God holds the saints responsible for emotions they have not got and ought to have as well as for the emotions they have allowed which they ought not to have allowed. If we indulge in inordinate affection, anger, anxiety, God holds us responsible, but He also insists that we have to be passionately filled with the right emotions.
For as a man thinks in his heart so is he.
Thursday of this week did not go as planned.
For weeks, I have been contemplating how one’s level of emotional intelligence (a person’s emotional skills and health) actually stems from the heart. After all the heart is closely connected to one’s feelings and affections and where value is given to the things that the mind understands. It’s where regeneration takes place; yet we are also told in Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is deceitful above all things.
Perhaps in the area of emotions we can be deceived the most because while emotions are real to us they are often not based on reality or truth. But back to Thursday. I had that day aside to write a post about this topic– but then Thursday “happened” starting Wednesday evening with a phone call from my youngest son-in-law.
“Oma, can you come down? Alisa is struggling. I think she needs to go to the hospital.” I was out the door before he could finish telling me that he had also suddenly come down ill and was barely able to care for 8 month old Asa, 4 year old Haddie, and 2 year old Greta who had come to spend the night.
My heart was pounding as I thought of Alisa who was 26 weeks pregnant – a miracle for a couple labeled infertile by the medical profession. Fear threatened to engulf my thinking as I sped down Highway 1626 to Kyle. Would my 26 week old granddaughter survive if she came tonight? And how would Peter and Alisa (and we) handle all this? My thoughts then turned to “why Lord?” In my exhaustion (my husband and I are both recovering from a long bout with the influenza) I felt angry that our family recently had endured so much illness, including tiny 8 month Asa who was still needing daily breathing treatments in his struggle to get past the effects of RSV.
In what seemed like a very long trip in the dark, I arrived at the Dusan’s doorstep in 15 minutes having experienced all sorts of emotions on the way. I wondered where all these emotions come from anyway. I know that when I am exhausted, the feelings that surface can be very irrational. And it’s then that I must choose to evaluate these emotions based on truth however real or true they feel to me. So I reminded myself that fear is not of God and only serves to make me more anxious and afraid and decidedly less useful for others. (And tonight I needed to be useful to Peter and Alisa!) I put aside my silly questioning of God as well knowing that He never gives me more than I can handle. (It just seems like it when I am worn out and tired.) Truth is that I can remain steadfast and joyful – regardless of my circumstances when my strength is from Him. I can run out of my own strength rather quickly but His strength is a endless stream that keeps on reviving and rejuvenating.
Frightening emotions continued to threaten me as I drove Alisa to the hospital however. Watching my youngest daughter suffer through relentless vomiting and severe pain, the unspoken concern of imminent labor was on my mind and undoubtedly in hers as well – and it was clearly the concern for the OB nurses upon our arrival as they whisked her off to labor and delivery and immediately strapped monitors to her. In reality she was not only struggling with vomiting and diarrhea but these had in fact caused contractions which went on through the night. But after receiving numerous fluids and medications through IV bags, Alisa returned home 14 hours later still very pregnant and much improved. I knew that not every pregnant mother, suffering through what Alisa did, winds up with a positive outcome and my heart was grateful that in her case, all was well.
So, rather than write my intended post, I spent Thursday caring for my own kids and grand kids. My oldest daughter, Erin, became very ill as well. So did her son Joey who unexpectedly vomited all over my couch, pillows and carpet.
A sleepless night.
A long taxing day.
An unwritten post.
Yet I went to bed with feelings of joy and gratitude. Looking back, I recognize how easily exhaustion can serve to distort emotions. So can fear. Emotions can be our friends turning us toward Him, or my enemies turning us away from Him and into all sorts of destructive thinking and acting.
This time I had made them my friends.
This morning, my heart continues to be filled with emotions that are grounded in truth; that in their time of need, I am able to walk with my children and grandchildren; that I work for a school that allows me great flexibility to do so; and my own kids walked resiliently through yet another difficult day. Alisa and Peter’s 3rd child might have been born last night but I realized that they (we) would have faced that by God’s grace too. We serve a God who is faithful and loving and kind and it is through trials that “the testing of our faith produces patience.” (James 1:3) Difficulties in life certainly bring to the surface all sorts of emotions which can serve to turn our hearts either toward truth or deception.
May it always be towards truth.
The need to growth in the ability to recognize one’s emotions, yet not be dominated by them, is essential for children (and adults) today. How can we learn to see our emotions in light of God’s truth and not in light of how real they feel to us? Join me in the next few weeks as we explore this topic and consider how we an help our kids grow in their emotional intelligence so that truth and not feelings will govern their lives.