Emotions are everywhere! You have the ability to express what you are feeling perhaps more easily now than any other period in human history. When I was growing up we had texting, but you had to create the smiley face at the end of your sentence. For example
- I hope you have a great weekend. 🙂
The person receiving this text was encouraged by your happy little smile. But you could also write this:
- I hope you have a great weekend. 🙁
A frowning face implies the exact opposite feeling. You’re not wishing them happiness. You’re telling them you’re upset for leaving you out or doing their thing instead of yours. But today?
- I hope you have a great weekend. 👏 🎉 🌟🦄😂💥🤡
Emojis: clapping, party popper, star, unicorn, face with tears of joy, fireworks, and creepy clown. That is going to be one exciting weekend! As of October 2019 there are 3,178 emojis. Did you know that “5 billion emojis are sent daily on Facebook Messenger”?
Facebook needs a react option that symbolizes a carefully thought out and non–reactionary response, like a little emoji of the thinker. It’ll mean, “I haven’t done the research necessary to respond to this post in a thoughtful way, but I want to communicate to you that I engaged with your ideas.”
It’s not wrong to feel emotion. God created emotions. He created feelings. But it is wrong to be ruled by our emotions. All around us we are told our emotions are what matters most. The book of Proverbs, which contains our Creator’s plan, has a different perspective.
It’s easy but foolish to let your emotions rule you.
Here again we find a contrast between the way of the foolish and the way of the wise. Proverbs contrasts these two paths over and over again, continually encouraging us to walk in the way of wisdom.
Proverbs 12:16 (NIV)
Fools show their annoyance at once,
but the prudent overlook an insult.
It’s easy to “react.” It’s much harder to patiently respond and yet that’s what the prudent do. As we learned in our sermon on prudence, prudence means “thinking through all the options and their potential outcomes.” Stopping and thinking requires energy, effort, and wisdom.
It’s hard but wise to reign over your emotions.
My first two points go together. It’s easy but foolish to let your emotions rule you… and it’s hard but wise to reign over your emotions. What I want to do now is go through the emotions Proverbs touches on and contrast foolish emotions with wise ones. Proverbs encourages:
Not anger but patience.
Proverbs warns us against anger, against hostility towards others.
Proverbs 29:22 (NIV)
An angry person stirs up conflict,
and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.
The Bible does tell us elsewhere that it is possible to be angry and not sin.
Ephesians 4:26a “In your anger do not sin”… (NIV)
So there are some things that we perhaps have the right to get angry over, things like murder, greed, social injustice, and brokenness in our world. But we need to read the second half of the verse.
Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, (NIV)
Proverbs gives a short window for acceptable anger (one night).Why? What’s the harm to holding onto anger? Read the next verse.
Ephesians 4:26-27 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. (NIV)
Satan uses anger to get a foothold in our life. How many of us have felt anger for days, weeks, or even months? I know I have. Anger is addictive. After a while you almost don’t want to let it go because it keeps you going. Every day we hold onto our anger is another opportunity for Satan to gain ground in our heart. Anger turns into bitterness and rots away at our souls.
Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)
A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones.
On a podcast I heard the story of how anger and bitterness destroyed Richard Nixon. For those of you who haven’t studied Nixon yet he was the President of the United States but he did some really questionable things that ended in his resignation. The one being interviewed, Stephen Mansfield, said this:
The soul has a memory like an elephant. It remembers everything. Unless you deal with the offenses against you, unless you deal with the things that make you bitter, your soul will hang onto it. […] Richard Nixon is there, he’s in his sixties, and he’s in the White House and he is going through Watergate, but he get’s down on his hands and knees and starts beating on the floor with Henry Kissinger in the room and what’s he talking about? The Democrats? The FBI? Something going on in Watergate? Oh no! The way his Quaker family was treated back in California when he was a little boy. He’s still bitter. He’s still ticked. It’s still shaping his soul. And when you feel bitterness, you begin to allow yourself to feel entitled, you begin to want to medicate. […] If I’m bitter against you, it doesn’t really matter how I treat you. […] In Nixon’s case the attitude was a kind of paranoia. They’re coming for me and they’re wrong because that’s what they were in his childhood. They were wrong to treat his family that way. But the Democrats or the other side or the FBI or the special prosecutor, […] they were not wrong. But that had been coded into Nixon’s soul so he dealt with every enemy as though they were coming to destroy him and they were wrong, morally wrong, wrong before God, and that’s why he responded the way that he did, and it destroyed him. (EntreLeadership Podcast #218)
Anger turns to bitterness turns to self destruction. Who are you angry with right now? Anyone? Have you sent an angry email or text or made an angry phone call recently? For your own sake bring your anger to Jesus. If he can bear God’s wrath he can handle your anger.
