Navigating the Tsunami: 3 Things You Need to Know About Emotions

waves-on-the-sea

Every girl has one.

The Inner Tsunami.

Oh yes, I know all about it. I’ve been bowled over by its tides again and again. The emotions flood over the dike and everyone had better get out of the way!

While looking up quotes for this post, I stumbled across this one, reminding me of Disney’s infamous “Follow Your Heart” campaign:

“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”

– Roger Ebert –

This quote presents an idea that is popular–and I mean WILDLY, like-a-wildfire-in-a-toothpick-factory, popular in American culture: the idea that the heart cannot possibly be wrong. Ever. Who are we, mere mortals, to argue with the dictates of emotions?

Now that I’ve stopped smirking, I have to contest Roger’s point. My emotions are masterminds at deception. So, I’m writing this post.

Why? Because, again and again, I’ve been swamped by an emotional tide. Carried along on a wave of optimism, swept off my feet by a rush of fear.

As women, we deal with a lot of emotions. The question is, how do we deal with our feelings without being drowned in the tsunami?


 1. Emotions are (not necessarily) a bad thing.

God created us to have emotions–and that’s a good thing! He designed us to be able to feel, to appreciate, to rejoice, to love–all with strong emotions! A complex number of factors contribute to these strange things we call feelings, including physical health, environment, internal desires, and willpower.

Emotions are responses.

When your bedroom door creaks open at midnight, that stab of fear that races through you does several beneficial things. It wakes you up in an instant. Your heart starts pumping oxygenated blood to your muscles. Adrenaline shoots into your bloodstream. Your body is on Red Alert.

This emotional response prepares you to either run or protect yourself, energizing your body above its normal level of functioning.

God designed this. It is good. You see, it is what you do with your emotions that matters.

2. Emotions are not good indicators of truth.

Emotions are complex. A mixture of biological and spiritual factors, feelings are not easy to put inside a box. I’ve had multiple–and conflicting–emotions at the same time.

Don’t trust them. 

When your mind and body react, take a moment to compare the feelings with the facts. Just because you feel it does not mean it is true.

Well. That’s a switch from the Disney way of thinking. Girls, whatever you do, please hear this. Do. Not. Follow. Your. Heart. It will lead you astray.

When the Bible talks about the heart, it is often referring to the inner person, the seat of our thoughts and feelings. God lets us know that we definitely cannot trust our desires, especially when they have not been surrendered to God with a heart of obedience (Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Jeremiah 17:9).

When your emotions start to run wild, give them a dose of truth. Cling to God’s Word whatever you do, whatever your feelings might say. They are sometimes wrong, but God never is.

As Martin Luther said,

“You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.”

3. Emotions do not have to be obeyed.

Contrary to popular belief, saying no to your heart will not damage your psyche beyond repair. In fact, in the end, you’ll often be glad that you delayed responding to a fit of feelings. Wisdom teaches us that time to ponder and examine our motivations can be a good thing.

In my life, I’ve felt a lot of emotions of the traveling variety. Giving an idea or experience time often lets the feelings fade enough to gain some perspective. This is especially true of relationships: After a fun experience, I’ve come home bubbling over about this fantastic new girl that’s so much like me or this friendly new guy that I’ve met.

Early in my teens, my mom often patiently listened to my excited chatter, but she also cautioned me: Emotions die down. They’re like that. Feelings may roar like a tsunami today, but there may be not a drop in sight tomorrow.

And you know what? She was right. Twelve-year-old Shelbie tried to throw herself into making the girl down the street be her “best friend.” The emotions dwindled. Forced and not rooted in loyalty, that friendship faded.

Seventeen-year-old Shelbie might have daydreamed that she would grow up and marry that nice boy who played the French horn at the music camp, but seventeen-year-old Shelbie was wrong. Her emotions rushed and gushed for a while, but when she gave herself a little emotional distance, she discovered that feelings can be crazy, nonsensical things. Once upon a time, she couldn’t go ten minutes without thinking about French horn guy. Now, it’s the rare moment when she smiles and shakes her head that she was ever interested at all. Time often brings wisdom.

Now, looking back on years of tidal-feelings, I’m glad that I was prepared for them in one sense: I knew that, whatever I was feeling, I couldn’t just go around acting on whatever I felt. I had to let friendships go, whether I wanted to or not. I couldn’t make the world stop and conform to my emotional experience. I had to smile and tell the nice French horn guy that, “No thank you, I don’t email guys.” Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was completely worth it.

Truth trumps emotion, every time. Cling to God’s word, my sweet girls. He knows the way–and you’ll be awfully glad afterwards, when the feelings fade, that you held tight to His ways. 


