Season: 9 Episode: 136
Listen to episode 136 in Spanish:
Emotions can get the best of us and in a culture where emotion and desire leads the way, we aren’t told that emotions must be disciplined. Shanda shares what the Bible says about disciplining emotions and what that looks like.
“Emotions should not be treated as a guide to reality; but a response to reality.”
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Hey guys! Welcome back to another episode of Her Faith Inspires podcast where we take cultural issues and align them to biblical truth. I have a great episode for you today on how to discipline your emotions. Before we get into that, if you are thinking about signing your middle schoolers up for the online course on how to defend their faith taught by me … go to onlinechristiancourses.school to register. We are only taking 20 students for this course and it is based off of Frank Turek and Norman Geislers book IDHEF to be an atheist. It’s time to equip our children to know what to believe and why.
Also, I am starting an exclusive membership in the fall where you can join a monthly LIVE zoom Q & A with me, as well as apologetics tips and an exclusive FB group. Go to shandafulbright.com and subscribe so you don’t miss it when we drop the registration.
So how do we discipline our emotions?
I am not a counselor, psychologist, sociologist, doctor, psychotherapist or whatever you have to have behind your name to talk about emotions and feelings, but I am a human being with emotions and I read the Bible and there are some things in the Bible to help guide us on how to discipline our emotions.
The fun thing about the Bible is that it covers all the academic majors: psychology – the mind. Sociology – behavior. Education – knowledge. I mean, how blessed are we that we don’t even have to go to college to learn how to handle the everyday things many men and women spend years and thousands of dollars on to learn? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that you can become an expert in any of these fields just by reading the Bible, but I am saying can gain insight into what God says about them and have a basic understanding of what we can do to live the life God desires for us.
We live in a highly emotional culture where feelings have to be validated or you’re called unloving.
We are no longer guided by truth but in how we feel. If you ask anyone if it’s wrong to have an abortion, people will tell you the women can do what she feels is right for her. If you ask anyone what they think about gender, they tell you gender is what you feel you are. Now, I’ve already discussed these topics and I don’t want to go back to them, so my point is that a post modern culture is guided by feelings, not truth. That’s a dangerous and difficult place to be in because truth is determined by each individual. I’ve talked extensively about this too, so I don’t want to go back to it today. My point is that emotions are such a part of our culture that we don’t discipline them. We don’t practice self-control with our emotions, we allow them to lead us, to be our guide, and to determine reality. That’s not what emotions are for and it is important to discuss what the Bible says about disciplining them.
We’re going to discuss these things about emotions:
- How culture uses emotions to define reality (truth).
- What the Bible says about disciplining our emotions and what that looks like.
- How to take steps toward putting your emotions in check.
How does culture use emotion to define reality?
I had to study IDHEF to be an atheist last year for CIA and I just finished writing a curriculum for 6th-8th graders based on the book, meaning I have had to study it thoroughly for 2 years now. As I was writing this, I remembered David Hume’s empirical verifiability argument that states truth is based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic. So what does that mean? It means that truth is determined by what you experience and observe. Nothing else.
David Hume was a skeptic and he believed there were only two ways to determine truth. One way was through abstract reasoning (mathematical equations) and the other way was verified empirically through the five senses. Now, why do I bring this up? Because people have always trusted their own perception of truth for centuries. I actually posed this question in my CIA group in Facebook and the apologists in the group don’t believe this is related to emotional experience but to what is verified through the senses. However, I do think post modernism has also given way to trusting in our feelings to determine truth. So it’s related in that regard, but not exactly what Hume meant.
And although Hume’s idea of empirical verifiability isn’t exactly the same as our current culture using emotions to verify truth, it is still grounded in the idea that verifying truth is related to seeking an emotional experience. It may give you an experience, but it doesn’t verify truth. There’s a difference and hopefully you see that.
My point is that we have always redefined truth based on what we think truth should be instead of what God says truth is.
In our culture today, we allow feelings and emotions to define truth and that is the main reason we get people saying things like, “your truth” and “my truth”.
