Bad emotions or feelings such as anger, lust, coveteousness, bitterness, revenge, self-pity, and others will negatively affect our behaviour if we allow them to control us. The saying that I have taught and quoted for many years, “You don’t have to act the way you feel” is very true, but super difficult to actually pull off in regular living situations. Our emotions are very powerful, and we can hold them at bay for awhile, but sooner or later we will probably give into acting them out. A much more successfull and enjoyable way to live is to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the bad emotions and strengthen the good emotions. The strategy for doing this is like learning to play tennis, train yourself over time by practice. As followers of Jesus we faithfully practice basic disciplines of the Christian life, here are a five that work for me:
- Read the Bible every day, spend time weekly studing it, and systmatically memorize and meditate on what you have memorized. God’s Word is supernaturally powerful and it will transform every area of our life, including our emotions.
- Spend time with God in prayer every day. This discipline works best if you have a place and a time, a date with God every day. Have a notebook and write prayers and make lists of people and needs. Pray for strength, wisdom, opportunities, and pray for the people in your life. The more time we spend with God the more we become like Him in character and emotions. I use an App on my Ipad called “Prayermate” that works great.
- Reflect on who you are, what your motives are, what your relationship with Christ really is, your weaknesses, your strengths, life mission, goals, and sins. Self-examination and reflection is a super powerful way to figure out why negative emotions pop up in your life, and once you have figured out the “why” you can eliminate the “buttons” in you that get pushed by people, events and circumstances in life to elicit the bad emotions. This discipline is impossible in my opinion without writing. A personal journal is a powerful tool and acts as a mirror into your soul.
- Find a friend to talk with about your struggles in conquoring and eliminating negative emotions from your life. God created us incapable of changing on our own, by ourselves. He created us for community, mutual grace giving, fellowship, and without it we will go in circles in our pursuit of godly character and self-control.
- Worship God well. In corporate worship focus on God, and concerntrate on directing the words you sing to Him as an expression of your love and adoration. Sing as loud as you can, and don’t worry if you don’t sing well, the people next to you don’t really care. Don’t ever fuss about any aspect of the worship in your church which would be a clear indicator that it isn’t about Him. Work hard at never grumbling or complaining during the day about anything, and thank God for everything all day long. Journal about this discipline and you will get better and better at it.