Is it possible to be angry and yet not sin? Yes. But is it likely? No. James warns us.
James 1:19-20 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (NIV)
Our anger stirs up trouble, but God provides an alternative. Patience calms the storm (Prov 29:11).
Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)
A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
It is your glory, your honor, to overlook an offense. Our culture tells us it’s our glory to “clapback.” A couple weeks ago I taught you “spilling tea” is the new hip phrase for gossip. To clapback is the new hip word for a comeback. When you have a strong comeback you’re clapping-back. Well, just like the Bible says to resist spilling tea it says to resist clapbacks and instead practice patience. Not anger but patience.
Not pride but humility.
Pride is when we see ourselves as more important than God. The opposite of this is the fear of the Lord.
Proverbs 3:7 (NIV)
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
Pride is also anytime we see ourselves as more important than others. The opposite of this is a teachable heart (1 Pet 5:5).
Proverbs 26:12 (NIV)
Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for them.
Most of us aren’t going to say we’re more important than God or others, but we implicitly say it when we go to the Bible to prove it agrees with our pre-formed opinions or when we surround ourselves with friends and people we know agree with us and affirm our point of view. That’s pride. What we need is a teachable heart. We need the humility to come to God’s Word caring more about what it actually says than what we think it should say. We need the humility to hear others out who have a different perspective on life, not judging them in our hearts, but listening for wisdom, wherever it may be. The Bible tells us humility and a teachable heart leads to honor (Prov 11:2; 16:5).
Proverbs 18:12 (NIV)
Before a downfall the heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor.
Olympic athletes still need coaches. Famous movie stars still need directors. Bestselling authors still need editors. Humility comes before gold (Prov 16:18; James 4:6). It’s hard but wise to reign over your emotions. Not anger but patience. Not pride but humility.
Not anxiety but joy.
This point is a little different than the previous two because anxiety, fear, and depression are all different than anger and pride. When Proverbs talks about anger or pride it speaks of our ability to restrain those emotions, but when it talks about depression and darkness it talks less about control and more about their reality and power, their crushing presence.
Proverbs 18:14 (NIV)
The human spirit can endure in sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
Physical sickness can be very bad, but so can sickness of the mind and heart, depression. I take great comfort in knowing that Proverbs does not underestimate the power of mental illness. This is God’s Word and God is saying depression is real and it is serious.
Proverbs does have some wisdom for how to deal with the darkness on the inside. It describes how we often keep to ourselves what’s really going on and that’s not helpful (Prov 14:13; 15:13).
Proverbs 14:10 (NIV)
Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
This Proverb speaks of isolation and loneliness. That rings true. It doesn’t matter who you are. You can have a sadness inside that you’re not telling anyone. Can I encourage you to open up? Share what you’re going through with someone? Not Facebook because Facebook will just tell you what you want to hear (it’s an echo chamber) but a real living–breathing face–to–face person who can encourage and challenge you.
Proverbs doesn’t say we can easily replace our fears, anxieties, and depression with joy. But something we can do is let others have the opportunity to speak joy into our lives.
Proverbs 12:25 (NIV)
Anxiety weighs down the heart,
but a kind word cheers it up.
Remember a time when you were feeling down and someone you love was able to speak a word of life into your heart at just the right moment. If you’re not an anxious person, be that person.
