A follow up on emotional states. Emotional intelligence seems to be on the decline these days. Our hearts need temperance the same way out lusts do. We are told to renew our minds according to Christ. Our hearts and minds will be tempted to think their own sinful thoughts in their own sinful ways. The call continually for Christians is to Renew our minds.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
We are taught that our subjective feelings are unreliable. Wrong thinking needs to be fled from just like lusts. We are taught that we need to discern our surroundings to determine the will of God. This requires the skill of rightly reading yourself, your situation, and knowing the Word (God’s will) to then rightly judge and order your own mental state. God’s will is always going to be good acceptable and perfect. But this may take some investigative work.
Our minds left alone will interpret things according to the course of the world, the airs of the day, and we know how backward those are. The pulse of the day is about needing to justify our feelings rather than ordering them according to God’s will. The feelings of the age are that we are supposed to self-actualize and thus find happiness and fulfillment in our own peace of mind, and our own self-determined reality. This means our ebbing and flowing emotions must never be checked.
What this further means, is that very often varying options and even cold hard truths are rejected and fought against. You can’t point out the obvious or even the science because feelings are paramount. A man can dress like a woman and then win at women’s sports and we all must applaud. A woman can be a man because of feelings.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17)
Did you see that? The Lord tries the reins. The Lord tests if our hearts will move towards him in obedience or if we will remain being deceived by our own hearts. Will we keep letting the whims of the day determine what is right and thus affect our mental health in some respect? How we engage our emotions can be left to the Lord or we can continue to let our wicked intentions rule.
A skewed version of right and wrong is not the only one way this goes. Taking offense at personal choice is becoming the new inroads to depth because we all feel that pain is depth. The Bible instructs us not to take everything to heart lest we hear our servant cursing us. In other words don’t be so weak hearted that, when and not if, but when you hear someone undermine you, it doesn’t need to shoot you into a tailspin.
21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. (Ecclesiastes 7)
The word of God acknowledges the problem. People are going to disagree with you, people are going to challenge you and worse people will probably often curse you behind your back. This is a call for us to grow another layer of skin because it is going to happen, it just is. God wants his people emotionally intelligent. He wants his people prepared ahead of time that these kinds of trial await us. Solomon in his wisdom from God says be prepared that those under you, those around you, those you encounter will not always be on your side.
He further makes the point that even us in our so-called perfection, we have cursed others too. We have done it too. As we reflect on this, we should gain a heart of wisdom discovering that in our momentary frustration with another, was not to bring about their ruin. It was not to destroy and I hope, at least I pray, that our intentions were not to destabilize another to despair. As we discover our own motives tend to be misunderstood then let us grant that grace to others who simply have a foreign opinion.
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; (1 John 3)
Our hearts may condemn us, but God is, in fact, greater than our hearts. This is a challenging one because our hearts can be both sometimes right and wrong. But how do we know this? This again points us back to knowing the truth of the scriptures. I can be ignorant of the truth of the scriptures and have my heart affirm me, or I can be aware and convinced of the scriptures and have my heat undermine me. Likewise, I cannot know the scriptures and have my heart uphold me because of something else, or I can acknowledge the scriptures and still have my heart lie to me or perhaps it might tell the truth, who knows?
Our emotions and viewpoints change. It is God’s truth that sorts this all out. When God says come to me to find that steady ground. Come to me and hand the reins over, come to me all you who are weary and heaven burdened, he knows what he is talking about. When he tells us something is forgiven, we can move on. When he tells us we are loved and accepted, it is not because we had a good day at work, or it’s Friday. This is how we gain true confidence.
It is his truth that is supposed to carry us through tumultuous thought, tumultuous temptations, to keep us from retreating into our own ways of dead-end thinking, or simply seeking out catharsis as I wrote about last time. We cannot even know our motives all the time so our emotions must be kept in check, not as a springboard for all reactionary life activity. If not, then right and wrong will remain elusive, up and down tenuous, and girl and boy volitional, and worse our stability overly emotional and reactive. The more we give way to our subjective feelings to define our foundations the more we are shaken when those feelings are met with differing ideas.
So the question becomes what is driving us? Is it our emotional state of seeking acceptance by self-actualization? Or is our person-hood established by another? Are we images of God, or are we images of men? What makes us, us? Who makes us, us? Who are we? What do those ideas have that support them, and then further what must be done to defend them? If God is my anchor I do not need to fight against everyone who disagrees with me. But if my anchor is in a subjective interpretation of what I decide is best, I what I feel is me, well…all kinds of things will undermine that. All kinds of thing will destabilize that, and all kinds of peace with be lost.
I don’t want to be like Rodin in the depiction from Dante’s Inferno who sat and thought while the gates of hell were opened behind him. Perhaps it is that lack of decision that places him deep in thought in the middle of chaos breaking out all around him? He couldn’t come to a decision, so the terror grew, and the stability shrank until only death remained. Some have mused that the thinker is Adam contemplating the destruction wrought because of his sin with Eve and the fall of humanity. If true it is a sad statement that Adam sits and contemplates in the aftermath instead of having ruled his emotions in the first place.
My hope must be built on nothing less than Jesus Christ. His righteousness places me in the calm during the storm. His presence sustains me during the winds. His Spirit upholds me during the opposition. His truth gives me the help to reorder my thinking and help avoid these tumultuous thought storms. I must check my motives for overflowing emotions, and see if perhaps a more suitable anchor is available. In this case, Jesus calls us to place our hopes in him, our identity in him, and our security in him.
Sit and think about it, but come and find Christ, find that peace, love, and a better life.