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


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 –



2 thoughts on “Navigating the Tsunami: 3 Things You Need to Know About Emotions

  1. All this is so true. I did want to comment to say that because I knew this so well, the end of my courtship was difficult because when all the lights were green… it really boiled down to my emotions, which I was so used to NOT listening to, but I learned that while most of the time we reign in and not hide/repress but think through emotion, there are times when it’s a GOOD THING.

    1. Thanks for that reminder! I think there has to be a balance–knowing that emotions are not to be our sole guide, but also respecting and even appreciating them as gifts that God allows us to have. I appreciate you pointing out that it is possible for our emotions to be right, too! 🙂

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