Many thinking Americans sat incredulously in front of their television screens in 2016 as students privileged to attend some of the nation’s finest institutions of higher learning sat in circles in the middle of campus crying because their chosen political candidate lost an election. Some of these same universities set up emergency counseling centers to help the students through the “trauma.” This picture, played out all over the nation, makes it clear that mental intelligence is no predictor of emotional intelligence. One can be a brilliant thinker but completely dominated and controlled by the emotions. We do a disservice to our up and coming generations by letting them believe that they can reach their potential without growing up emotionally. Emotional intelligence is not being unemotional, but being in touch with your emotions and the emotions of others without making them the basis of your choices and actions.
The modern church, unfortunately, is a reflection of the rest of society as a whole instead of a challenge to it. Many believers have traded in the authority of the Word of God for belief and conduct to obey the voice of feeling making emotion the absolute authority in their lives. The mantra is often, “I know what the Bible says, but this is the way I feel. Don’t invalidate me by bringing up the Bible.” This manifests when believers emphasize the “neither do I condemn thee” in the story of the woman taken in adultery in John 8, but reject the part that says, “go and sin no more” and then label as judgmental and bigoted Christians who ascribe to both parts of this verse. This manifests when we do not conform to the lens someone has created for us as to what we should do or not do, or say or not say. When we fail to live up to their frame (as if they were made the Lord of our lives), they get put out, offended, and bitter. This manifests when someone redefines, for their purposes or agenda, disagreement as abuse, which both misrepresents the reality, vilifies the individual, and at the same time detracts from the seriousness of actual abuse. It’s the same dynamic as when one politician labels another as a Nazi or a racist simply because they disagree with a certain policy or position thus minimizing the horror of what it means to actually be one. This manifests when we go through trials, setbacks, and hard times and wrongly believe that God instead of the devil is behind the killing, stealing, and destroying in our lives. This manifests when we make poor choices or handle matters inappropriately and then resort to blaming others for our situation. A fundamental marker of emotional immaturity is the refusal or inability to take responsibility for ones thoughts, decisions, and actions. This manifests when someone rejects Jesus’ pathway for relationship healing found in Matthew 18 (go show your brother or sister their fault just between you two) choosing to yield to unscriptural counseling that encourages venting and ultimately emotional group think. The former puts the fire out and brings healing. The latter adds fuel to the fire and consumes more and more hearts and minds proving that spiritual experience, like mental ability, does not necessarily mean emotional intelligence.
The truth about Christianity is that it impacts each and every dimension of the human being. When Jesus redeemed us he redeemed us body, soul, and spirit. The spirit is to be born again. The body is to be subjected. The mind is to be renewed. The will is to be submitted. The emotions are to be used to experience life rather than controlling it. Any dimension of the believer not submitted to the Word of God will become the dominant influence and voice. For too many believers, the dominant influence has become the emotions. In other words, for the Christian, Jesus, not emotion is supposed to be Lord. Emotion tells the hurt to be bitter, but Jesus tells them to forgive. Emotion tells the disappointed to quit, but Jesus tells them they will reap if they do not faint. Emotion tells the angry to lash out, but Jesus tells them that vengeance is his and he will repay. Emotion tells the despondent and depressed to throw their lives away, but Jesus tells them to give their lives to him. Emotion tells the grieving they will never be able to live again, but Jesus reminds them that he is the source all life and that he still has a plan and purpose for their lives. Emotion tells the lonely they have to compromise God’s standards to have a relationship, but Jesus tells them to delight themselves in the Lord and he would give them the desires of their heart. Emotion tells the addicted or bound up that they will never get free, but Jesus tells them whom the son sets free is free indeed.
Elijah (1 Kings 19) experienced a time when he was very emotional and on the verge of cracking under all the pressure. He had expended great physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy taking on the prophets of Baal and then fleeing for his life from Ahab and Jezebel. This brought him to the brink of exhaustion and a break down. We can feel the same way as we experience a loss, setback, affliction, disappointment, illness, persecution, false accusation, failed relationship, dysfunctional family, abuse, rejection, abandonment, financial disaster, work problem, or an unrealized expectation. There’s a reason roof structures in Colorado Springs are designed differently than in Florida. The house in Colorado is designed to handle the accumulation of snow. Put that Florida house in the Rocky Mountains and it will never stand up under the wintery onslaught. Like the snow covered house, the key for the believer to hold up under such pressure is the development of inner spiritual strength, not the domination of a bully called emotion. Christian or not, if we do not understand how to step back and see these situations through the eyes of God’s Word we are likely to allow the bully of emotion to step in and send us down an even more destructive path.
Like Elijah, we all can arrive at destination destruction by sheer exhaustion, ungodly and unscriptural thinking, fear, isolation, and wrong words, but we can overcome the voice of the bully by applying key principles also revealed in this story. First, tune up the body because a fracture in one part of our lives can cause other parts to fracture. The more wore out we are, the bigger the bully’s mouth. This means not apologizing for good self-care, including diet, exercise, time for personal recharging and reflection, and recreation. Second, tune up the hearing. We can’t get our perspective back unless we relearn how to hear God’s voice. One word from God can change our lives forever. Joshua 1 teaches us that the key to courage under duress is hearing from God’s Word and then continuing to say what he says about things. The volume of the bully goes down when our intake of God’s Word goes up. Any emotional baggage, including loss of courage and hope, can be remedied by large and consistent deposits of the Word of God. Third, tune up the vision. We must realize our job is not done just because we are in a bad place emotionally. Like Elijah, who still had many important things to accomplish for the Kingdom, we must discover again our divine purpose in life and then pursue it. The more we focus on our purpose, the less the bully of emotion will control us.