Controlling our emotions is no easy task. It takes a solid foundation, something our ever-changing feelings don’t have. So if we can’t trust our feelings to guide us to make wise decisions and respond in loving ways, what can we trust?
“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” – Proverbs 28:26 (NASB)
Beware the Extremes
In Part 1: More Than a Feeling, we learned that God created emotions for good. However, sin corrupted His original design for them. Emotions are an important part of our lives and they have a huge impact on all of our relationships–especially our marriages. When we control them and don’t allow them to control us, they can bring great blessing.
There’s a temptation to go to one extreme or the other with our emotions, so we must be careful.
We don’t want to be like Mr. Spock from the Star Trek series, responding to every situation with pure logic and never emotion. To his way of thinking, emotion was bad. But his lack of it often frustrated his colleagues. And a lack of emotion in our marriages will often do the same.
Can you imagine never showing love to your spouse? Never feeling or expressing joy or happiness? What would happen if you never felt guilt, remorse, or sadness? Even anger, disappointment, and fear have their place in our sin-stained world.
Sometimes our emotions are pleasant to experience and sometimes not. But God can use them all for His purposes.
While we should avoid suppressing our emotions altogether, we don’t want to be guilty of the other extreme.
Recently Sabra and I went to see the new Star Wars movie. Unlike Mr. Spock’s emotion-free living, the lives of those living “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away” encourage the emotion-driven lifestyle of our own culture. Characters in the movies can be heard to say such things as “Reach out with your feelings.” or “What do your feelings tell you?” Well, it may make for good movie dialogue, but this is not what God teaches.
Unfortunately, many married couples have lived this emotion-controlled life and soon regret it.
The fact is emotions greatly impact our marriages—for better or for worse. And the sooner we take control of them, the better our lives will be.
Stay Grounded in the Truth
When our emotions are grounded in the truth of God’s Word, they are helpful and bring blessing. But many times they are based upon false ideas and those emotions are harmful.
Therefore, it is important to understand what God’s Word teaches about our emotions and to live according to the truth.
For example, if we falsely believe that God is not in control of our circumstances, we may experience emotions such as fear, despair, or even anger. This can lead to ungodly actions. We can never be certain we are hearing God correctly about something just because we “feel right.” And we cannot say God is directing us just because we have prayed and had an “emotional experience.” We must always check our decisions and actions with God’s Word.
Our emotions can be revealing indicators of what is going on in our hearts. But nowhere in Scripture are we ever told to trust our feelings or to pray for some kind of “burning feeling in our hearts” to tell us what to do or to know if something is right or wrong.
God reveals His truth to us through His Word after much prayer. This is why studying the Bible together and praying together as a couple is so important. I know I have written this many times before, but that is because it is so vital.
Don’t Trust Your Feelings
The Bible warns us that the feelings of our hearts can lead us into error.
Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Would God use something so unreliable as our feelings alone to lead us to truth? How does this coincide with our man-made idea that “it can’t be wrong if it feels right?”
God says in Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” And He warns us in Proverbs 28:26: “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered” (NASB).
The Bible is clear that trusting our feelings is unreliable and often leads to tragic error. This is why God tells us in Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Trust God’s Word to Guide You
If we cannot know God’s will for our lives by following our feelings, then how can we know? Psalms 119:105 says: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” The Bible, not feelings, shows us the proper way to go.
God tells us the importance and power of His Word in Psalm 19:7-11: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
Paul also tells us the importance of studying God’s Word and living according to it. He writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The Scriptures are the guide God has provided for us, not our emotional experiences.
Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:3-4: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Where do we find this divine power and these great and precious promises we need to escape the corruption of the world? The Bible says we have “everything we need” through His Holy Spirit as He speaks and guides us with His Word.
We must be committed as a couple to study and live out God’s Word together. We must be committed to making sure everything we do is in line with God’s Word. Read what God said about one group of early Christians. We find in Acts 17:11: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” To know whether or not a teaching is true, we should search the Scriptures, not look for an emotional experience to find the answer.
Emotions are neither good nor bad of themselves, but God never intended for them to guide us or to reveal what is good or bad, right or wrong. We must control them, not let them control us. They are to be followers, not leaders. To believe that we can know right from wrong by praying for a feeling or by following our emotions is to pervert their purpose and to expose ourselves to all sorts of false practices.
This is why the Bible tells us over and over to study diligently and meditate on God’s word. Joshua 1:8 says: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
And Psalm 1:1-3 tells us: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither–whatever they do prospers.”
We go the wrong way not because we lack an emotional experience but because we lack knowledge of the Scriptures.
When Jesus was confronted by the Sadducees with a question, He replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).
When we rely on our emotions, we often end up “in error” because emotions are fallible and always changing. The Scriptures, however, are infallible and can never be wrong. Jesus prayed this for His disciples the night before His death: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
We must study the Bible diligently with an honest heart or we will misunderstand it and continue to do wrong.
The Scriptures are our God-given guide. If we trust our emotions to show us right from wrong, we pervert the purpose of emotions and show a lack of faith in God’s Word.
We must allow God to be the guide for our marriages. Then our emotions can have the place He intended for them.
Questions for Discussion
♦ Read the teaching post together and discuss how God spoke to each of you.
♦ Discuss together times when your emotions have led you astray and when they have blessed your marriage. If you have allowed an emotion to hurt your spouse in some way, ask for his or her forgiveness. If you have not shared any emotion with or shown any emotion toward your spouse, ask his or her forgiveness for that as well. It is not healthy for your marriage to deny or hold back your emotions.
♦ In preparation for our studies beginning next week, choose an emotion to discuss together. See what God’s Word has to say about it. Discuss how it has impacted or could impact your marriage.
♦ Pray together, asking God to give you understanding about emotions according to His Truth. Ask Him to help you see ways you have misused emotions and guide you to use them for good. Pray that He will strengthen your marriage as He helps you master your emotions by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Next week we will begin to look at specific emotions and what God’s Word teaches us about how they impact our marriages.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the MARRIAGE AND OUR EMOTIONS series:
Part 1: More Than a Feeling
Part 3: About Love
Part 4: About Fear
Part 5: About Joy
Part 6: About Anger
Part 7: About Peace
Except where noted, Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation