Let’s talk about emotional health! What a great topic!?!? For some of you it seems like a great topic, for others…not so much.
But this is an urgent topic for us to explore.
Emotions have a significant role in the LIFE Jesus has for us to enjoy. In fact, emotional health is not only essential to LIFE, building emotional health in each of us is one of the works of the Holy Spirit!
Sadly, and most unfortunately, many church/ministry/Christian leaders have disconnected theological truth and the exposition of Scripture from emotional well-being.
An environment actually exists in Western Christianity where you can be theologically right and emotionally wrong! A person can definitively argue for, or against, reformed theology; for, or against, women in ministry; for, or against, the deity of Jesus and still be filled with anxiety, be short-tempered, riddled with insecurity, or swell with pride.
While their theological arguments for issue x are sound, their emotions are completely unhealthy.
This. Should. Not. Be.
But why is this disconnect between theology and emotional health the way that it is? I do not have all the answers but I suggest these five are in play:
- Emotions are messy – our culture exalts logic and precision. Emotions are confusing, hard to pin down, hard to define, and hard to deal with.
- Emotions are not productive – our culture is D-R-U-N-K on productivity and efficiency. We must compete to win and that means running faster than our competitors. Emotions just get in the way.
- Emotions lead to CRAZY behavior – again, our culture is run amok with the premise that what you feel MUST be true. So much of what is done/validated/justified is all done in the name of how we feel.
- Emotions are the domain of women – stereotypically men do not engage in emotional “stuff” because emotions are “women things.”
- Satan – He knows WAY better than we do the juice that will flow in a person’s heart if they allow the Holy Spirit to heal and equip one with emotional health. He is super happy to pervert Christianity into an emotional unhealthy set of powerless truths.
What a mess!!!! And we are prone to make one of two major mistakes in our faith with respect to emotions – we will either shut them off OR we will minimize them. And then we wonder why our experience of Christianity, even with all that we are doing in our churches and ministries, seems to be missing so much!
Let’s take a quick inventory of what your emotional condition looks like.
- Would you consider yourself an emotional bulimic? Is everything a feeling? Do you have to talk or want to talk about everything? Are you controlled by your feelings?
- OR would you consider yourself emotionally constipated? Nothing is a feeling? You don’t talk about anything? You can no more navigate your heart’s quagmire than you could rush hour traffic.
- OR would you consider yourself emotionally healthy? You feel and process emotions with consistency and in appropriate ways?
In the OVERFLOW, as we learn to receive love and LIFE from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we will have opportunity to experience emotional healing and health!
We can simply define emotional health as the ongoing experience of appropriate, Spirit-led emotions. By appropriate emotions I mean that we feel according to the truth of our circumstances. We look to Jesus as our emotional teacher. He was more emotionally healthy than any other person, ever. He wept, got angry, had joy, suffered grief and many other things. And His emotions were appropriate for the truth of His circumstances.
He did not allow His emotions to be controlled by His perception of His circumstances. One of the great lies of our culture is that perception is reality. But we are people of truth. As people of truth, we don’t allow our emotions to dictate our lives based on perception. We seek to know the truth and then, like Jesus, feel appropriately according to truth.
Second, emotions are Spirit-led. Scripture teaches that Jesus was full of, and led by, the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1-2). One of the manifestations of the Spirit in Jesus’s life is His emotional well-being. As you re-read any one of the Gospels and encounter the mosaic of Jesus’s emotions know that what you are seeing is the Holy Spirit’s emotional stability on display!
In fact, one of the works of the Spirit is to birth in us new emotional realities. Galatians 5:22 is one text that demonstrates His emotional work. The Apostle Paul, writing to churches in the region of Asia Minor, says,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…”
(I am stopping with the first three of nine fruits just for the purpose of this exercise.) Notice these fruits are emotions, things we are expected to feel. A MAJOR part of the Spirit’s work is emotional.
So someone says, “I don’t seem to have much fruit in the Spirit. Why?” Well, two easy to consider reasons are the person’s intimacy with the Holy Spirit and the condition or their emotions. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are MANIFESTATIONS of the Spirit’s presence! Love is not something the Holy Spirit hands to you. Love is something the Holy Spirit births in you as you experience His presence. But if you have no intimacy with Him or limited intimacy then your fruit production will be negatively affected.
Further, if you are shut off or out of control emotionally, then the Holy Spirit is continually denied access to your heart. You give Him no space in which to heal, train, speak, or breathe. One of the major works of the Holy Spirit is to create new emotional realities in each of us for us to enjoy!
There is so much more to say about overcoming the disconnect between theological truth and emotional health. But I leave you with the ground covered and these questions:
- Do you want to be emotionally healthy?
- Are you willing to allow the Holy Spirit access to your emotional heart?
The journey to emotional health is just one aspect of your journey with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Be honest. Be patient. If you are ready, pray. “Father, in the name of Jesus, I am emotionally unhealthy. I have never, or rarely, looked to you for emotional health or training. Will you teach me, by your Spirit, to become emotionally healthy? Thank You Father, in Jesus’s name, Amen!”