What To Do When Your Emotions Take You Prisoner

Your emotions are like keys on the piano. Their sound can add richness to your life or they can depress you, make you feel off key, and out of sync. Often there is no particular reason that your emotions act like they act. They’re just …well, emotional.

Most often they are a blessing. You see a big snake looking hungrily at the calf of your leg and the emotion of fear screams, “Run stupid!”

That’s good.

Your child wraps his stubby little arms around your neck and squeezes. Warm emotions of love and thankfulness wash through you. You’d die for that little guy. Emotions allow you to experience that.

But, sometimes our emotions take a sinister turn and instead of being our servant, they rise up to become our masters. They warp our vision of life. They’re great servants but horrible masters.

I went through a time like that in my life. I wanted something really bad and I worked hard to get it. But, it was like chipping away at a mountain with a tiny hammer. Nothing seemed to change—unless it got worse.

I looked around and others were achieving what I wanted and I was miserable.
Finally, I was so depressed that I was tired of life. I didn’t want to kill myself. To me that’s one of the cruelest acts possible. You hurt those you love terribly and there’s no chance to change the situation. It’s egoism in the highest degree.

Honestly though, I wanted to cease to exist for a while. If I could have taken the famous wings of a dove to fly away into the wilderness with the Psalmist, I would have been tempted. (Ps. 55:6, 7)

Finally, I got through it. God healed my emotions and he helped me stuff them back into the box where they belonged. But, there are still times when they forget their place and try to take over.

What can we do when our emotions take us prisoner?

1–Take control of your soul and tell him what to do. Do what is right until you feel what is right!

David was the boss of himself, “Bless the Lord, O, my soul … “ he commanded his soul  which didn’t seem to want to bless the Lord. There are times when we need to speak up and our emotions say, “Shut up!” There are times when we keep quiet, and  our emotions say, “Take their head off!”

Paul was rotting in the bottom of a prison and he counseled some friends, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4) Now, remember that these are the words of God Himself that Paul is relaying. If he says it, it must be possible.

“But, David, I can make myself rejoice.” Why not? You can make yourself miserable can’t you? You can fill your mind with negativism and worry and soon you’ve got the beginning of a good depression (or at least a ‘recession’).

He didn’t say, “Rejoice in your situation.” because a lot of us have situations that aren’t very joyous. He said to rejoice in the Lord Jesus. Remember what He’s done for us. Remember what He’s promised. Enjoy His presence. Rejoice!

2—Be careful about what you think about all day.

We CAN control what we think about.
If God said to do it, it must be possible.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Phil. 4:8, 9 The Message)

If you’re filling your mind with, “Desperate Housewives,” office and church gossip, and the latest political polls, well then, “Hello depression.” But, if you discipline yourself to think about the beautiful, the praiseworthy, the people who do things right, faithful people, and faith-filled people, your hormones are going to be hopping with enthusiasm to do something for God.

What do you think about all day? Break loose from the negative and fill yourself with faith.

3. Quit worrying.

When we’re facing something we got to think about it until we decide what to do, but sometimes those worries seize us and shake us all day, like a raggedy rag doll.
“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6,7 Phillips).

How do we do that ? We take it to God in serious prayer. Not, just religious prayers that don’t have enough heat to warm an ant. No, prayers that act like they’re trying to get God’s attention. Tell Him!

But don’t forget to thank Him. One of the most horrible sins of today is that we’ve forgotten to thank God for what He’s done and doing for us. (Rom. 1:21) That sin opens the door to let in a horde of others. Stop during the day and thank the Lord, for little things and big things.

4. Separate yourself emotionally from what’s dominating you.

If you’re too invested, your emotions will always play you and dominate you.
–Ask yourself the question, “And if the worst happened, would it be the end of life as we know it? What is the worst that could happen?” Do what you must to win. Reflect on what God has said about your situation and then continually affirm that. Repeat His promise over and over. Find a song that speaks to your situation and sing it. Recently I went through a rough patch and I remembered an old song by the Imperials:
“He didn’t bring us this far to leave us
He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown
He didn’t build His home in us to move away
He didn’t lift us up to let us down.”
Phil Johnson © 1978 BMG Music

5. Remember what you do have.

When we get fixated on what we don’t have, we ignore some incredible things we do have. A friend told me how his mother’s life spiraled out of control after the death of his brother in a motorcycle accident. She lost her marriage. Sure, the pain was horrible. We should never minimize that. But, after a period of mourning we have begin to get our balance back again.

In retrospect, those years that I hurt, were some of the best years in my family. We were trying to do something tough ministry-wise. I had always wanted to be known as “successful” but no matter how hard I worked, it seemed that the ministry was growing at a snail’s pace.

But, what joy with my kids and wife! Those teenage years were the best of all, and while one part of me suffered and wanted to die, another part of me rejoiced in three of the most incredible gifts that God could give a married couple.

Like a dog howling at the moon, most of us hurt because there’s something we want bad and we can’t seem to get it.

Can I make a suggestion? Really, really look around and then enjoy what you DO have. It may be better than what you think you want.

6. Cry out to God for emotional healing, then keep this healing by fighting for your health every day.

7. Don’t be selfish. Take what you receive and give it to someone else. You receive a healing fountain. The healing is still there when you’re finished. Take it and use it to water others.

“…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Cor.1:3,4, NIV)

A friend told me the story of a lady who had lost a child. It tore her heart but she received comfort from the Lord. One day this lady saw a story in the paper about another family who had lost a child. She felt the Lord urge her to go to this family and comfort them, even though she didn’t know them personally.

That became a ministry. She used the comfort God had given her to comfort others. May her tribe increase!

It may seem to you that your emotions are stronger than you are. It’s time to stand up and become the master of yourself again with the help of God’s Spirit. It may be a long battle but it’s the difference between an abundant life and a miserable life. The battle can’t be worse than your misery, can it?

Hmmm …
“Jesus doesn’t like it when we use His Father’s word to get around doing His Father’s will.” Andy Stanley


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