From Genesis to Revelation, emotions from the human heart are in bold relief all throughout Scripture. From Cain killing Abel to the explosive jealousy of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery, emotional well-being is a major theme in all the Bible. Today, we will examine the deterioration and restoration of the emotional health of an Old Testament character named Asaph found in Psalm 73. The psalm is composed of 28 verses. The first half of the psalm has four major thoughts that reveal the downward spiral of Asaph as he ponders the prosperity of the wicked. He becomes enslaved to wrong thinking, and his emotions are threadbare for all to see. In the second half, his thinking becomes clear, and he rises from the pit of despair. There is much to learn about our own emotions and how wrong thinking can take us captive.
Let’s Talk about our Feelings
I feel like ________. Fill in the blank. What are you feeling today? Sad? Frustrated? Overjoyed? Relieved? Tired? Whether you pay attention to them or not, our feelings affect us on a daily (if not hourly!) basis. God created us in His image, and like Himself, He made us to feel emotions. He created us as beings with thoughts and feelings, and He labeled us as "good."
But, we're a fallen people, and in our sin and in the brokenness of this world, the emotions and our responses to these emotions are not always "good." They can cause a lot of pain and hurt and disruption... but they don't have to. Here's the good news: We don't have to let our emotions dictate our responses, and our emotions and wrong thinking do not have to take us captive any longer.
What the Bible Says in about Emotional Health
In all of Scripture, we read story after story of characters who experience very deep emotions, from despair to joy to fear to anger. Emotional well-being is a central theme of all of the Bible, especially as we head into the Psalms. In Psalm 73, we hear from a man named Asaph. He experiences a downward spiral of emotions as he looks at the lives of the wicked and how they continue to prosper. Wrong thinking enslaves him, as he shares his emotions: All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments (Psalm 73:14). We can see his emotions in the open – he’s frustrated, discouraged, angry, and confused.
Yet, as he continues, he rises out of his pit of despair. He enters into a new hope as he reflects on the goodness of God and all that God has brought him out of. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds (Psalm 73:28).
Wow, quite the turn of emotions, right? Though we may not be looking around at the prosperity of the wicked around us (who knows, maybe you are!), what we are doing many times is, like Asaph, allowing our emotions to take us captive. Out of our emotions is where our thoughts and actions come from, so when we choose to let our momentary struggles and afflictions to move us into a place of deep depression or frustration, we are choosing to allow our emotions to control us. Scripture points us in the opposite direction from that!
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22). Joy comes not out of our circumstances; rather, it comes when we choose to look to Christ first and above all else. It comes when we trust Him and give our emotions and thoughts to Him.
Take Control of Your Emotions
So, picture it: your day is going completely awry. You get in a car accident, you lose a huge deal at work, your child is refusing to listen to you, you and your spouse get into an argument. All emotional situations, yes. It’s in these moments of heightened emotion that we can grow in our emotional health most.
We stop. Rather than taking an emotional nosedive into our pessimistic, negative spiral of feelings and thoughts, we choose to keep an eternal mindset. We reflect on the sin we may have committed. We repent, to God and to someone else, potentially.
And we make it all about God.
Emotional health is crucial to the believer because no one can escape the wide range of emotions that we are going to face on a regular basis. As believers, when we choose to continue to make all things about God, we win the fight against our negative emotional spiral. Jesus takes control over our emotions… and He is always the Victor.
Our emotions no longer have to have a grip on our hearts and lives. We can be healthy emotionally – with the help of the Creator of our emotions. We can rise up and protect others and our hearts from the negative spirals. We can do it with Jesus on our side.