Next week, join me again for 3 more truths about dealing with our emotions. In the meantime, comment below and share your tips for navigating these crazy things called feelings!


 “But when the cross is working deeply a believer comes to know himself. He realizes how undependable are his ideas, feelings and desires….True spiritual life depends not on probing our feelings and thoughts from dawn to dusk but on “looking off” to the Savior!”

– Watchman Nee –

 

Advertisements

A Grace of Superlatives

sunset-on-lake

“Grace, on the other hand, means that God is pursuing you. That God forgives you. That God sanctifies you. When you are apathetic toward God, He is never apathetic toward you. When you don’t desire to pray and talk to God, He never grows tired of talking to you. When you forget to read your Bible and listen to God, He is always listening to you. Grace means that your spirituality is upheld by God’s stubborn enjoyment of you.”

Preston Sprinkle, Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us, p. 76, emphasis mine –


There are some things in life that I can’t explain.

Like God.

I cannot explain God.

When I read 2 Corinthians 9:8, my mind will not wrap around the verse. I hold it like I’d hold a sparkling diamond. It’s glorious in its shimmer. It’s costly beyond belief. It’s beautiful. And I have no idea just how much it is worth.

In this passage, Paul is speaking to the willing and repentant Christians in Corinth. He’s urging them to follow through on their previous promise to assist struggling Christians in other cities. After he explains the virtue of giving from a cheerful heart, he makes this powerful statement:

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NKJV).

Every time I read this, this verse stops me cold. What kind of promise is this? What kind of love and glory is this? I don’t understand. This is extravagant. This is more grace than I deserve.

~ Ability ~

“And God is able….”

Wow. Think about that for a minute. God. Is. Able. 

This God of ours can do ANYTHING. He is not held back. He is not bound by our misconceptions, limited perspective, or fears. He is God. He is Able.

He is “able to make all grace abound toward you…”

God is capable. What, then, holds us back?

~ Always ~

“…always having all sufficiency…”

Always? Always? From childhood, we’re taught to be suspicious of words like “always” and “never.” But when it comes to our Heavenly Father, His unchanging nature is our anchor. He is always the same. Always steady. Always love. Always justice. This is the kind of always that we must believe in.

He promises eternal sufficiency. Always: not sometimes, not occasionally, not every other day. His supply of grace is bottomless. Oh, Lord, give us this grace of Yours. Give us hearts to ask for this grace every day! I know You will never run out of it–but I run dry every moment. Fill me with your always-ready strength.

~ All ~

This single verse blows me away every time. One thing in particular stands out: one little verse–only 28 words long–uses the word “all” THREE times! Three!

God has His own perfect reasons for how He breathed His inspired words into Paul in just this way. But I like to think of it this way: God knows that I am forgetful. No sooner do I discover His glory than I forget my glimpse of Him. James 1:23-24 says, “Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like” (CEB). I’m just like this. I see, and then I immediately forget God’s staggering greatness. As song writer Andrew Peterson writes:

“It’s easy to not have the heart to remember
That I am a priest and a prince
In the Kingdom of God”

– “Fool with a Fancy Guitar” –

I think that is why God directed Paul to write “all” three times in this small verse. It is there so it can ring true in my soul.

All. All. All.

I have no excuse to think that God is neglecting any of my needs. I have been equipped with absolutely everything necessary for my life to glorify Him. His promise is more than “some,” “nearly,” or “most.” He offers all.

~ Abundance ~

The title of this post is “A Grace of Superlatives.” In English grammar, superlatives are words that describe something as above all others: best, smartest, loveliest, richest, most wonderful. These are superlatives.

Just like the superlatives of our language, Paul lavishes this kind of overflowing terminology on the Corinthians, using the words “all,” “always,” “abundance,” and “every.”

This is who our God is. He doesn’t half-do things. He doesn’t give half a gift, or just enough grace for us to limp along.

He pours blessings. He lavishes riches. He showers with love. He writes us a book full of Him, so brimming with His own power and extravagant nature that our language bulges at the seams to try to convey even a portion of His glory.

I just wrote a blog post about how unable I am to write a blog post that sufficiently captures this grace.

I don’t get it.

All I know is that when I read this verse, I am staggered by a God who saw the filthiness of my soul and yet chose to make me His. I am amazed by the God who knows my forgetful, wandering heart and still calls me upward, closer to Him. I am humbled and awed by a God who lavishes me with grace and sufficiency and unimaginable reserves of strength–and I have barely tasted a drop of His supply.

“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

 – Hebrews 7:25, NKJV –

This is a grace of superlatives. This is a grace that can get me through any dark day, or joyous night I could ever have. This is a grace that is more than enough for you. 

