Reining in thoughts and emotions

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I’m an emotional person. It’s always been my excuse for my mood swings and uncanny ability to summon tears at the drop of a hat. In the past, I have let my emotions get away from me… and I am not talking about happy emotions. Being moody or throwing a pity-party is no fun for us or for people around us. Sadly (or sometimes happily!) emotions are here to stay. God gave us emotions, but He also gave us some important information and advice about managing them.

English: Emotions

First, we must recognize that our emotions come from our heart and our mind, which are sometimes described as two different but very intertwined elements of our inner person. As I understand it, our heart is where spirits live; in a born again Christian, it would be where the Spirit of God lives [1]. Our minds are our thought and memory centers. [2] It would follow that in order to manage our emotions, we must manage and be responsible for the thoughts in our minds. How can we go about doing this?

Start with a promise

Earlier this year I wrote my self a contract. It simply said:

“With God’s word to teach me and His Spirit to help me,
today is the day I will begin to take responsibility for my thoughts and emotions”

I signed it, dated it and kept it close to me. That was the beginning of a conscious effort to control my thought-life. Because the contract starts with God’s Word, the next step is…

Renew your mind

Renewing your mind involves studying God’s Word [3]. It is not a one time action, but a daily renewal. The wording of my contract implied that in order to be taught by God’s word, I had to study my Bible every single day. For me it meant getting up earlier (and I disliked being up super early), for others it may mean struggling through the old style text, and still others despise reading in general. My advice is to pray for God’s grace to help you with whatever sacrifice you have to make to make this happen. With time it will become easier and a habit. (I heard it takes about 3 weeks to 2 months to form a habit, so aim for at least 3 weeks of consistent reading).

If you’re new to regular Bible reading, a good place to start is the gospel of John. You could also start with the “story books” like Ruth or Esther, or if you like bite-size nuggets of faith, try Proverbs. Alternatively, you can do a search for verses that speak to what you have particular difficulty with e.g. Google “Bible verses peace” if you want to know what God says about peace. The point is just to start somewhere and let God guide you. It may be a good idea to have a close friend keep you accountable as well by offering to read with them daily, but make sure they are as committed as you are to this lifestyle change.

Use the knowledge and be on your way

When we’ve been reading the Word for a significant period of time, we build up a knowledge and memory of what the Word says. However, we need to actually do what the Word says [4].

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me,
or seen in me— put it into practice…

Philippians 4:9

One morning I woke up and immediately started to cry because my uncontrolled thoughts immediately went to a situation I was facing. I opened my Bible to 1 Samuel 16. Lo and behold God spoke immediately in verse 1.

The Lord said to Samuel,
“How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?
Fill your horn with oil and be on your way;
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem.
I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
1 Samuel 16:1

I was convinced that God was saying to me to take action and STOP my incessant crying because he had something more suitable in store for me than what I thought I had lost and I should “be on my way” and MOVE ON. I have to admit that I felt embarrassed and since then I decided to purposefully try my best to BE joyful and not just read about being joyful or know I should be joyful in all things.

Keep your peace

For me this is by far the most challenging part of controlling thoughts and emotions. Peace is a huge topic that I’d like to write about if God lets me. As Christians we can have peace whenever we want because when Jesus left, he left His peace [5]. Though the peace is a free gift, we are encouraged to actively pursue it [6]. When are we most at peace?

  • When we do not have conflicting beliefs or thoughts, or a nagging conscience

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. – James 1:8

  • When we trust God because we know that He is all-knowing, can handle all our problems and will protect us from harm

Be still, and know that I am God… – Psalm 46:10

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:8

  • When we are doing what God has asked us to do

The priest answered them, “Go in peace. Your journey has the Lord’s approval.” – Judges 18:6

Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. – Psalm 119:165

  • When we make wise decisions (God-wise not world-wise)

Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. – Proverbs 3:17

  • When we are grateful for God’s blessings and mercy

…with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful. – Colossians 3:15

My favourite reference to peace is this:

You will keep in perfect peace those whose
minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. – Isaiah 26:3

It pointedly tells us to keep our minds steadfast, firm and unwavering. The only thoughts that can be perfectly unwavering are true thoughts. The only thoughts that I know that are ALWAYS true are  God’s thoughts, so we feel at peace when we align our thoughts with the Word.

Focus! Focus! Focus!

Finally, do not lose focus. We need to consciously avoid the triggers of our unpleasant emotions by “Girding up the loins of our minds” [7]. Anything that distracts us from God’s Word and truth, makes us disobey God, or makes us lose our peace needs to be avoided as much as possible. If  it can’t be avoided, remember that God said that you can do all things in Christ no matter what your situation is [8]. He can help you to focus in the midst of storms [9].

I hope these strategies help if, like me, you battle with fluctuating emotions. Remember God wants us to be stable, so we need to trust and hope in Him and banish any thoughts that make us do otherwise.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8.

 

Keep smiling, Angie

[1] See Romans 8:272 Cor 1:22, and Galatians 4:6. We should note however, that our mind is not always in communication with our heart/spirit (See 1 Cor 14:14).
[2] See Ezekiel 38:10 and Jeremiah 3:16.
[3] See Romans 12:2.
[4] See James 2:17.
[5] See John 14:27.
[
6] See 1 Peter 3:11.
[7] See 1 Peter 1:13.
[8] See Philippians 4:12-13.
[9] See Psalm 50:15.

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2 responses »

  1. Every word here is true and I can see that you have truly been led by the holy spirit… and my favorite part of it all is It “pointedly tells us to keep our minds steadfast, firm and unwavering. The only thoughts that can be perfectly unwavering are true thoughts. The only thoughts that I know that are ALWAYS true are God’s thoughts, so we feel at peace when we align our thoughts with the Word.” When our minds are kept on Christ and His word, peace and joy flows eternally.

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