To say that I’m an emotional person might be the understatement of the year. I love emotions and I understand my emotions and my potential behaviour when I’m at any given point on the rollercoaster on which emotions lie. Some years ago I heard the term emotional intelligence for the first time and once I understood what it was I spent some time analysing and understanding my own emotions and the emotions of others around me. In my observations I’ve noticed how easy it is for us to make decisions made solely on how we feel in the moment and then regret those decisions once our emotions tide over. I’ve found that the most irrational decisions made are those that are strongly influenced by how we feel while on an emotional high.
Emotions can often times stand in the way of us accomplishing what God has planned for us. Think about Jonah. God gave Jonah an assignment to warn the people of Nineveh. His task should have been a simple one to complete – go to Nineveh and warn the people – but his emotions caused his journey to be much more tedious than it should have been. Even after he spent three days in the stomach of a whale and finally decided to do as God instructed Jonah was so caught up in his emotions that rather than celebrate the change in people who heeded God’s warning he instead became angry that they were no longer going to be destroyed.
Jonah 4 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”
In his anger, Jonah wished for death rather than life because he felt God should not have shown mercy to the people of Nineveh. In his anger he told God that his journey to the city was senseless because he knew from the beginning that God would spare the people. Jonah could not appreciate God’s graciousness and mercy because HE FELT the people of Nineveh didn’t deserve a second chance and should have been destroyed.
There was a time I had some information about a Christian leader that made me very upset with them. I was so angry that I distanced myself from that person because I couldn’t understand how they could live a double life and profess that they loved God. While in my angry state the Holy Spirit kept impressing on my heart the need to call that leader and encourage them. Of course in my “dignified anger” I never bothered to call but instead prayed for them and tried to move on with my life. In my mind whatever they were going through they deserved it and God was simply letting them reap the fruit of the seeds they were sewing. God never let up though, he never allowed me to feel comfortable until I picked up the phone and spoke to my leader. Imagine my surprise when the person on the other end of the phone confessed to being under spiritual attack and told me how they wished I had called sooner. I felt so foolish that day. I allowed my emotions to hinder what God was trying to do through me and rather than being a vessel yielding to God I tried to be a master handing down judgement.
How many times have we failed to celebrate the goodness of God towards those deemed lost or doomed because we felt they deserved destruction rather than mercy? How many of us allow our emotions to control our reaction to people and prevent us from living the life of unconditional love God expects us to live? How many of us wish death on people who do not live by the same choices we do and are yet to accept the Jesus we have come to know and love? How many times have we failed to show compassion to persons who aren’t Christians or persons who struggle openly with different areas in their lives although they’re Christians?
As humans we are not immune to emotions and becoming a Christian doesn’t mean we’ve automatically perfected the way our emotions affect us. As Christians we can however make a greater effort to avoid making irrational decisions when our emotions are in overdrive. Jonah is just one example of how someone’s emotions affected the work they were assigned by God in the bible. I’m sure if you did some honest introspection you’ll find ways that you would have dropped the ball on your assignments in the past because of how you felt. The thing is, as God pointed out to Jonah, we serve a God of grace and mercy. Our job is to simply be obedient to his instructions and commands regardless of how we feel. Moving beyond our emotions might be the difference between someone knowing and accepting Jesus as their saviour and that person’s soul being lost to the devil. It might be the difference between a person giving up on God and Christianity and someone continuing the race and sorting out their salvation. The thing is, we do serve a merciful and gracious God who uses us to accomplish his will, but to see his perfect will fulfilled we need to be humble and obedient and not let our own desires and emotions override what He wants from us.
I’m not saying becoming an emotionally intelligent Christian is going to be easy but I am saying it will be worth it!