“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22
This week we begin a series on emotions–what the Bible says about them and how they impact our marriages. This is an appropriate topic as we enter the month of February. This is, after all, when we begin to focus on the next major holiday–Valentine’s Day.
As Sabra and I went shopping just a few days after New Year’s, we noticed all evidence of the Christmas season was gone. Instead the aisles were filled with heart-shaped boxes of candy and Valentine’s cards. Even the checkout lines were an explosion of red and pink hearts and Cupids. Is there any holiday more attached to an emotion than Valentine’s Day–the holiday of love?
Of course, love is just one emotion we experience. There are so many others–good and bad.
Emotions are part of being human. And marriage is greatly impacted by them. So let’s look at our emotions to see how God intends them to be used in marriage.
God Created Us to Have Emotions
God created us. He created us to experience emotions. And He created marriage. Therefore, He must have intended emotions to be a part of marriage.
Genesis 1:31 tells us: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Since man, woman, marriage, and emotions were part of His creation we can conclude that they were and are good.
But along with everything else in His creation, emotions were perverted when man brought sin into the world.
Paul writes about it in Romans 8:19-23: “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
So we still enjoy the original emotions God intended for us to have, such as love and joy. But we also struggle with the emotions brought by our sin, such as anger, grief, pain, and fear.
This leaves us with a possible misunderstanding of what emotions are and how God intends for them to be used in our lives and marriages.
So What are Emotions?
This sin stained world has one concept of emotions. For example, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines emotion as: (1) “a strong feeling (such as love, anger, joy, hate, or fear)”; (2) “a state of feeling”; and (3) “a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.”
Notice that these definitions all include one word that the world has come to equate with emotion–feeling.
As we look at emotions from the perspective of God, we see how they can lead to the feelings we experience. But emotions are so much more.
For example, I may have the wonderful feeling we call love, but God’s love is far greater. The feeling of love comes and goes. But God’s love is always there, no matter what our circumstances or how we feel.
The Impact of Feelings
Feelings can impact our Christian walk in many ways. One such example is in what we believe about our salvation.
Some people base what they believe about salvation on how they feel. If they are on an emotional high, they may feel saved. But feelings are fleeting, and if that feeling goes away, they question their salvation.
The Word of God makes clear that salvation isn’t based on how we feel. Romans 10:9 says: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” There is nothing in God’s Word about feeling saved in being saved.
There is also nothing in God’s Word about losing your salvation if you don’t feel saved anymore. In fact, in John 10:28-30, Jesus gives us another promise about salvation: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Satan will try to convince us that our feelings determine our relationships with God and our spouses. But Jesus warns in John 10:10 that Satan “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Satan wants to destroy our marriages and our effectiveness for God. And he will attempt to do this by lying to us about our feelings.
Jesus says of Satan in John 8:44: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Our lives and our marriages must be based on the truth of God’s Word, not our feelings. Feelings can be good, but they can also be destructive. If we allow our feelings to guide us, instead of God’s Word, it can lead to sinful action.
Many times in counseling a married couple I’ve heard something like this: “I just don’t feel love for her anymore.” This lack of loving feelings could lead to adultery and even divorce.
It is so important to read, study, understand, and live by God’s Word and not by our feelings.
Controlling Our Emotions
The world’s philosophy tells us our emotions cannot be controlled. It says we cannot help who we love and don’t love. But God’s Word tell us our emotions can be controlled because they come from our thoughts. And these thoughts lead to our actions.
Proverbs 23:6-7 (NASB) says: “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, ‘Eat and drink!’ But his heart is not with you.” God tells us clearly that the way a person thinks or understands things will determine his emotions and thus his actions.
Therefore, godly thinking will lead to godly responses in word and deed. But ungodly thinking or ideas will lead to ungodly actions.
How to Control Your Emotions
Since emotions are responses to our thoughts and lead to our actions we must learn to control them. Here are three steps we can take:
1 – Place God’s Truth in Our Minds
We control our emotions by placing God’s truth in our minds. And His truth is found in the Bible. Jesus prayed to His Father for His disciples in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
2 – Follow God’s Ways
When God reveals truth to us in His Word, we must then put it into action. James 1:22 says: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” That is why it is vitally important that we study and know God’s Word.
3 – Ask God to Lead and Help Us
We must pray and ask God to use His Holy Spirit–who lives in us as believers–to help us put His Word into practice. It is imperative that we do this both individually and as a couple.
Jesus promised us His Holy Spirit before He went to the cross and died for our sins. He said in John 16:12-15: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
The apostle Paul told us how important our thoughts are: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
It’s Our Decision
Just as an engine on a train pulls the cars behind it, whatever we allow to lead our lives will determine what we do. As we put God’s truth into our hearts and minds and then put into practice what He teaches, our emotions will follow along—beautiful emotions such as love, peace, and joy.
However, if we let our emotions do the pulling, then it is as if the engine has lost power and the destructive train cars–such as anger, fear, and grief–take control and pull the entire train backwards to disaster.
Emotions are a normal and significant part of our lives. They can be used for good as God intends, or they can become tools of Satan that destroy our lives and marriages.
It is up to us to determine what emotions become in our marriage. The world tells us we have no control over them. God tells us we do.
It is only good and natural for us as Christians to feel and express emotions as we serve God and each other. But we must not let our emotions determine for us what we will believe or what we will do. We must let God do that as He uses the Holy Spirit to teach us through His Word.
Emotions can bind a marriage together or be a source of its breakup. Learning about emotions from the One who created them—the Lord God—will help us avoid making decisions based on our feelings instead of His Truth.
Questions for Discussion
♦ Read the teaching post together, discuss what God has taught you, and talk about how you can apply it to your marriage.
♦ Discuss emotions and the role they play in your marriage. What positive emotions are helping your marriage to be stronger? What negative emotions are you struggling with and how are they impacting your marriage?
♦ Using a concordance or www.BibleGateway.com, look up Bible verses about one or more of the emotions you are dealing with. Discuss how the Scripture helps you understand the emotion better and how to deal with it. (Many Bibles have at least an annotated concordance in the back.)
♦ Pray that God will help you understand emotions and how you should respond to them, especially those that you deal with most often. Ask Him to help you control your emotions so they will have a positive impact and not be harmful to your marriage. And make certain you pray for each other.
Next week we will continue our study of emotions and how they relate to our marriages. Then we will look at some specific emotions we experience commonly in marriage and see what God teaches us about them.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,