Guest Columnist: Lisa Kaiser (Alyssa & Kaela’s mom)
“Are they all yours?” “Wow, that’s a lot of drama in one house!” “No boys?”
These are the kinds of things I have heard from strangers over the years as our family of four girls has passed by as we are shopping. (We do draw attention when we are all together!) Occasionally I would hear something like this: “What a blessing to have all of those daughters!”
Being a mom of four girls has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. Now that we have 3 teens and one pre-teen in the house, it’s probably true that we have more than the average share of drama and emotion. And during the month of December, there can be extra stress and family dynamics that cause our emotions to be heightened. I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic of emotions, but it is something that God has been teaching me about recently.
Pay attention to your emotions…
I’m sure you’ve heard phrases like this… “Don’t be led by your emotions” or “Be careful not to make an emotional decision.” While it’s true that we shouldn’t take a “follow your heart” approach to life, we should pay attention to our emotions because God created us with the ability to feel, and we were created in His image!
The Bible has a lot to say about emotions. It tells us to serve with gladness, mourn with those who mourn, be tenderhearted, love your neighbor, hate sin, among many other commands involving emotions. Ecclesiastes 3:1&4 says “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
I recently read the book “True Feelings: God’s Gracious and Glorious Purpose for our Emotions” by the mother-daughter team of Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre. It’s an insightful and impacting look at this topic! They say, “God created our emotions to work in harmony with our other two most fundamental faculties: the mind and the will. Just as our minds enable us to think and our wills enable us to choose, so our emotions enable us to respond.”
We hear messages in our culture about emotions. “Keep Calm and Carry On” “Chill Out” or “Stay Cool.” But if we keep our emotions stuffed inside, what will it do to us?
Our family has had an eventful year, with trials and uncertainties that have brought about many emotions. Many tears have flowed, anxieties have been expressed and sometimes disappointment has been vented. I think it has been good for us to work through these emotions openly.
Carolyn and Nicole write, “Instead of asking ourselves ‘Where did this emotion come from?’ and getting no answer, we can ask, ‘What does this emotion tell me about what I believe and value?’ and then trace the emotion back to its source… Our emotions don’t necessarily tell us the facts about the situation; rather they tell us our interpretations of the facts. They tell us how much we are concerned about certain things. Feelings are true indicators of our beliefs and values, not always what is ultimately true or valuable.”
We’ve all been there…
Here are some examples:
You get a grade that you are less than proud of on a test. You feel ashamed and embarrassed. Ask yourself “Do I believe that my worth is based on how I performed on that test?” Maybe you are believing the subtle lie that perfect performance equals worth.
You feel overwhelmed, insecure and uncertain when you think about choosing a college. You are afraid that you might mess up God’s plan for your life. Ask yourself “Do I believe I am able to thwart God’s plan?” Maybe you are not trusting in God’s sovereignty.
At the family Christmas party, your grandma goes on and on about your sister’s accomplishments, leaving you feeling jealous. Ask yourself “Am I able to celebrate God’s work in my sister’s life without feeling sorry for myself?” Maybe you are not believing that God made you with the gifts and talents that he planned for you for His good purpose and His glory.
Act your way into a feeling…
Sometimes we need to “act” our way into a feeling. We know the truth we believe in our heart, so taking action based on that truth might lead to the feeling we want to eventually have. Take Mary, for example. She was appointed to bear the Son of God. She probably felt overwhelmed, scared and confused. But she said, “I am the Lord’s servant, let it be to me according to your word.”
I love the song “Be Born in Me” by Francesca Battistelli. The song is from Mary’s point of view, and there is a line that says, “Before my head agrees, my heart is on it’s knees.” This is a perfect example of what it means to act your way into a feeling.
God often uses emotions to “alert the mind, which in turn guides the will.” If you are a committed Christ-follower, the emotions you feel can help propel you into a direction that God is moving you. He can use the feelings of dissatisfaction, restlessness or lack of peace to bring you to a place of truly seeking Him in prayer, asking Him where you need to make a change. It takes a conscious effort to pay attention to our emotions and decipher where they are coming from.
Let me encourage you to use God’s good gift of emotions to evaluate whether your beliefs and values are reflecting God’s truth.
While we can’t always control our emotions, we can control what we believe and value. It may take a while to combat the lies we have believed, but Romans 12:2 tells us that we can be “transformed by the renewal of our mind.” and 2 Corinthians 10:5 says “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
We can honor God by using our emotions to draw us to Him, celebrating that He has made us in His image. This Christmas season, as you are feel various emotions from celebration to frustration, remember that God’s good gift of emotions can be used to conform us to His image!