It’s no surprise that we have nurtured a culture of emotional beings with no emotion discipline. I remember when I was young being coached on how to talk out disputes with others I was in conflict with. The sentence starter for the discussion was, “I feel _______.” And the adult who coached me on how to talk about these things said that if I tell someone how I feel, they can’t argue with that because that’s how I feel even if they don’t see it that way. It wasn’t until I got older that I began to realize that that is not a surefire way to resolve conflict. I’ve had a family member tell me I hurt their feelings when I hung out with my own friends, or when I said something that was never meant to be taken in any offensive way.
Am I supposed to apologize because someone got offended or took offense at something that was never meant to be offensive?
My point is that just because you start by saying, “I feel ______” does not mean you should be validated because of your feelings. It could be that our feelings are misleading. It could be that we are wrong in how we feel. Our perception can be off. But how do we know the difference? We’re going to talk about that in a bit.
In our current cultural moment, we are validating the feelings and desires of children who say they want to be the opposite sex. When you hear people talk about hot button issues, listen to the way they phrase their sentences. It’s always with words that will stir emotion rather than logic. There aren’t many facts. An example: for children who want to transition, parents say things like, “I’d rather have a living daughter than a dead son” – meaning they better allow their biological son to become a woman so he won’t kill himself.
If that doesn’t stir the emotions and pull on the heartstrings, what does?
I don’t have time to go into the stats on those who actually commit suicide after transitioning, but those would be facts left out of this emotional plea to allow transgenderism because that’s what sells in this country. That’s what people base their beliefs on .. emotions.
The culture is independent and autonomous, meaning you get to decide and no one can judge you. That’s why feelings rule the day and emotions guide truth. If people feel passionately about something, does the logic matter anymore? Not really. Actually, not at all.
God gave us our emotions, but not to be the litmus test for truth.
So let’s take a look at the next point: what does the Bible say about disciplining our emotions and what does that look like?
There are a lot of verses in the Bible that talk about emotions and I don’t want to imply that they’re not useful, necessary or even given to us by God. But we are supposed to control our emotions and not be carried away by them. If you watch Dateline, you know that reacting in the heat of the moment can lead to a lot of regret.
Emotions are useful because they alert us. The Bible doesn’t tell us not to get angry. We should get angry over unrighteous and evil acts. The pro-choice movement makes me angry because innocent babies are being ripped from their mothers womb limb by limb while their skulls are being crushed. If that doesn’t cause you to feel something like anger, grief, or sadness, then we’ve become desensitized.
Fear alerts us to danger and we are supposed to defend and protect ourselves and others when we experience real danger.
So emotions and useful, but they are not guides to determine reality. They’re a response to reality.
I’m currently studying the book of James and we see where James says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” That’s in James 1:19-20.
Anger is an emotion. Do you know how difficult it is to control the emotion of anger? Yet God doesn’t tell us not to be angry, He tells us how to handle our anger. Verse 20 is one I never quote much when I quote verse 19, but it tells us the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. So is there such a thing as righteous anger? Sure, there is. Its the opposite of the anger of man.
So how do we discipline our anger?
The book of James tells us to bridle the tongue. If we can control the tongue, we’ll control the emotion of anger. Chapter 3 tells us the tongue can’t be tamed but it can be controlled. That’s where the fruits of the Spirit come in – self control is how we disciple the emotion of anger.
But that’s one emotion. What’s another one? How about grief and sorrow?
1 Thess 4:13-18 tells us, ‘Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.’
Paul then goes on to say, “encourage one another with these things.”
The grief of the world and the grief of the Christian are not the same. We do not despair or get discouraged in our grief. And this is specifically speaking of the death of a loved one, but I belie it is in all grief. Emotions are overwhelming and very powerful. They are the part of life that causes experience and depth. They remind us that we’re human. But emotions can cloud our thinking. But Paul says we don’t grieve as the rest of the world because of what we believe about Christ – that He will come again and bring with those who have died believing in Him.
In our grief and sorrow, we don’t crumble because of what we feel, but we are encouraged by what we know.
The disciple of emotion in those moments is how we handle the grief.
We are allowed to cry and mourn, but even in the Bible, there was an appointed time for mourning. When Moses died, the people mourned for him for 30 days. I’ve always thought that was strange because I was like – what if they’re still sad? And they probably were sad still. That didn’t mean they couldn’t be sad anymore, but they had to get along with life instead of stay there.
Ecclesiastes tells us there’s a time for weeping, but eventually we have to stop weeping and get on with life, knowing that God will strengthen us and be with us. Even in sorrow, we disciple our grief and emotions with what we know – not what we feel. And that is hard.
Fear is an emotion that is difficult to control.
Anxiety is also related to this because anxiety is usually the fear of the unknown or the “what ifs”. The verses in the Bible that deal with fear often go something like this: don’t be afraid. That’s it. I don’t find that to be helpful. Anyone else? Like how do you not fear when you’re afraid or when you think you’re facing imminent danger? It’s really hard.
The bible does tell us to fear the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. It is beneficial to know who God is and to believe his word. We are to fear God instead of man. Now is this the trembling, shaking, knee wobbling fear? No, but we have to remember that we should fear God. He is all powerful, sees the hidden things, searches the thoughts and hearts of man and will hold us all accountable. We should be afraid when we assume God won’t demand justice – because He will.
But the fear of the Lord is not built on emotion – it’s knowledge of God.
On the other hand, unhealthy fear is what we are to avoid. It is sometimes called the spirit of fear which does not mean a spirit as in an evil spirit of fear, but a lack of knowledge and understanding in who God is. It is a timid and fearful spirit of man that puts his eyes on his circumstances and surroundings instead of who God is. The emotion of fear is controlled when we put our trust and hope in who God is.
What steps should you take when putting your emotions in check?
Just like everything in this fallen world, emotions have been affected by sin. They come from a fallen nature. If you look at the fruits of the Spirit, you will see that all of the fruits mentioned in Galatians 5 are very similar to emotions, but they’re not emotions.
The fruits are: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Now self-control is what keeps good things from getting out of control. For example, we need food to live, but gluttony is a sin. Drinking alcohol isn’t a sin, but getting drunk is. Self-control is what keeps good things from turning into sin. Emotions are no different. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit because the Spirit produces it as we stay connected to the Vine – Christ.
Gentleness is in direct opposition to anger.
Someone who is gentle is not going to be a hothead or allow anger to control the situation. The fruits of the Spirit don’t take away the emotion. It helps disciple them.
Kindness also helps temper anger. So does love. Peace helps temper fear. Temper means a person’s state of mind seen in their terms of being angry or calm. So the Holy Spirit produces these fruits in our lives to help us navigate and control our emotions. When we learn to control our mouths and stay quiet in the heat of the moment, we are actually disciplining our emotions.
And again, let me say that it is not easy.
We cannot produce these fruits of the Spirit without the spirit and we cannot produce the fruits of the Spirit unless we are attached to the vine. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The world does not attach itself to Christ. Christianity is becoming less and less appealing which means it is becoming less and less culturally relevant. What does that mean? It means an emotional society who determines truth by what they feel instead of the fear of the Lord.
Christians look different than the rest of the world. We love God with all our hearts, souls and minds. What we know about God will keep us in line with truth even when we don’t feel Him and even when fear, anger, and grief are so real.
And just because I talk about these things does not mean I have mastered them myself.
It only means that I am learning how to discipline my emotions instead of being led astray by them.
My personal motto is to never make a decision with tears streaming down my cheeks. Even in my excitement I can take on too much and regret it as soon as the excitement fades … because it will.
So, I encourage you to evaluate your connection to the Vine. Read all of John 15 when you get a chance and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and produce in you the fruit that will keep you grounded when emotion comes to sweep you away. Emotions are good, but they do not determine truth. They are a response to it.
If you have any questions about this or anything else I speak about, email me at email@example.com. And I’ll catch you on the next one!