The song “Feelings” was ubiquitous (and everywhere) in 1975. It was so cloying that Morris Albert lost the Grammy for Song of the Year to… wait for it, “Send in the Clowns.” No matter where you went, Morris Albert opined, “Feelings, nothing more than feelings. Trying to forget my feelings of love.” Despite the songs (mysterious) popularity, it’s theology is NOT sound.
Feelings aren’t nothing. Feelings aren’t pests that natter around in your brain. Feelings shouldn’t be ignored or treated as insignificant. Feelings are a part of the human experience, designed by God for our enjoyment and His glory. There is just one problem; our feelings can be an absolute mess. So, how do we gain mastery over our wonky emotions?
As I wrote in my booklet 13 Reasons to Not Commit Suicide, you are like a four-car train consisting of an engine, two passenger cars, and a caboose.
- Believing (Engine)
- Thinking (Car #1)
- Actions (Car #2)
- Emotions (Caboose)
Feel free to quibble with that order, but can we agree that emotions should not be the engine that drives your life? Here are some examination questions to determine if your life is powered by faith in God, or your feelings.
- When you experience an emotion, do you stop to analyze that feeling?
- Do you respond quickly while rarely stopping to analyze the situation?
- Would your family describe you as emotional?
- Is your predominate mood anxiety?
- Do you ever experience joy?
If your life is not marked by joy, then permit me to suggest THREE ways to stay unhappy.
- When an emotion arises, don’t think, just go with it.
- Never compare your emotions to truth.
- Never question your feelings.
Instead, you can have mastery over your emotions by subordinating your feelings to TRUTH. Permit me to give you an example. In our new TV series, Transformed, a young lady named Tori, who struggles with body image issues, doesn’t FEEL beautiful. Therefore, she is sad. Dr. Gifford pointedly asked her, “Why do YOU get to decide what is beautiful?”
That question stopped Tori in her tracks and forced her to realize she was not defining beauty by God’s standards, but by her own perceptions about beauty. When she believed the world was her authority, she thought she was overweight and ugly. This thought produced anxious and depressed emotions. It also led her to struggle with eating issues.
If Tori had asked the Bible how important outward appearance is to the Lord, she would read that physical beauty is of virtually no interest to God.
Your adornment must not be merely the external—braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on apparel;
but it should be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is precious in the sight of God.
-I Peter 3:3-4
What should Tori (and you) do with this truth? Apply it! Here is what that might look like.
When you hear yourself say, “You are fat and unattractive. Nobody thinks you’re pretty.” Stop and ask, “Who is the one who determines my beauty, and what does that authority have to say about me?” Then you can remember I Peter 3 and that God affirms your inner beauty, not your outward appearance. If someone thinks you are unattractive, then they just don’t know what real beauty is. Therefore, the opinions of others about your physical appearance are irrelevant.
Here is another example. When you hear yourself say, “I have been doing my best, but I am an utter failure in life.” Stop and ask, “Who am I letting define success, the world or God?” When you remember that God is not impressed by titles or paychecks, then you can ask, “What does God affirm?”
God delights in His children when they do their best to grow in Christlikeness and fruit of the Spirit. God doesn’t care how much money you make, He cares about how holy you are. If you have been striving to be faithful and grow in holiness, then you know you have God’s affirmation.
Who cares what the servants think when the King approves of you?
This is really just the tip of the iceberg regarding Biblical Counseling’s approach to emotional struggles. Transformed is our NEW thirteen episode TV series that dives deep into Biblical Counseling by actually showing Biblical Counseling. Here is a sample of the series: