The anger swept over me in a moment and it took everything in me not to lash out. Later, I thought about the situation that incited such a rage. Why did I react that way? How could I deal with such overwhelming emotion in the future?
Sometimes the emotion isn’t anger—it’s a sudden wave of loneliness, sadness, envy or regret. Our ability to feel emotion—and respond to the emotions of others—is a defining part of our humanity. But emotions are not meant to dictate our behavior. As followers of Christ, our emotions should be in submission to our will, which in turn is submitted to God.
How, then, do we deal with emotions that seem to overwhelm us? We can start by recognizing what emotions really are.
See Emotions for What They Are
Today’s world considers our “feelings” of utmost importance. How we feel takes priority over how we think or even how we act. But the biblical approach to emotion calls us to a higher standard. Our emotions, though real, are the not the real problem to address. Emotions are a symptom of a greater issue at play.
When I am overwhelmed by anger, the problem is not my anger—it’s what caused my anger. Even then, the cause of my anger is a not a person or situation, but what I think should be happening with that person or situation. More often than not, my anger is spawned from a need for control.
By slowing down and recognizing the cause of your emotions, you can then take a godly, Christ-like approach to dealing with them.
Acknowledge Your Triggers
Certain things set off our emotions, whether due to past abuse or simply our personality differences. Know what causes you to react, and take measures to change what you can about those circumstances while showing grace for the things you can’t change.
For example, I know that a messy house makes me stressed and on edge. I can keep anger and frustration at bay by managing my time and home well. Even when things get a little messy, I can rest in the fact that I did what I could to take care of our belongings, and it’s easier to say “no” to anger.
You can do the same by recognizing what makes you more lonely, sad or angry and changing who you spend time with, where you go or the habits you implement.
Surrender Your Idols
Sometimes our emotions are a symptom of idolatry. To use the house example again, if I made an idol of my house, I would become angry anytime someone messed anything up. My extreme emotional response would be a sign of where my priorities lay: on things, not people.
Ask the Lord to reveal any areas of idolatry in your heart. Do you get extremely upset at the thought of another year of singleness? God may be calling you to surrender this area to Him, to stop trying to control your relationship status. Do you get angry when your friend hangs out with other people? You may be making an idol out of that friendship. Ask the Lord to show you these areas and teach you how to surrender them.
Ask God for Strength
Finally, God is Lord over our emotions. As our Savior King, He rescues us from the dictates of our own deceitful hearts. He helps us overcome emotion even as it threatens to overcome us!
To find victory, we must allow God to work. This means handing our emotions to Him in the heat of the moment, stepping out in faith that He will help us and pressing into His love even when the emotions have not yet changed. This is the walk of faith! It’s not easy, but in choosing to look to God instead of “following our hearts,” we are guaranteed to walk a far wiser path into the future.