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

– Ephesians 3:14-21, NKJV –


“Grace is eternal because it will take that long for God to spend inexhaustible stores of goodness on us.”

– John Piper –

My Least Favorite Word

green-grass-1389455556r42

“Jesus replied, ‘You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.’ “
– John 13:7, CEB –

I get along quite well with most words, but there is one word I intensely dislike.

Waiting.

Not because I’m impatient (well, maybe a little…), but the word waiting is just so…dull. Lifeless. Boring. Blah.

When we talk about waiting–waiting to hear about a job, waiting for that scholarship board to make a decision, waiting for the right guy to come along, waiting for high school to end and college to begin–something settles over us.

When thoughts of waiting creep up on me, I think that I’m becoming discontent. Sometimes that is true, yes. But lots of times, I don’t think that is my problem. So, this is not a post about contentment. Sorry.

The word waiting seems so terrible because it takes my mind off the things God has me doing now, and puts my attention on the things God will do in the future.

The waiting isn’t the problem, actually. It’s not the poor word’s fault. The problem is ME. Even when I’m altogether happy with what God has given me to do in this season of my life, I can get wrapped up in the idea of waiting.

Waiting is not a bad word. The Bible talks about waiting on the Lord a lot. What I am talking about is the frequent use of “I’m just in a season of waiting,” as if we are not ALL in seasons of waiting. We’re always waiting on something, really. It’s not just a word for single girls to pull out to explain the lack of a significant other. In a constantly-changing world, there’s always going to be something coming up for us to dwell on. But that’s my point.

I would never tell you to stop thinking about the future. Single ladies, I would never tell you to completely stop thinking about getting married. Job seekers, I would never advocate ditching your career goals and living entirely for the moment. Mothers and wives, I would never tell you to stop thinking about when the kids will be grown-up, or when your husband will retire. That’s silly–the Bible commends wise planning and encourages us to look in hope to the future because God is in control (Proverbs 31:25; Romans 8:25; Romans 15:13).

However, I think the word waiting and I got off to a bad start because when I’m always thinking about what I’m waiting for, I lose the potency of the present moment. It’s good for me to smile at the happy things to come and to wonder what new bends in the road I’ll discover, but not at the cost of the Present.

You see, if I’m always focused on the waiting, I’ll never be able to concentrate on what God has given to me right now.

The concept of waiting has been rolling around in my mind for a while, and yesterday a novel I was reading helped me find the key. The book quoted from 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“Give thanks in all things.”

Plenty of books have been written about giving thanks, but between a busy schedule and a large dose of forward thinking, it’s something I aspire to, but rarely do.

Do you know what else I’ve discovered?

Thanking is about trusting.

When I stop dwelling in the future and instead thank God for this moment (yes, even the hard moments), that is an act of faith. Deep down, I am declaring more than simple contentment. I am saying, “Lord, I have no idea what you will bring into my life tomorrow, but I trust you. I am not guaranteed one more moment than this moment, so in this moment, I praise you. In this moment, I choose to believe that You are good and faithful. With this moment, and every moment to come, I trust You.”

So…

Waiting is not really my enemy–but I refuse to make it my full-time job. Tomorrow holds adventure, it’s true. But I am not living in Tomorrow, I’m living Today. I will praise Him today.

God took good care of yesterday. I trust Him with today.

Tomorrow is in good hands.


“I do not know what next may come
Across my pilgrim way;
I do not know tomorrow’s road,
Nor see beyond today.
But this I know — my Saviour knows
The path I cannot see;
And I can trust His wounded hand
To guide and care for me.

I do not know what may befall,
Of sunshine or of rain;
I do not know what may be mine,
Of pleasure and of pain;
But this I know — my Saviour knows
And whatsoe’er it be,
Still I can trust His love to give
What will be best for me.

I do not know what may await,
Or what the morrow brings;
But with the glad salute of faith,
I hail its opening wings;
For this I know — that my Lord
Shall all my needs be met;
And I can trust the heart of Him,
Who has not failed me yet.”

– E. Margaret Clarkson –

 

God’s Show and Tell

1-1255357738H7wp

“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?’ “

– Job 1:8, NKJV –


 Why?

If I were summarizing the book of Job in one word, that would be the one. “Why?”

Why, God, is everything going badly for me? Why, God, am I suffering when all the evil out there seems to be winning? Why am I the one with the trials when my unbelieving friends seem to have nothing but good times?

Immediately, voices chime in. “We deserve nothing but condemnation from God. It is only His grace that gives us less pain than we deserve.” Everyone seems to agree. “Wrong choices have consequences. You must have done something wrong, and now God is chastening you.”

