Emotional Monarchy: 3 Steps to Prevent Emotions From Ruling Your Life

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God. Psalm 42:5 (MSG)

If you are familiar with me, you know I do deal with bouts of depression.  I don’t wear it as a badge to brag.  But I look at it as the opportunity for the strength of Christ to shine.  For his “power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I won’t remain silent about the hope and the healing I’ve discovered in Christ.  

It was a little more than a year ago, I shared my struggle in the post, “From the Heart of a Depressed Pastor.” To date, no other blog post has exceeded the thousands of hits and countless shares that article brought. It told me two things:

I am not alone in my struggle.  And neither are you.

After responding to a Facebook message about emotions last week, I thought I’d share some of those thoughts in a blog with an idea that, in some way, it may breathe hope.

Personally, I’m a uber emotional guy.  In other news, water is wet. 

I don’t mind it.  God created us as emotional beings. It seems that God as “blessed” certain people with more emotions than others.  But I don’t think there are those with more or less as if we all walk with varied levels of emotions (there’s some phd writing me an email right now about levels of emotion in humans) as if some have greater amounts than others.  I just think people steward them differently.  It’s all about how you handle them. Just in my non-phd opinion, bottling them up isn’t necessarily being a good steward of emotions just as much as letting them roam free and rule your life.  As I stated in a previous blog, we are to “honor God with (our) bodies.” We are stewards of what God gives us.  That includes our emotions.  

I understand feelings. Yet I cannot just write a “blank check” to them and let them have free reign. I have to see myself as a steward with the charge of managing who I am from the inside out.  Feelings/emotions are great but they cannot run our lives.  They must be brought into check.

We live in a society where feelings have become the foundation of truth in our culture.  It’s to the point where it seems like the worst think you can do to someone is “hurt their feelings.” In American culture, we think “truth is what I feel to be right.”  To some, this sounds like emotional salvation.  But really, it creates chaos.  If everyone, everywhere, acted upon EXACTLY what they were feeling all at the same time, it would be pandemonium. Disaster. Worse than a zombie apocalypse. 

I can’t count how many conversations I’ve had with people who are living in the misery of regret because, out of a “feeling”, they decided to do something and it produced consequences they never predicted.  In the moment, it “felt” right. But they quickly discovered that what felt correct wasn’t necessarily correct. 

How do you remedy this? How do you bring emotions into check?

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God. Psalm 42:5 (MSG)

3 Thoughts: 

FIRST, question your feelings. Psalm 42:5a, “Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues?”

We should remember to, in a healthy way, to question emotions/feelings. If we are hateful at someone, we should step back to question those bitter feelings and challenge them. If we are envious toward someone, call those feelings into question. Personally, I’ve learned to question what I’m feeling and the thoughts that come in my head. I can’t imagine acting out of EVERYTHING that floats through my mind. I love that the writer of Psalms 42-43 questions what he’s feeling FIVE times. He knows himself.  He recognizes his emotion and where they want to take him. 

SECOND, wrestle with your feelings. Psalm 42:5b, “Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again.”

Pray over your feelings, push through them, research what they’re desiring. Don’t just accept what they hand you. Talking it through with a pastor, mentor, or counselor is a great way to help “wrestle” though feelings. The reason why I love the Psalms, is the writer (usually David) wrestles between what he wants to do and what is the heart of God. “Fixing my eyes” isn’t easy when there’s a load of thought and emotions trying to drown you.  Wrestling is good. Workouts are good. They burn away what is unhealthy and build up what’s healthy. Keep pressing through despite what you “feel.”

THIRD, speak truth to your feelings. Psalm 42:5c, “Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again.”

This is so healthy because it’s bringing in something solid and foundational into the shifting sands of our mind and feelings. It’s healthy to confront our feelings with truth.  A simple example: If you want to take something that doesn’t belong to you, regardless of how you feel you deserve it, stealing is wrong. Confront it with truth. 

Think about this, Jesus on the night of his betrayal that led to the cross, out of his feelings, didn’t want to endure the crucifixion. But in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, he recognized that his feelings were not going to lead his life in the best and most blessed direction. He embraced truth. He embraced the plan of God despite the difficulty. I thank God he did.

