Question: "What does the Bible say about managing/controlling emotions?"
Answer: What would humans be like if we never became emotional? Perhaps we would be like Mr. Spock on Star Trek, as his responses to all situations seem to be purely logical, never emotional. But God created us in His image, and God’s emotions are revealed in the Scriptures; therefore, God created us emotional beings. We feel love, joy, happiness, guilt, anger, disappointment, fear, etc. Sometimes our emotions are pleasant to experience and sometimes not. Sometimes our emotions are grounded in truth, and sometimes they are “false” in that they are based upon false premises. For example, if we falsely believe that God is not in control of the circumstances of our lives, we may experience the emotions of fear or despair or anger based on that false belief. Regardless, emotions are powerful and real to the one feeling them. And emotions can be helpful indicators of what is going on in our hearts.
That being said, it is important that we learn to manage our emotions rather than allow our emotions to manage us. For example, when we feel angry, it is important to be able to stop, identify that we are angry, examine our hearts to determine why we are angry, and then proceed in a biblical manner. Out-of-control emotions tend not to produce God-honoring results: “Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20).
Our emotions, like our minds and bodies, are influenced greatly by the fall of mankind into sin. In other words, our emotions are tainted by our sin nature, and that is why they need controlling. The Bible tells us we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 6; Ephesians 5:15–18; 1 Peter 5:6–11), not by our emotions. If we recognize our emotions and bring them to God, we can then submit our hearts to Him and allow Him to do His work in our hearts and direct our actions. At times, this may mean God simply comforts us, reassures us, and reminds us we need not fear. Other times, He may prompt us to forgive or to ask for forgiveness. The Psalms are an excellent example of how to bring our emotions to God. Many psalms are filled with raw emotion, but the emotion is poured out to God in an attempt to seek His truth and righteousness.
Sharing our feelings with others is also helpful in managing our emotions. The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. God has given us the gift of other believers who can share our burdens and whose burdens we share (Romans 12; Galatians 6:1–10; 2 Corinthians 1:3–5; Hebrews 3:13). Fellow believers can also remind us of God’s truth and offer new perspective. When we are feeling discouraged or afraid, we can benefit from the encouragement, exhortation, and reassurance other believers provide. Often, when we encourage others, we ourselves are encouraged. Likewise, when we are joyful, our joy usually increases when we share it.
Allowing our emotions to control us is not godly. Denying or vilifying our emotions is not godly, either. We should thank God for our ability to feel emotion and steward our emotions as a gift from God. The way to manage our emotions is to grow in our walk with God. We are transformed through the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:1–2) and the power of the Holy Spirit—the One who produces in us self-control (Galatians 5:23). We need daily input of scriptural principles, a desire to grow in the knowledge of God, and time spent meditating on God’s attributes. We should seek to know more of God and share more of our hearts with God through prayer. Christian fellowship is another important part of spiritual growth. We journey with fellow believers and help one another grow in faith as well as in emotional maturity.
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