Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Spiritual warfare & EMOTIONS

God our Father possesses a full range of emotions. We are created in His image. Thus we were created as emotional beings. Satan would have us deny or suppress our emotions, have us express our emotions inappropriately, or think either "feelings are all" or have "no feelings at all." All of the above is a perversion of how God intends emotions to be expressed. God wants us to have feelings that correspond to true reality. This means we will be able to handle a full range of emotions properly. We will be able to deal with negative emotions (admit them to ourselves; bring them to God, and share them in appropriate ways with appropriate people). The Lord also wants us to enjoy positive emotional experiences (allow free joyful expression). The Apostle Paul in the book of Philippians exhorts us to "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice" (Phil. 4:4. Emotional expression is natural. Our bodies and nervous systems were designed to respond to stimuli with anger, fear, sadness, and so on. But culture and child-rearing practices modify the emotional responses. Since emotion is natural, emotional behavior is culturally learned. Emotion is essentially a healthy mechanism, designed to protect us. Healthy emotion reflects true reality, often more quickly than our intellects do. There are times when an intellectual grasp of the situation is not enough, we need the emotional response to stir us to action. Insanity can mess up the mechanisms governing emotional response. Since none of us has a truly clear picture of reality, all of us are at least a little "insane" and our emotional mechanisms are correspondingly messed up. How do the emotions that we must address in the area of spiritual warfare arise? Basically all of our emotions arise as a result of our personal system of judgments or interpretations of the event(s) that we experience. How do we make those judgments? When we experience an event or circumstance which invokes an emotional response, how is that response generated? Three primary sets of factors are involved. 1. Our world view and the system of cultural values we hold, which serve as a type of interpretive "map" we rely on to guide us through life. 2. The particular life history that we have. No one can change the historical events of their past life, but we can change the extent to which those events continue to control us in the present. 3. Our own "emotional hermeneutic" which results from world view, life history, and genetic parameters given to us by God. Just as hermeneutics in reference to the Bible is the study of interpretation of the text, so our emotional hermeneutic is our own means of interpreting the circumstance. How many times have you jumped to a faulty conclusion based on past events in your life? However when you saw the bigger picture of the event you felt quite different. We filter the event through these three foundations and develop an interpretation of the event (e.g., "Sam was trying to rip me off"). Intimately intertwined with our interpretations is our emotional response (e.g., anger at Sam). We experience the emotion, and then we face the choice, how do we respond to it? Two primary choices may be noted. 1. Improper responses, these include covering over the emotions we feel or denying them, or venting them inappropriately. 2. Proper responses, these involve an honest recognition of our emotions, and an appropriate expression of them. We must also apply Jesus' kingdom ethics to the circumstances, which enables us to take the initiative by not allowing the emotions to force us to act sinfully. When cursed, we bless. When offended, we forgive. In a type of feedback loop, our response is incorporated into our life history and emotional grammar, and becomes a part of our past. When we choose bad responses to emotions, we strengthen inappropriate emotional grammar. There are two key issues in relationship to handling emotion. Neal Anderson writes "Nowhere does God condemn us for our natural emotional reactions to life, but he does tell us to manage our life. We are to put away anger, malice, hatred, etc. We are to cast our anxiety upon him, and we are to acknowledge our anger and depression. Essentially, we are to be emotionally honest with ourselves and others, and not feel guilty for being a real person." (Anderson, Resolving Personal Conflicts, p22). Changing our own emotional hermeneutic through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2), accomplished by knowing the truth, following the right mental programming, and consistently choosing to walk in the truth (or light). The enemy loves to manipulate our emotions when we are sinning. A number of my past clients reported that during an expression of anger, it was like watching themselves fly into a rage. They knew they needed to gain control of this anger. At the same time, there was a sense of enjoying their anger. However, once the anger was spent, they were very sorrowful and couldn't imagine why they had become so angry in the first place. Some of our worship of God is emotional. 'The joy of the Lord is our strength." Read the Psalms and note the wide range of emotions the Psalmist experienced. Emotions are responders. We should never deny our emotions, but we must strive to keep our emotions in check, lest our heart rule our head.

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