the most righteous:

Hebrews 1:8-9 'About the Son he says,..."You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness ; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."'

How to control your feelingsDoctors have shown that there are two sides to our nervous system. One side is the involuntary side: it's linked to our bodily glands and organs; it's subject to a variety of emotions that seem to come and go as they please; and it's outside our immediate control. The other side is within our control. It's to do with our minds, our wills and what we do with our bodies. It's the behaviour side.

In this latter area you can make changes. As you do what's right here, there's a knock-on effect into the other area—that of the emotions. Right actions, in other words, produce right emotions!

Psalm 34:12-14 'Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.'

Whenever you 'do good' you'll have one of those 'good days'. For you, doing good might mean: get out of the armchair and help your wife in the kitchen; list all the jobs you have to do and get started; check your current financial situation to see if you're still 'in the black'; go to the meeting, even though you don't feel like it; ask Bill's forgiveness for your cutting words to him.

'Do whatever Jesus tells you' (John 2:5) is the key to emotional miracles no less amazing than the changing of water into wine. How about it?

by heart

Genesis 4:7  'If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?'


GiG2: Emotional Freedom
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