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MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR EMOTIONSLIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST
By Margaret Feinberg
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRejoice! And Again I Say Rejoice!
Over and over [the Psalms] attest to the reality that when we open our minds and hearts fully to the God who made them, then we open ourselves, whether we know it or not, to the possibility of being transformed beyond our imagining.
Ellen F. Davis, theologian and author
Everyone is created with a different kind of emotional makeup. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeve, while others are more reserved. Some people display a wide range of emotions; others experience a more narrow range of feelings; and some people can identify not only what they're feeling, but what everyone else in the room is feeling as well. Take the following Emotional Response Quiz to learn more about how you experience and express emotions.
Emotional Response Quiz
1. You receive an email letting you know that one of your friends has just lost her job. Your first reaction is to:
a. Consider the reasons she may have lost her job, reflect on the financial challenges she'll face as a result, and think about possible solutions to help her find another job as soon as possible.
b. Reach for a tissue, because you know how much this job meant to your friend and the financial blow the loss of work will create for her. You can almost feel the stress and tension that she must be feeling. Rather than pick up the phone, you hop in the car to drive to her house to offer empathy and support.
c. Decide the best course of action is to write a quick email response that you're praying for her through this time.
2. You are driving to the grocery store and stop at a red light when you feel the vehicle behind you bump into your car. You get out of the vehicle to inspect the damage and discover a gash in the bumper of your car. You respond by:
a. Talking to the driver to assess what caused the accident. Then you look around to see who might have witnessed the accident. You carefully decide whether or not the accident warrants a police report and proceed accordingly.
b. Taking a gulp and pushing back the tears. Though you tell yourself it's just a car, you can't help but feel the impact of the moment. This accident was the last thing you needed today, and you don't want to let it push you over the edge. But looking in the eyes of the other driver, you can't help but feel compassion. This was probably the last thing he needed today too.
c. Looking at your watch and wondering how long the accident will delay you from getting to your next appointment. You exchange information with the other driver, and leave the scene of the accident knowing that the event was more of an inconvenience than anything else.
3. You step on the scale and discover you've put on more weight than you'd hoped after the holidays. You respond by:
a. Developing a detailed eating and exercise plan to lose the weight in the next thirty days.
b. Fighting back the tears at the thought of having to go on a diet and enroll in a weight-loss program.
c. Recognizing that you need to make better decisions in eating and exercise and mentally commit to doing so.
4. You receive news that you're receiving a bonus at work. You respond by:
a. Carefully calculating the best way to spend and invest the money.
b. Sitting down at your desk and emailing everyone who you think it's appropriate to tell the good news. For the rest of the day, you feel like you're walking on cloud nine.
c. Expressing gratitude to your boss and sharing the news with your family and friends when you get home that day.
Add up the total number of A's, B's, and C's that you scored.
If you answered mostly A's, you tend to have a Thinking Response. When you're confronted with challenges in life, you prefer to look for solutions. You've probably made more than one pros-versus-cons list in your life as you've weighed a decision. At times, you're slower to respond to a situation because of the entire evaluation taking place in your mind. While you feel emotions, you recognize the importance of rational thought and keeping a clear head in tough situations.
If you answered mostly B's, you tend to have an Emotional Response. When you're confronted with challenges in life, you tend to feel a response in yourself and empathize with the responses of others. This makes you sensitive and compassionate as well as quick to serve. Sometimes you may be tempted to share too much of what you're feeling, but when you share appropriately you can help people get in touch with what they're feeling and experiencing inside.
If you answered mostly C's, you tend to have a Reserved Response. When you're confronted with challenges in life, you both think and feel, but those around you may only notice your stability and dependability in the moment. At times you may struggle to express your emotions, which makes it difficult for others to know what you're feeling, but you come off as even-keeled, a rock. As a result people feel safe expressing their own feelings around you.
