Managing Your Negative Emotions
by Leslie Vernick
Jesus asked a man who had been paralyzed for a very long time, “Do you want to be healed?” (Read John 5 for the story).
Sounds like a crazy question. Who wouldn’t want to be whole? But Jesus knew that healing this man would not fix his entire life. It would only fix his legs. In fact, healing him would bring new challenges and life changes that this man had never faced. For example, he would no longer be able to beg for his support. He would now need to find some sort of work. He would now have to make new relationships where he wasn’t the needy dependent one. How would that impact him? Would he find a woman to love? Would he get married? Have children? Contribute to society and learn to give back to others less fortunate than he was?
Being willing for God to heal us is something most of us want, but we expect the next steps to be easy, which they often are not. For example, we want God to heal our marriage, heal our hurts, or take away our bitterness, but once we’re healed, then what is or want to do many things, such as lose weight, save money, run a marathon, or become healthier, but if we don’t learn how to do these things and practice doing them, we will not achieve the things we want to do. Proverbs tells us to apply what God is showing us to our daily life. (Proverbs 23:12).
This is where self-control and self-discipline come in. Without these skills, life becomes a mess.
This happens with our physical bodies and our inner life, as well as our relationships with others. For example, when we fail to control our eating, we gain weight or get sick. If we recklessly wound others with a tongue that is out of control we hurt others and ruin relationships.
For example, learning self-control over my body means I choose (my will) to do physical exercise because it is consistent with wanting to be healthy and in reasonably good shape (my thoughts/beliefs/desires). Rarely do I feel like it (temporary feelings). I want to be healthy (my thoughts, feelings and will are involved with this desire), but, I always feel like eating junk food, especially chocolate (bodily cravings due to ingrained bad habits).
I chose (my will, exercising self-control) not to give in to my temporary emotional states or fleshly appetites (most of the time), because they are inconsistent with the person I want to be and become. The benefit is that as I get healthier and stronger physically, I feel better and like myself more. The Bible warns us that the consequences of an undisciplined life is self-hatred (Proverbs 15:32).
Learning to deny ourselves what we want isn’t meant to make us more miserable. It is always a means to gain something better. No one gets it to have it all. Therefore, we often must be willing to give up something we like for something we want.
For example, I choose to give up eating everything I want in order to stay at a reasonable weight. I let go of my tendency toward self-pity in order to take responsibility for my life and get mentally and emotionally stronger. To have a happy marriage, I need to give up my selfish ways.
Jesus tells us that when we are willing to give up our lives for him, we end up finding our life (Matthew 10:39).
The miracle that occurs is as I deny myself these small things, I gain so much more. I gain more health, more love, more virtue, more purpose to my life, more depth of character, more self-respect, more self-control and discipline and greater self-esteem. Not a bad trade.
Understand this crucial truth. We are always in the process of becoming. We are either becoming better or worse, healthier or not, more godly or more sinful, more willing or more willful. We get to choose which direction we will walk in.
God gives us the path to greater growth, mental, emotional, and relational health. Do you allow his words to be the final say in your life? Are you willing to allow God’s word, his truth, to heal and transform your heart – which are your thoughts, your emotions, desires, and your will?