(Courtesy of Joyce Meyer Ministries)
When we enter into a relationship with God, we experience a divine exchange where He takes our sin and gives us His righteousness. He also puts the seed of the Fruit of the Spirit in us (see Galatians 5:22-23). But in order for this fruit to grow in our lives, we have to study the Word and spend time with God so He can do this work in our soul.
Our soul is our mind, will and emotions and it tells us what we think, what we want and how we feel. As we pursue a personal relationship with God, the Holy Spirit helps renew our mind and turn our will to God's will so we can learn how to manage our emotions. And learning how to manage our emotions is the key to being stable and not letting our emotions rule or control us.
Understanding Your Emotions
An emotion is "a moving of the mind or soul; hence, any agitation of mind or excitement of sensibility" (American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828). Another definition of emotion is "a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling…typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition). In other words, your feelings rise up, move out and want you to follow them and do whatever they say.
Now, our emotions are unreliable, so instead of letting them dictate the things we do, we have to learn to live beyond them. For people who have suffered abuse, this can be very difficult. See, when you have wounded emotions, your natural tendency is likely to be impulsive and do things emotionally without wisdom or thinking it through, which causes a separation between you and God. Romans 8:8 says, "So then those who are living the life of the flesh [catering to the appetites and impulses of their carnal nature] cannot please or satisfy God, or be acceptable to Him."
But God has a healing for you and He wants you to go deeper with Him and learn to control your emotional impulses.
Managing Your Emotions
To begin the process of controlling our emotions, we have to go deeper with God. Going deeper in God means we stop living by how we feel; we own those feelings and say, "I have feelings, but they are not going to have me."
Peter is a great example of someone who learned to live beyond his emotions and go deeper with God. In Luke 5:1-6, Peter had just come in from fishing all night when Jesus met Him. Jesus then told him to go out again and lower the nets on the other side of the boat. Peter, having fished all night, was tired and discouraged but he stepped out beyond his emotions and trusted God. He went deeper into the water and received the benefits. Verse 6 says, "When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish…their nets were [at the point of] breaking" (AMP).
The main way we go deeper in God is by knowing and studying His Word. When we know the Word of God, we can judge when what we are thinking and feeling lines up with God or when it's our flesh or garbage from the enemy.
We also need to pray for God to help us control our emotions. Remember the Fruit of the Spirit? God has given us the fruit of self-control so that we don't have to be impulsive with our behaviors or emotions; we can deal properly with things and not let them keep us from following God's will. Through God's Word and prayer, we can begin to control our emotions, and as we do, we gain power over the flesh.
Gaining Power Over the Flesh
When God puts His finger on something in your life, such as an excessive habit or emotional addiction, you will have to wean your flesh off of it, much like a baby is weaned off a bottle or pacifier. This is because our flesh holds strongly to those emotions and believes it needs them to be satisfied.
A good example of this is when I weaned my children off of their pacifiers. The first night was horrible. They would scream and scream, then fall asleep, wake up and scream more. It was so hard to watch them struggle but eventually they would stop screaming and their cries became just a small sniffle.
This is just like our flesh. When we say no to our flesh, at first it will scream. But after we practice self-control over and over, through the power of the Holy Spirit, it becomes easier. Eventually, our flesh realizes it doesn't need that habit or addiction and we have our freedom.
The important thing to remember is that we will always have emotions and circumstances that try to stir us up to become impulsive and emotional, but God has given us the ability to manage those emotions. As we practice self-control in our emotions, God changes us and our relationship with Him grows deeper.
God always has your best interest at heart. That's why He wants to change you more than He does your circumstances. Then, when those inevitable emotions rise up, you can make choices on purpose, not impulsively. Choose to go deeper with Him so you can live beyond your emotions and enjoy the freedom it brings in your life!