First Priority: Emotions and Your Relationship to God--Part 1
Have you ever been confused by your emotions?
Everyone, me included, can say "Yes!". Unfortunately for many of us, we learn early on to shut this part of our nature down. And shutting down your emotions lands a devastating blow to our relationships at all levels. For the Christian, it is important to understand that your emotions come from God. That is because you have been created in God's image. Meaning you are a reflection of God in human form. Chuck Swindoll says it this way,
When God said, “Let us make human beings in our image,” He was saying, in effect, "Humanity will be un-like anything I have created. No other being has a heart to love Me. No other created being has a mind to know Me or a will to obey Me. Nothing else in all of My creation has a destiny of eternity like these creatures will have. I will make humans distinct. They will have imago Dei, ‘the image of God,’ stamped on them. Only they will have a capacity within them to love and know and obey Me. -Charles R. Swindoll
I love the last line. "Only they will have a capacity within them to love and know and obey." Let's make Swindoll's statement even more personal. Because you are created in the image of God, you have the capacity to love, to know, and to obey. This capacity gives you the ability to fulfill your God-given purpose on this planet. And your emotions, along with your thoughts and your beliefs, are tools that will help you carry out your purpose. But just like every tool known to man, you have to know how to use it. Because a paint brush laying on the ground is of no use to anyone. You must pick it up, you must use it the way it was designed to be used. Then, and only then, can the brush help you to produce amazing things.
Around 6 years ago I did pulpit supply for a tiny church on the north side of Kansas City. And even though this church was tiny, it was powerful in the way it incorporated emotional health into its body. The pastor, Rustin Smith, made it a priority to keep a healthy view on emotions among the leadership and the members. Before I spoke, Rustin said one of the most impactful statements on emotions I've ever heard. He said, "Emotions are great teachers, but poor leaders." I told Rustin that day I would be using it everywhere I went. And that I would try my best to give him credit whenever I could. And that he should prepare himself for someone to stumble through his doors one day repeating it. And I still believe this to be the case. Because whenever I am asked to speak on emotions, and in nearly every counseling encounter I've had in the last six years, I have used this phrase in some form or fashion. And it resonates every time. In fact, this statement is the basis for the next principle. The Principle of Emotions. Which says, "Your emotions are teachers. Designed to aid you in understanding God, understanding yourself, and understanding others."
The Principle of Emotions: Your emotions are teachers. Designed to aid you in understanding God, understanding yourself, and understanding others.
Before we dig too deep into emotions, I want to give you the 50,000 foot view. Because while your emotions are important, they are just one component of your psychology that you need to know about. The other two components are your beliefs and your thoughts. Together, these three components make up the "Cognitive Behavioral Framework" (CBF) of your personal psychology. And I want you to think about your personal psychology. Because your psychology is one of the most important aspects of your humanity. It can either draw you closer to others and closer to God. Or it can drive a wedge between every relationship you need and desire.
So let's start with your personal CBF. Because if you want to understand yourself better, or if you want to understand why you participate in a certain behavior. All you have to do is trace that behavior back to an emotion, trace that emotion back to a thought, and trace that thought back to a belief. This cycle is the The Principle of Human Behavior, and it states, "Your beliefs lead to your thoughts and your emotions. Your thoughts and emotions will cycle and create your behavior." Just like the image below.
Principle of Human Behavior. It states, "Your beliefs lead to your thoughts and your emotions. Your thoughts and emotions cycle and create your behavior."
And so if you want to get to work on changing your behavior, you will need to change the belief that is leading that behavior. This is easier said than done. And often you will need the help of a trusted friend or counselor that is versed in identifying common dysfunctional beliefs and replacing them with functional or adaptive beliefs.
This principle also applies to your friends, your spouse, your children, and even God. Yes, God also has a CBF. The difference being that God's psychology is perfect. And so if you want to understand something your spouse is doing, or maybe your teenager, or even The Almighty Himself. You can trace their behavior back to an emotion, trace their emotion back to a thought, and trace their thought back to a belief. In fact, conversing to discover what someone else believes is one of the most intimate conversations you can ever have. Because our beliefs reside at the core of who we are. You do not truly know someone until you know what they believe in. Likewise, you do not truly know yourself until you know what you believe in. And ultimately, you do not truly know God until you know what He believes either. And so if you want to know what God believes, let's start with how God feels.
...Continued in Part 2: Your Emotions and Your Relationship with God
About the Author:
Dr. Corley is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S) in Missouri and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Kansas. He specializes in marriage counseling and trauma recovery. This is an excerpt from his series called A Framework for Family.
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