Emotions: Overwhelming Victory or Just Overwhelming?

by Andy Wood on November 14, 2013

in Books and Music, Five LV Laws, Principle of Freedom

Stanley Emotions

“The strongest man who ever lived – our Savior, Jesus – experienced and showed very deep emotion.”

-Charles Stanley, Emotions

Try to have a serious conversation about feelings – unless of course you’re in a therapist’s office – and you’ll run into two possible ditches. The first typically comes from men, who start shuffling uncomfortably and muttering something about not being very emotional.  They are emotional, of course, but to this crowd, emotions are what you have when the power goes out with two minutes to go in a tight Super Bowl.  At best, emotions are something you deal with, but certainly not something you talk about, for crying out loud.

The other ditch tends to be populated more by women, and treats emotions as little gods or dictators of our state, against which we are powerless to do anything except bow down.  Their banner: “I can’t help it – it’s just the way I feel.”  When Debby Boone sang, “It can’t be wrong if it feels so right,” this crowd wiped a tear and lit a candle.

That’s why I’m glad Charles Stanley has brought some truth and balance to the conversation in his new book, Emotions: Confront the Lies, Conquer With Truth.  Dr. Stanley profoundly shaped my life and ministry with a sermon series on the same subject many years ago. Through him I learned, among other things, that all emotions are God-given, and it’s healthy to get a grasp on what their original purpose was/is.  Also, however, all emotions are also sin-corrupted.  Because of that, many people live in the grip of painful, devastating emotions that they feel powerless to overcome.

As you can probably tell from the subtitle of the book, those are the people Dr. Stanley addresses in this book for the most part.  He explains that God gives us emotions so we can enjoy life, meaningfully relate to others, and reflect His image. However, in our broken attempts to deal with feelings, we trip in four ways:

  1. By believing that emotions are a point of weakness.
  2. By trying to stifle or suppress our feelings.
  3. By trying to drown out emotions through busyness, addictive behaviors, etc. or
  4. Expressing all feelings with little or no filtering.

Out of that general foundation, the book takes aim at five debilitating emotional states that can cripple anybody; believers in Christ are no exception. Those five states are fear (out of which Dr. Stanley says most all other crippling emotions flow), rejection, bitterness, guilt, and despair.

In giving readers tools to deal with these emotions, several things stand out in the book. First, apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ and a biblical worldview, there is precious little help available. Godly counselors have their place, but this is, without apology, an application of biblical truth to situations in which people have traveled down a path of believing a lie.

Second, Dr. Stanley is gently honest about his own struggles with these feelings. This is no treatise issued from an ivory tower. You won’t find a lot of sermonizing here (a little, but not a lot). In reading Emotions, you are walking in the tracks of a fellow struggler.

Third, this is a book about conquering.  Dr. Stanley hands readers a sword, not a tissue. He offers spiritual tools and insights to equip believers to experience victory over the despair or bitterness rather than wallow in it and accept those feelings as fatal.

Favorite Quotes

Here are a few direct quotes that I appreciated:

On perseverance:

Did you know that one of the biggest gold deposits that was ever excavated in the United States was discovered 2 inches beneath where previous miners had given up? We make a terrible mistake when we decide to quit because we fear our circumstances will never change.

On bitterness:

Ultimately, unforgiveness is really the need to create a sense of control in the situation – to direct our own destiny and feel secure.

On acceptance:

The one Person with the authority to judge your value – who owns and rules everything in all Creation – made this eternal assessment: You are worth dying for.  You are worth purchasing with His own blood. Therefore, no one else has any right to condemn you or to question your significance. Not even you.

On rejection:

Rejection strikes at the foundation of our identity, distorting what we think is true about who we are and what we are worth. Why? Because of the sinful nature within us. The end goal of the sin nature is devastation (Romans 5:12), so it is understandable that the injurious messages we hear find fertile soil in our hearts and take root.  This is why it is much easier to believe the hurtful things said about us than comments that encourage or edify us. We embrace the messages that speed us along the path to destruction (Psalms 16:25) and dismiss that which reminds us we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26).

On adversity:

Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God…. If our hearts are inclined toward Him, the tests we experience can fortify our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7), strengthen our endurance (James 1:2-4), prove our character (Romans 5:3-5), and give us a platform for ministry (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

On self-awareness:

Friend, you don’t know what you don’t know about yourself.

My One Concern

This is a book that needs a sequel, and soon. For all the legitimate concern Dr. Stanley brings to bear on emotions that cripple or threaten us, there are as many positive and life-giving emotions that are part of a believer’s birthright, and they are only mentioned in passing here.  These positive feelings include love, joy, peace, gratitude, confidence, and even happiness, if the Beatitudes mean anything at all.

Yeah, yeah, I know that love is more than a feeling; it’s a choice. But it’s a feeling, too. Joy is more than just an emotional high – I get that. But it has huge emotional implications – I suggest you read that Christmas story again.

But for all the complexity that the positive emotions bring to the table, they deserve an equally-thoughtful, biblically-sound treatment. And I can’t think of a better author to do it.

 

Get two copies of this book – one for yourself, and one to give to someone who needs wise, caring, truth-filled help.  Here’s where you can find it.

But do more than read it. By the grace of God, live like a conqueror. Don’t let fear, anxiety, bitterness, guilt, or despair have the final word on your life.  I’ll give Dr. Stanley the final word:

Make no mistake, my friend, the proof that you are in control of your emotions rather than having your feelings dominating you is that you can employ your understanding of them for the good of others and the glory of God. This is when you know for certain that you have an “overwhelming victory” (Romans 8:37, TLB) and are “more than a conqueror” (KJV).

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