While you may be tempted to think, I wish I was more like so-and-so in your emotional responses, the truth is that you are carefully and wonderfully made. God gave you an emotional makeup and wants to use you—just as you are—as an instrument to share the love of God with others and bring glory to Himself. He made us all unique, and we need each other—sometimes to have a Thinking Response, sometimes to have an Emotional Response, and sometimes to have a Reserved Response as we journey through life together as the children of God.
1. What did the Emotional Responder Quiz reveal about how you tend to respond to situations? Have you always responded primarily in this way, or can you identify a time in your life when you used to respond differently?
2. What are some of the strengths about the way you respond emotionally to challenges in life? What are some of the weaknesses about the way you respond emotionally to challenges in life?
When it comes to our emotions, we may be tempted to hide what we're feeling from God, but the Psalms are a powerful reminder that God invites us to be honest with Him about what we're thinking, feeling, and experiencing in our lives. They invite us to fully disclose ourselves to God.
3. Read Psalm 6. Make a list of emotions that David expressed to God in this psalm.
Known as one of the lament psalms, Psalm 6 expresses a wide range of emotions to God, and if you look at the passage closely, you'll notice the transformation that takes place in David's heart. He begins at a low point of brokenness and pain but ends with the hope that not only has God heard his prayer, but his enemies will be put to shame. David begins with one perspective but ends with a completely different one.
4. When in the last three months have you found that your perspective changed when you fully expressed yourself to God?
5. When you're tempted to have an overly emotional or cerebral response to a situation or person, who do you usually unleash your emotions or thoughts on? What is the result?
6. What benefits do you think can be found in expressing your emotions to God first?
The book of Psalms contains 150 psalms that were written by many anonymous poets and musicians. Psalms, which were actually songs, had many different purposes. Of all the different types of psalms, the psalms of lament are the most numerous, often asking the tough question of "Why?" and expressing a wide range of emotions. Yet the lament psalms often end by placing trust and faith in God. Not only has the psalmist been heard, but the writings end in the hope that God will answer.
Some psalms were used in worship services as a type of liturgy (Psalms 2 and 50). Some expressed thanksgiving or praise (Psalms 18; 107; 138), while others celebrated the saving actions of God from the past and celebrated the promises and faithfulness of God (Psalm 131).
7. Read Psalm 30. As what type of psalm would you classify this passage? When in your own life have you been in a situation in which you could identify with the emotions expressed in this psalm?
8. What holds you back from fully disclosing your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer? How do the Psalms encourage you that you can express anything to God?
The Psalms are a powerful reminder that we can bring ourselves, our whole selves including our emotions, before God and discover God's loving care no matter what we're facing.
Read Psalm 1. How have you found the principles expressed in this passage to be true in your own life? Why is it important to reflect and meditate on passages of Scripture like this one? How does reading the Psalms affect your attitude and perspective on the challenges you're facing in life?
Spend a few moments prayerfully reflecting on the challenges and the joys that you're facing in life right now. Compose your own psalm to God. The piece can be as short or as long as you'd like. Use your own words to prayerfully express what's going on in your heart and life right now.
Chapter TwoSpiritual awakenings
Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees, And looks to God alone; Laughs at impossibilities, And cries it shall be done.
Charles Wesley, British poet
The story of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, having his heart strangely warmed in an encounter with God is well-known in many circles. But lesser known is the story of younger brother, Charles, who helped form the denomination alongside him.
In 1738, Charles was suffering from pneumonia and wasn't expected to survive. Lying on his deathbed, the thirty-year-old slipped in and out of consciousness. Hot flashes and cold spells chilled his weakening body.
On the day of Pentecost, Charles awoke to see a family friend, Mrs. Musgrave, at the side of his bed. She gently said, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I tell you, arise and believe, and you shall be healed of your infirmities." Charles wanted to respond, but too weak to answer, he watched in silence as she slipped out of the room.