Did you know that cats can’t taste the flavor of sweetness? That’s right. Felines cannot taste sweet. It’s like their tongues are color blind to sugar. No wonder cats are so grumpy all the time! They can taste sour and bitter and saltiness and meatiness but not sweetness. Are you a cat? Maybe you should get a dog in your life. Maybe when dogs are barking at cats they’re just trying to cheer them up! If you’re a dog, use your bark to cheer up a cat. And if you’re a cat who struggles to taste the sweet things in life, find a dog to be your friend. I know dogs can be really annoying but they’re good for your soul.
It’s easy but foolish to let your emotions rule you. It’s hard but wise to reign over your emotions. Not anger, but patience. Not pride, but humility. Not anxiety, but joy. But why? Why do we care?
Wise emotions are good for your body and good for your soul.
Today it seems like common knowledge that how we are feeling can have a direct effect on our bodily health. For example, chronic stress can cause “high blood pressure (and subsequently heart disease), damage to muscle tissue, inhibition of growth, suppression of the immune system, and damage to mental health.” (wikipedia) But long before we ever figured out the connection between healthy emotions and a healthy body the authors of Proverbs understood.
Proverbs 3:7-8 (NIV)
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
To live humbly before your God and humbly with your fellow person can lead to good health.
Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)
A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Good emotions are like good medicine. Not only are wise emotions good for your body, they’re good for your soul. For example, humility, not pride, leads to honor (Prov 15:33).
Proverbs 22:4 (NIV)
Humility is the fear of the Lord;
its wages are riches and honor and life.
The way of wisdom and wise emotions leads to praise before God, but the way of the foolish and being controlled by your emotions leads to shame (Prov 3:35). Wise emotions are good for your body and good for your soul.
But here’s the problem. Isn’t it kind of difficult to do all these things? Isn’t it harder for some than others to rule over their own emotions? This is why we need the Holy Spirit.
We need the Holy Spirit to shape our emotions.
In the New Testament book of Galatians we find the fruit of the Spirit. Just by its very name the “fruit of the Spirit” implies that the fruit is from the work of the Holy Spirit, not the work of the tree.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (ESV)
One of the ways we know we’re saved by Christ is through the Holy Spirit developing wise emotions in our lives (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.). But does this mean we do nothing? See the next two verses.
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (ESV)
We recognize the Holy Spirit bears fruits in us even as he calls us to keep up with him (Phil 2:12-13). If the Lord is giving us opportunities to learn patience, and not get angry, let’s try to embrace those opportunities, and not run away from them. If the Lord is giving us opportunities to learn humility and not pride, let’s embrace the humility. If the Lord is giving us joy through brothers and sisters in Christ speaking words of encouragement, let’s accept that joy. We need the Holy Spirit to shape our emotions.
The word for Spirit in both the Old Testament and New Testament is the same word for breath. This week when you feel a strong emotion you know will lead nowhere good, take a big breath and as you breathe in ask the Holy Spirit to fill your lungs with his peace and guide your response.
Let’s take a moment and be honest with ourselves. We all have emotions, emotions aren’t bad, but we can all think of times, maybe even this week, when we let our emotions get the best of us. That’s sin. Let’s call it what it is. Lets repent and receive forgiveness afresh. God sees our sin but he doesn’t condemn us. Because of Christ Jesus’ death on the cross God doesn’t pour out his anger on you but his love and compassion. Jesus knows what it’s like to get angry, he experienced the full range of human emotion, but he managed to do so without sin. That both validates having emotions and challenges us to not let them control us. Jesus felt but he didn’t let his feelings didn’t rule him. That means Jesus has the power to deliver you and me out of our emotions that threaten to run away with us.
This week when you’re tempted to “react”—to get angry, or prideful, or anxious—remember Jesus, remember the cross, and may the Holy Spirit fill you with his peace.
Pastor Jonathan Romig preached this message at Cornerstone Congregational Church. You can download a PDF copy of this sermon above, which includes endnotes and references, or share it through Apple podcasts or Google Play Music. Read the story of our church here.