Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
There’s a fascinating verse in Proverbs 4:23 in the Old Testament: “Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life”. I find that a challenging idea because emotions and thoughts are part of who we are.
I recently saw this saying:
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
The Bible often says that the heart is the seat of our emotions and the emotions are critical. They tell us when we have sorrow; they tell us when we have pain; they tell us when we have joy. In fact, the Bible says something very interesting, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice.”
In my experience of life, I don’t see many people walking Sydney streets who are rejoicing. In fact, I tend to see the opposite, many people look unhappy and without any sense of joy. But if we are to enjoy a healthy emotional life, are there are guidelines or principles worth sharing? Yes, I believe there are. And the Bible, which is the word of God, points us in the right direction.
Be Prayerful and Seek Positive Thoughts
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It means that you can bring anything and everything to God in prayer—nothing is too small or insignificant for him. His promise is that if you do that, you will experience a divine peace which affects how you think and feel. In other words, your emotions will be linked with God’s peace and presence. You won’t be alone to sort out how you feel. He will be with you all the time.
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I think it also means that we should think positively. I know a lot of books are written on this topic. But Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8 (NIV) are great:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Now, think about that for a moment. If only we could think like that—what a difference it would make to our attitude and daily lives!
Now, what does positive thinking do? Positive thinking expels all negative thinking. My guess is you haven’t said to yourself, I mustn’t think bad thoughts, I mustn’t think negatively.
What you have to do is think positively, and positive thinking expels all negative thinking. How important this is! Dr Eidelson, a psychologist, says, “Most of our negative, emotional upsets are due to unrealistic and harsh thinking”. Now think of those two things, unrealistic and harsh thinking. You know sometimes, for example, we are depressed, we are emotionally upset because we demand too much of ourselves. That’s unrealistic.
Or perhaps we demand too much of someone else. You know some people marry even when they know they feel the marriage won’t work out—but they think, I am going to change him/her. But it doesn’t work. That’s being unrealistic. We can be unrealistic in what we expect to receive in return from life, of what we will receive as a reward in life. This is what the Bible teaches. Our emotions are controlled by our thoughts. To have healthy emotions they have to be under the supervision of our thoughts.
Understand and Protect Your Emotions
Can I also suggest that you try to listen perceptively to your emotions? Proverbs 17: 22 (NIV) says:
A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
You see, our emotions can give us a warning. They can tell us, for example, when we are overworking. Our emotions can also be very fickle. They can mislead us, so we must listen perceptively. Are they telling us the truth? The Executive Director of The Gideons in Canada tells of an elderly woman in Florida who came out of a convenience store one night to find three rough looking characters sitting on the hood of her car. She said, Get off my car. They just shrugged, so she reached into her handbag, took out a gun, and again said, Get off my car. Well, quick as lightning they got off and ran. She went over to her car, took out her keys, and discovered it wasn’t her car. Do you see how emotions can deceive you?
Now for the fourth secret: live protectively. To have healthy emotions, you must live protectively. Again we have a beautiful text, Proverbs 14:30 in The Message version, which says, “A sound mind makes for a robust body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones.” Another translation (NIV) says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
Learn to protect your emotional life. Learn to relax. How important it is to learn to relax! Sometimes we need a little help, perhaps a mini-vacation, a little time off, even if only for a few hours. We have to be careful to eat properly. Get proper sleep and get plenty of exercise.
West Ellesmere Community Church