There is truth–or at least some of it–in these typical statements. Of course, no human except the Lord Jesus was ever truly undeserving of any punishment. This is true. But that second analysis is, according to the book of Job, often untrue.

Certainly, God deals with us as His children. He does discipline us at times (Hebrews 12:5-11), but is that the only reason we suffer? Because we sinned?

Jesus’ disciples had this question too:

” Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.”

– John 9:1-7, NKJV –

Jesus’ answer? Sin wasn’t the cause of this man’s blindness. His temporary disability was so that God’s healing work would be put on display.

When I recently read through the book of Job, I experienced something very strange. You would think that Job’s story might make me uncomfortable. In the first two chapters, God grants Satan permission to send all sorts of pain and grief into righteous Job’s life. In fact, Satan didn’t even start the conversation–God did. “What do you think my servant Job? He’s the most righteous man alive.”

Satan sneers. “Well, if You hadn’t blessed him so much, Job wouldn’t love You at all. I bet that if You took all those blessings away, Job would sing a different tune. He’d curse Your name.”

And so God said, “Do it. Just don’t touch his health.” And a chapter later, God lifts even that stipulation, merely forbidding Satan to kill Job.

Whoa. Hold on. What? God just hands over Job just like that? HIS child Job? The man who serves him with a pure heart?

Why?

Job is full of theories about God’s reasons. Job’s three “friends” who come visiting during the course of the story–Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad–all have the same idea. Job must have done something terribly wicked.

Their thought process went something like this: God is just. God punishes sin and blesses righteousness. Therefore, Job must have sinned–and pretty badly–for God to do this to him.

But they were dead wrong.

Pastor Mark Dever has this to say about Job’s friends:

“Most of the book consists of Job’s friends saying to him, ‘Hey, Job, I know you look virtuous, but there must be some sin here. Otherwise you would not be experiencing such severe punishment.’ But so far were Job’s friends from being right, that, ironically, someone could have said to them, ‘Eliphaz, Zophar, Bildad, this suffering might have come on you had you been more virtuous!’ We the readers know that God did not allow Job to face these trials because of Job’s vices–but because of his virtue! God looked over the world, wanting to brag on part of his creation of Satan. And he chose to brag about Job….No, this is not a Pelagian man-can-choose-what-is-right theology. Job is God’s own workmanship. God had caused Job to trust him, and God knew that he did.”

The Message of the Old Testament, page 477 –

But, as Pastor Dever points out in his discussion of Job, God never told Job why. From Job’s perspective, things just went bad. He didn’t get a message from heaven explaining the reason for his trials. He didn’t get a Divine apology. He didn’t get to read about “this heavenly court scene that we are allowed to peek into in the first chapters of the book. All the evidence he has for trusting God in these trials is the fact of God himself, and Job trusted that God” (The Message of the Old Testament, page 476).

And yet, as I said earlier, I finished the book of Job with a very strange reaction: Job’s story gave me intense satisfaction and peace.

Why? Because, as much as we want to find meaning in our suffering, sometimes we can’t. Like Job, we can’t see into God’s mind. Like Job, when things go bad, we wonder why God is doing this to us. When we’re serving Him with all our hearts, we wonder why He lets things go wrong.

And the book of Job tells me the only reason I can understand: God is putting his handiwork on display. Sometimes things go wrong and the only reason we can know for sure is that God is being glorified in our pain. 

“God Is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in Him.”– John Piper –

When God allows our comforts to be stripped away, our health to fail, and our hearts to break, all we have left is Him. And his praise is shouted to the ends of the earth when we discover something in our pain: He is really enough. He really satisfies.

Pain puts our trust to the test. As Job was tested, he asked God why. God did answer him, in a way. In a swirling whirlwind of responses, He revealed His glory to Job in chapters 38-41, listing His mighty works, creative power, and incredible wisdom.

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

” ‘Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
 To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?’ “

– Job 38:1-7, NKJV –

I would summarize God’s response like this: I am God. You are not. Trust me.

And that is why the story of Job makes me smile. This foundation is unshakeable. No matter what gets thrown at us, we can trust that God’s glory is being put on display.

What will tomorrow bring? I don’t know. But whether bright with joy or clouded with sorrow, I trust the God who brings all things to pass. I trust Him with the whys I may never know. Whatever may come, it will be for His glory and my good.

I believe it with all my heart.


 “What does this mean for us, friend? It means that we do not trust God because we are clever or holy but because his character is trustworthy.”

– Mark Dever,  The Message of the Old Testament, page 477