emotional problems

I once spoke with a lady who said, “I was angry at God, but there was nothing I could do about it.”
“Why couldn’t you do something about it?” I asked.
“Until God changed my heart, there was nothing I could do. I can’t change the way I feel. So, I just had to pray and wait for God to take away the hate and anger toward Him.”
I’ve encountered too many people who believe that there is nothing they can do to change the way they feel. Over and over again I’ve hear, “That is just the way I feel, I can’t help it.”
I was reading Timothy Keller’s new book, The Meaning of Marriage today. I find most of Keller’s writing to be insightful and helpful and this book was no exception. Then I came across a phrase that stopped me: “Emotions cannot be commanded [by God].” As much as such a phrase bothers me, I decided to read on. But then I came across another phrase that stopped me yet again: “Our emotions are not under our control.”
Many Christians continue to say these things. Honestly, I think this is one of the more damaging ways to view our emotions. So, I want to take each of the statements and critique briefly critique them:
“Emotions cannot be commanded”?
Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body…”
Matthew 28:10, “Do not be afraid.”
Matthew 6:25, “Don’t worry about your life.”
Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything.”
Ephesians 4:26, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”

In light of many verse like this, I’m not sure why Keller would make such a statement. The Bible often commands us to change how we feel.

“Our emotions are not under our control.”
This statement also seems unreasonable. If we cannot control our emotions than how can we be accountable for anger, depression, fear, anxiety, and the way these emotions control us. If we have a complete portion of our inner life that cannot be controlled then we are subject to destroy ourselves and others at any given time.

Emotions are not uncontrolled feelings at the mercy of the whims of circumstance. They are, as I have said before, the result of perception (our point of view) and desire (what we want). If you can change the way you view some aspect of life, you will change the way you feel. If you change what you want or how you want it, you will change the emotion.
We can change our emotions by seeing a situation from a new perspective, gaining new knowledge or insight, or simply changing how we view people or circumstance. We can change our emotions by changing what we want. In fact, we do it all of the time. Sometimes it takes time and effort, but it is not impossible and we should not wave a flag of surrender before we have even made an attempt.
Especially when the Bible tells us otherwise.


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