Life isn’t easy and emotions don’t always help.  I love them, but they should not and cannot rule my life. The beauty of having a relationship with Christ, we don’t have to be alone.  He’s there in the valleys.  He’s there on the mountain. Just don’t let the worry and anxiety of what you don’t know about your situation replace what you do know about Jesus. Let his authority and grace help you steward your emotions. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

What I see on my right arm every day!
What I see on my right arm every day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God. Psalm 42:5 (MSG)

From the heart of a depressed pastor…

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I’ll say it up front: I’m a pastor.  I deal with depression.  

From the beginning of this blog I’ll say this: There is no way I can compare what I deal with to the likes of what others or yourself may go through.  But it’s what I personally face from time to time.  If you are dealing with depression, get help NOW.  

I can’t say that it’s been a recent thing.  I’ve dealt with it as long as I can remember.  For years (since I was a teen), I didn’t know who I could tell or if I had the freedom to tell anyone.  I was fearful of what people would think.  I thought people in the youth group would judge me.  I thought if I told my parents I would disappoint them. Depression is meant to isolate.  And for me, it succeeded at its job.   

My wife and kids have seen it in me.  My staff notices it.  It is hard to cover up. It’s not fun nor would I wish it upon anyone. 

Depression sucks (if you don’t like the word “sucks”…then “Depression displeases me immensely”). 

I’m in shock at the news of Robin William’s death.  In fact, my family can’t stop talking about it.  In a summer where my kids and I are going through movies from my past, we’ve found ourselves watching several of Robin’s movies. They love what he brings to the characters he portrays.  There are very few people who come along each generation that can entertain like Robin can.  

robin

Yet behind his humor was a man in pain.  Thus is the life of someone who deals with depression.  

When I fight depression, I feel alone.  I’m miserable.  Life seems joyless.  I cease to care about the little things. Anne will tell you that I pull away from everything.  I don’t want to talk or do anything.  I become a super-introvert and want to “hole-up” in the house away from people.  Yet when it’s time to rise to the occasion, the “game-face” gets put on and I push through as best as I can.

Why do I type this? Because you need a sneak-peak into my “funk” that too many people deal with. Even though my depression is mild in comparison to so many others, it has been only because of the Lord and the church that I’ve found help and healing. I fight through tears typing this when I think of so many intercessors and encouragers that have surrounded me in my darkest of days.  If you know of anyone dealing with depression…if you know anyone trying to cope with this darkness, you can be the changing agent in their life.  Please do not be silent.  Read up.  Recognize it.  Step up.  

A friend spoke into my darkness years ago with a specific scripture.  

Psalm 77:2-6 (MSG) I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord;  my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal. When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,” I didn’t believe a word they said. I remember God—and shake my head. I bow my head—then wring my hands.

I’m awake all night—not a wink of sleep; I can’t even say what’s bothering me.
I go over the days one by one, I ponder the years gone by.
I strum my lute all through the night, wondering how to get my life together.

The words of Asaph rung out to me.  I wasn’t alone.  Even great men of God dealt with depression.  Listen to what he says: 

v. 11-15 Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.

O God! Your way is holy! No god is great like God!
You’re the God who makes things happen; you showed everyone what you can do—
You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble, rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.

What has constantly pulled me out of my darkest days is what pulled Asaph out.  He rehearsed everything he knew of the Lord.  He reminded himself of who God is and who he is in the Lord.  The more I put my focus and the actions of my life upon who He is and who I am in Him, the more healing poured into my life. I understood that everything I do and think needs to be wrapped in the identity I found in Christ.   It’s amazing that from a simple chapter in Psalms that the Holy Spirit has helped illuminate my heart and my mind.  To this day, He continues to bring me hope and peace. 

Am I completely through it? Not yet.  I’d love to say “yes” but that’d be a lie.  I still face it but not as frequently.

For you dealing with this darkness: don’t give up hope.  Don’t let the memories and regrets be greater than the dreams that God has in store for you.  My peace has only come thought the saving presence of Christ who scripture calls, the Prince of Peace.  

For those who don’t deal with it: I praise God for men and women who have the “guts” to step up, see what I’m going though, and refuse to simply pass by.   Don’t turn a blind eye.  Reach out.  You don’t even need to say anything wise or pithy.  Offer to sit.  Offer to pray.  Your very presence as a representation of Christ’s presence, many times, is enough.  

The more we bring depression into the light, the less people will feel they have to live in darkness.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

I know it’s just a blog, but if it helps just one…

…if it give hope to just one…

…if it motivates just one to reach out…

…if it saves just one…

…it’s worth it.

Thanks for letting me ramble…