As she fidgeted in the chair, she said “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s like I worry about everything. I’m anxious all the time. I wonder sometimes if God even knows what’s going on with me.”
Not only did she sound anxious but she looked tired. I could sense her anxiety when she walked into the door. This was a woman I was assessing for mental health services years ago. In fact, most of the women I assessed during that time were struggling overwhelmingly with worry that had turned into anxiety which had become was so out of control that they had turned to medication.
Anxiety is just one emotion that can entangle and choke the life out of you. So does depression, so does anger. As I’ve mentioned before emotions are meant to inform us – they are indicators to tell us what is wrong in our environment that we may need to change.
Usually the “change” that’s needed is a change in our perspective. And this is what God intended for our emotions – to draw us back to Him. He made no mistake in our design by implanting us with feelings.
He wants us to know Him as our Comforter when we are depressed, as the All Sufficient One when we are afraid, and as the God of Peace when we are angry.
What stops us from experiencing God in those ways is that we have allowed our emotions to become our god. So you ask, well then how can I allow God to be in control of my emotions? I’m glad you asked!
1. Recognize Your Primary Emotions
Often we use the secondary emotions to describe feeling angry, sad, or afraid, but there is usually some other primary emotion buried underneath. When you are beginning to feel more depressed than sad, ask yourself “What is it that I’m depressed about? What am I really feeling?” You may find that your primary emotion is not sadness but disappointment. You’re disappointed because your expectations weren’t met. If you aren’t careful, your expectations can become an idol.
Here’s the thing:
God promises to supply our every need NOT our every expectation.
When we learn to recognize what lies beneath those uncontrollable feelings are unmet expectations we can then go to God with certainty that He will fulfill His desires for us and NOT our desires for ourselves. Christ came that we might be saved and be conformed into His image – not to give us everything we want.
2. Do Not Displace Negative Emotions
You know when you have had a disagreement the night before with a spouse or significant other and the next morning you go to work and snap at your coworkers and manager for no good reason – that is displacement of emotions.
This is why Paul says in Ephesians not to let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26b). Because #1 – a root of bitterness can spring up (Hebrews 12:15) and #2 – you will find yourself angry all the time and at the wrong people.
Proverbs 29:22 says “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” When emotions are out of control, the impact is far beyond what you can imagine. Displaced emotions can hurt our ability to be an effective witness for Christ.
The good news, however, is that even if you are struggling with negative emotions it is important to allow unbelievers see you apologize; hear you admit that you were wrong and see you ask for forgiveness.
As Christ followers, we should be eager to admit our wrongs, after all the Bible admonishes us to do so (John 5:16).
3. Identify Your Triggers
Acknowledge situations and circumstances that trigger you are negative emotions. There have been seasons in my life where my business income has been low and even non-existent. Most people think when you run your own business , you’re living this fabulous and fantastic life but I’ll be the first to tell you it is the epitome of a faith walk.
When money would run low, I would get extremely anxious thinking “How am I going to pay my power bill this month? Will I be able to make my mortgage payment? Do I have enough to buy groceries this week?”
My stomach would be in knots and sometimes I would even isolate myself – not wanting to talk to anyone…not even God. I would allow worry to turn into anxiety and anxiety to turn into fear…and the fear had full control. Then God began to show me that every time I had a money issue, I would follow the same exact pattern in response to it.
I was expecting God to be genie in a bottle instead of the God of my Provision.
Becoming aware of my situational triggers drew me closer to God and showed me it was my lack of faith that caused me to worry and NOT the lack of money.
4. Devise a Plan to Deal with Recurring Triggers
Once you acknowledge the circumstances that trigger your negative emotions, you must set a plan and prepare yourself to respond. Satan has a field day when we are overcome by our emotions. He knows that every second they’re in control that he can sneak in with lies and deceit that will cause separation from God. Remember that this is a battle and that God has given us the armor to stand against the devil and his army.
In order to do that you have to decide how you will respond to the things and people that trigger negative emotions.
Will you remove yourself from a situation to calm down if you’re angry?
Will get up and exercise or take a walk when feeling depressed?
Will you take the risk and trust God when you fear?
Whatever you do, make a plan, write it down and find corresponding scriptures to declare victory over those emotions.
Emotions remind us that we are human, but as Christ followers we are guided by the Spirit. To help you gain control over your emotions, you can download our Emotional Flowchart Guide.