Charles suddenly felt a "strange palpitation" in his heart. Energy returned to his body. The signs of pneumonia began to fade. He was regaining his health, but not just his physical health. Something else was beginning to happen. Though Charles had grown up in an Anglican home and become a priest, he still longed for the deeper assurance of faith that he'd seen in other Christians. For the first time in his life, the younger Wesley brother felt a solid assurance of his salvation. "I believe," he announced. "I do believe."
After his recovery, Charles saw Mrs. Musgrave and asked what compelled her to visit him and speak those words. At first she denied the encounter, but later admitted she was simply obeying what Christ had commanded her.
Three days later, John Wesley had an encounter with God in which his heart was strangely warmed.
From that day forward, Charles celebrated Pentecost with a profound spiritual fervor. The holiday was more than a liturgical observance in the Christian calendar; it became the day Charles celebrated becoming a committed follower of Christ who was guided by the Holy Spirit. He went on to pen dozens of hymns celebrating the day of Pentecost and encouraging others, including his own brother, to encounter the fullness of God.
On October 28, 1762, Charles's older brother, John, wrote: "Many years ago my brother frequently said, 'Your day of Pentecost is not fully come; but I doubt not it will; and you will then hear of persons sanctified as frequently as you do now of persons justified.' Any unprejudiced reader may observe that it was now fully come."
Charles continued to remind his brother and anyone who would listen of the importance of the "Days of Pentecost," personal and community-wide spiritual awakenings in which people become more intimate followers of Jesus, experiencing the joys of His presence and faithfulness in their lives.
God used a spiritual awakening in the lives of Charles and John Wesley in order to touch their lives and empower them. For both men, the experiences affected not just their minds but their hearts. The divine encounters touched their emotions. In our own spiritual journeys, sometimes God will touch our emotions in unexpected ways and use the experiences to profoundly shape our lives.
1. Like Charles and John Wesley, when in your own life have you experienced a spiritual "aha" moment when the lights came on and you discovered something new about God, others, or yourself? How did the experience change you?
2. How would you define the term "spiritual awakening" in your own life? Do you think it's possible to have a spiritual awakening in your life without having your emotions affected? Why or why not?
The idea of experiencing a spiritual awakening or having one's heart strangely warmed might seem strange, until we remember that this is the very thing Jesus came to do. Time and time again throughout the Gospels, Jesus opened people's eyes and hearts to the reality of God—most unexpectedly, He did this after His resurrection.
3. Take turns reading Luke 24:13–35. What do you think the two men were thinking and feeling as they travelled and talked?
4. How would you evaluate the beliefs of the two men as they explained their understanding of Jesus (hint: vv. 19–24)?
5. Why did Jesus rebuke the two walking on the road to Emmaus (hint: vv. 25–26)? Do you think Jesus' rebuke was warranted? Why or why not? In what ways are Jesus' words to the men true in your life right now?
At one point in their journey, Jesus acted as if He would travel farther without the two men (v. 28). The moment was a small test to see if the men really wanted to continue the conversation with Jesus.
6. How did the men respond to Jesus acting as if He was going to travel on without them (hint: v. 29)? What does it look like for you in your own spiritual life to urge God to stay with you?
7. Make a list of the emotions the two men may have felt as their hearts burned within them.
8. When have you experienced your heart burning within you as the Scriptures were opened to you? What passages from Scripture have been the most meaningful to you to fan the flame of faith in your life?
Spiritual awakenings in our lives rarely happen apart from our emotions. Most often when we encounter God we'll feel a sense of the joy, delight, confidence, or hope that comes from knowing God more intimately.
Being a prophet isn't always easy. Just ask Jeremiah. This Old Testament prophet complained about the frustrations of having to relay messages that weren't always good news. Read Jeremiah 20:7–18. How did Jeremiah describe what it was like to hold back and not speak as a prophet (v. 9)? Why was it important for Jeremiah to deliver the word of the Lord? When have you sensed a conviction to say something? How did you respond to the situation? In what ways can you empathize with Jeremiah's struggles?
Excerpted from MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR EMOTIONS by Margaret Feinberg Copyright © 2012 by Thomas Nelson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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