Here’s the deal. Ultimately, you get to decide how you feel. About everything. Always. Now, I know this is a revolutionary thought. We’re constantly being cajoled in so many worldly ways that our emotions are precious treasures (they’re not), that we have no absolutely no control over them and should base all our decisions on them (we definitely should not).
Feelings and emotions are used interchangeably to mean that gooey stuff inside you — but they are not the same things. This article goes in depth on the topic but essentially, emotions are physical responses and can be measured whereas feelings are the next stage which involves cognitive input and cannot be measured precisely.
“Emotions play out in the theater of the body. Feelings play out in the theater of the mind.”
Dr.Sarah Mckay, neuroscientist
I can see reason for the confusion as current trends harp about emotions as if they were so entwined with feelings, so one in the same and powerful, they must be listened to. Nonsense. You are not a hostage to your feelings. You may not be able to control precisely how you react, your emotions. But you absolutely can control your feelings. Emotions are the primary response and far more connected with our humanity than I wish they were. Some times I think it would be nice to digitally control these pathways like Data from Star Trek: TNG. Alas, we are not so rigidly programmable at that stage but the secondary process is a whole other matter as it involves the wonderful function of choice.
Let’s go back to Genesis. Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden. They had two sons. Abel offered his best to God. Cain’s offering didn’t get approval and he was bummed. That’s an emotion. He killed his brother out of jealousy. That’s a feeling. His reaction was separate from his action. And all the choice lies there.
Emotions used to be private matters. You had an immediate reaction and then you got to decide what to do, what thoughts/feelings/actions you were going to take out of or despite those emotions. But for better and worse, they’re not private any more. We share all the time. Intimately. With strangers. Strangers who don’t have our best interests in mind. They tell us it’s okay to feel those feelings and sometimes it is but sometimes, it’s really not. Sometimes it’s harmful and we develop a pattern of thought that lies to us. Often it begins through catharsis or self-preservation. Our brains love those two feelings. They’re hurtful and spiky, but we adore cuddling them as if they were house pets. We repeat the feelings, confirm them, dig the trench deeper and deeper until we have dug our own graves. Metaphorically of course.
There is a tyranny in feelings, a perniciousness that can take us away from truth. Emotions are truth in a way that feelings are not. Emotions are there to tell us what we do feel but feelings are there to show us the choice, to choose love anyway. Cain had a choice. You have a choice of how to filter your emotions into feelings. It’s not science exactly, not perfect process, in fact it’s quite messy. But you can pray about it. Not feelin’ it? That’s okay. Declare your intentions.
Even if you’re not feeling it (actually, especially if you’re not feeling it) tell God what you want, where you want to be with your feelings and He will help you make it happen. It may be internal or external, but he will show you how to feel differently. The tricky bit about being human is how stubborn we are and I don’t doubt there are involuntary things at play here but God made you. He knows you in ways you don’t even know you yet. So tell Him where you are then declare where you want to be.
This is not a causal concept, not a silly wish on a star! “Oh hey God, it’s me, again. Thought you might like to take control of my feelings if you don’t have anything better going on this weekend. Okay. Bye.“ No. This is battle. There are spiritual forces that would very much like you to fail. They will try to convince you that you will never be free of this struggle that God cannot help you get through these feelings of anger, depression, sadness, loneliness, jealousy, or heartache. That is a lie.
I told someone awesome recently there are times it feels like God thinks I can handle more than I can. Their response was, “I think He knows exactly what you can handle and that you, eventually, will let Him handle the rest.” And really, that is all we can do. You cannot perfectly cope with your emotions and feelings –- but you can declare your intentions.
Then we get to let God handle the rest.