Do you believe people can hurt you? Do you believe you are powerless over your emotions?
If you feel that way, you are not alone. I have believed that lie too.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, 13, BSB
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. I’m sure you’ve heard it at a few wedding ceremonies too. But then what does love often look like, even within the church? Even within my own life? We get hurt and we hurt one another. We are not patient or kind. Our love is conditional and often based on our own needs/expectations. We demand our own way at the expense of others. We take offense and are slow to forgive. We set up boundaries and cut people out of our lives to protect ourselves from getting hurt again.
It seems that we’ve written off the definition of love in 1 Corinthians as an impossible standard.
But if Jesus gives us the commandment to love one another as He has loved us (to the point of laying down His life) and the purpose of the commandment is love (John 15:12, 1 Tim 1:5), wouldn’t He also make a way for our love to look like this?
In Romans 8:38-39, it says that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God, and in John 15 it says if we abide in Him we will bear fruit. What if we could be so rooted and grounded in love that only love came out of us when people hurt us or life got hard?
I’d like to propose that contrary to what we’ve believed we can become love. We can live loved even when we are not receiving it in horizontal relationships because the cross gives us a complete revelation of the Father’s love for us. In His love, He covered our sin and paid the high price for our transformation into His image. That is what we were created for (Romans 8:39).
James 3:13-18 shows us that self-seeking should not be characteristic of the believer but is what has been taught to us by life. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (v.17).'But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.' James 3:17Click To Tweet
For years before I began my freedom journey, I argued for my “right” to righteous anger. The example of Jesus turning tables in the temple was the basis of my defense. Now I understand that Jesus’ anger in the temple was about the exploitation of the poor, not out of any concern for an offense against Himself. I see that as a believer I am to put off anger, and malice and wrath, and that the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (Col 3:8, James 1:20). Complaining and disputing should not be characteristic of the church (Phil 2:14). And it is love that covers a multitude of sin, not our anger (1 Peter 3:8).
We are called to shine as lights in the darkness (Phil 2:15).
So let’s get angry about injustice but simultaneously recognize that we know the answer and the answer is LOVE. No fruit is produced from staying in anger, sadness, frustration, depression, complaint, despair, fear or any other negative emotion that the world has taught us is “normal”. Let’s take these thoughts/emotions captive and find joy in surrendering them.
This week while reading a personal development (or self-help) book called High Performance Habits, I was amazed at the level of understanding that the secular world has in emotional self-control. I have sat under teaching in the Christian church that says that there is no hope for victory in this until heaven. Which is just 100 percent a lie from the devil. As we’ve just read and as you can see in the passage from 2 Peter below, the church should look different than the world in this and from my experience, we often don’t.
Anyway, the author of High Performance Habits presents the idea that emotions are automatic responses that we can’t control, but feelings (defined as our interpretation of the emotions) are completely up to us. He suggests thinking intentionally about how you want the other person to feel and how you want to feel in a given situation, in spite of what emotions might arise.
Honestly, this makes so much sense in light of the gospel. If we take these thoughts (emotions) captive in obedience to Christ, that means laying them down in favor of love.
Now this is not a stiffling of emotion – which can be just as dangerous as letting them all out – but more of a releasing of the emotion to the One who can heal/renew your heart/mind/body in regards to it. And don’t hear me wrong, I am not talking about a prayer sesh that is focused on how the other person hurt us and needs to change (this is selfishness). I’m talking about allowing God to heal our hearts and renew our minds to see them as He sees them. Created in His image and worthy of the sacrifice of His Son.
So let’s think about the application of the idea presented in High Performance Habits. This week a friend responded to me in a way that caused hurt which initially presented as anger in my mind. I was tempted to ruminate on that feeling, throw myself a pity party, and not get anything accomplished that I had planned to that evening. But then I thought about intentionally taking control of these emotions using the questions. How did I want the other person to feel in any of our interactions? Loved. How did I want to feel in any interactions with them? Free. Free from the bondage of any anger, unforgiveness, or fear of how I could be hurt further.
For the spirit of fear and self protection from future hurt is not of God. We were given a Spirit of power and love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7)
So in a matter of seconds I had gone from almost letting the emotion overwhelm me to having control of that emotion.
As believers we can trust that the power of heaven will multiply any effort we put behind realizing/becoming the best version of ourselves. The best version of us is His image which He paid for us to be conformed to.
2 Corinthians 3:18
We’ve taken this idea that we will never be perfect in this as an excuse to not even bother trying, I’ve done this myself. We are correct in believing that He is not asking us to be perfect. He is asking for our effort and our willingness to allow the Spirit that He has given us to transform us and flow from us. And in His goodness He is taking us from glory to glory, and perfecting us in the faith (2 Cor 3:18, James 2:22).
5 Steps to Having Power Over Your Emotions
- Believe that you can. We saw many scripture references above that indicate that this is something God desires for us to pursue. Couple that will praying expectantly as we talked about last week and believing you will receive what you pray for (Mark 11:24).
- Collect/gather resources and tools. Watch this teaching from Dan Mohler (I promise it will be worth 30 minutes of your life). Write out some of the verses mentioned in this post and put them all over your home. Use tools like the questions presented in High Performance Habits (which, I have not yet finished but so far so good!!)
- Keep the created value of others front and center in your mind. All men were created in His image and He sacrificed that all might return to Him (Genesis 1:26, John 3:16, 1 Peter 3:9).
- Seek a greater revelation (or understanding) of God’s love for you. He doesn’t ask us to do any of this on our own. We can be so filled in Him that we are overflowing of His goodness toward others.
- Practice! Practice! Practice! Here is the thing there is literally no harm in being mindful of this and trying. Right?! And IF we stumble we have an advocate with the Father in Christ Jesus.
What is your experience with having power over your emotions? Is there anyway that I can be praying for you concerning this? Let me know below!