By Barbara Latta, Crosswalk.com
I have ridden horses a few times in my life, but I am by no means a professional. But I have learned from those who are experts that the way to dominate a horse is to rule its head.
For a horse to lie down, the front must go down first. For it to get up, the animal must throw the head up for the body to follow.
Characters in western movies do this when they want to hide from perpetrators who chase them. The rider pulls the mount to the ground and holds the neck which prevents the charger from rising. To get back up, the cowboy or soldier releases his hold, and the animal is free.
Equestrians assert power over their ride with the harness connected to the bridle in the horse’s mouth. This controls the head which, in turn, determines the direction the steed goes.
When our emotions are in turmoil, it is like a bucking bronco having its own way. We could say vehemence in our souls is balanced by harnessing our noggin, or our thoughts. What starts as a thought gives birth to attitudes that result in actions.
We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. (James 3:2-3 NIV)
Here are 5 ways to conquer some of the most common emotions we face:
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1. Fight Fear with Love
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 NIV)
Disobedience to God’s command brought the first feeling of alarm to mankind. Adam had a pure relationship with his Creator, but when sin entered his spirit, their oneness detached. Anxiety became Adam’s new religion. While nothing had changed with God, everything had changed with Adam and Eve. New feelings, experiences, and the way they related to each other came into existence. Hiding meant they were afraid of punishment. They put faith in the words of the serpent instead of what the Lord had told them.
Anticipation of condemnation may cause compromise in values and decisions. When we listen to voices other than the Lord’s, we are hiding from Him like Adam and Eve did. We are placing our faith in a voice other than the Almighty’s.
All apprehension starts with words we meditate on or events we experience. We allow a seed to form and grow into full mental bloom. The more we ponder what may happen, the stronger the grip of terror grows until a stronghold is formed in our imagination. We conquer these soulish arguments by casting them down (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
And in the case of a real threat, the power over us doesn’t have to be. There is nothing that cannot be overcome with the Word of God. We can stand on His promises in faith and rely on His love to eliminate the fear.
2. Uproot Rejection with Christ’s Acceptance
Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5-6 NKJV)
Misunderstandings in our relationships can cause withdrawal to well up in our hearts. Children may misinterpret what is said by parents, spouses misunderstand each other, and friendships suffer from wrong communication. Over time negative reinforcement can cause us to form feelings of unworthiness. We then transfer those dispositions to our relationship with our heavenly Father and compare Him to human relationships. This can cause a break in our ability to hear the Almighty’s voice and receive what He wants to give us.
We depend too much upon other people’s opinions of us. When we do this, we are obtaining our value from other fallen flesh instead of our Creator who loves us more than anyone else can.
When we take our eyes off Jesus and put too much emphasis on how others can make us feel we become weak. We are strengthened by trusting and believing what the King of kings says about us.
Someone else’s treatment of us doesn’t reflect our value. Christ said we were worth dying for. That should make all the difference in the world.
The key to overcoming rejection is to focus on Christ’s love. We are reminded in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave us or forsake us, and His love is never-ending. Even if another person turns against us, our Savior never will.
If we know we are loved, and we know we have been made worthy by the blood of Christ, then these mindsets can be stopped. His acceptance can uproot thoughts of alienation.
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3. Extend Forgiveness in Obedience
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
It’s difficult to forgive those who hurt us because our mind reasons that forgiving them means making light of mistreatment done to us as if it doesn’t matter. But forgiving means we release our right for vengeance against the other person to God.
The worst event in the history of the world was the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. His pain certainly mattered. Yet on the cross the Son forgave those who delivered Him and those who pounded the nails. And He forgave you and me because we all put our Savior there.
Corrie ten Boom related a story about a meeting that took place at a church where she spoke about her experience in a concentration camp. After her talk, a man approached her nervously twisting his hat in his hand. Corrie immediately recognized him as one of the guards at Ravensbrück. He reached out his hand and asked her forgiveness for the injustice done to her. Her eyes only saw a Nazi uniform housing an evil face, not a contrite man asking for mercy.
Her remembrance of the hate and evil caused apprehension and an emotional struggle, but she wanted to obey the Lord. She said, “Jesus, help me. I can lift my hand. You supply the feeling.” Corrie said as she clasped this man’s hand, immediately warmth spread throughout her body, and the burden caused by crimes against her lifted. Corrie’s obedience showed agape love and her response made a difference in this man’s repentance.
4. Fight Depression with God-Focus
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. (Psalm 40:1-3)
In 1 Samuel chapter 30, David and his men returned to their city to find their wives and children had been taken captive by their enemies. The people who were with David blamed their leader for these tragic events so much they considered stoning him. The Bible says David was very distressed. But he did not remain that way; he encouraged himself in the Lord (v. 6).
How did David get out of his depression? He asked the Almighty what to do (v. 8), and after following the given instructions David and his men recovered their families and took the spoils of battle from the captors. They brought back so much that David had enough to share with the elders of Judah.
David had a great victory because he did not give in to his feelings. If he had sat around crying, “Woe is me,” his family and those of his men would have been gone forever. These warriors glorified God’s name when they didn’t let circumstances dictate their actions. They had to act on heavenly direction in faith even though their hearts were saddened by the events that had taken place.
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5. Replace Envy with Humility
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:16)
The green-eyed monster lurks in the corners, sleeps in the unlikeliest places until it’s awakened, and then the hidden creature pounces and attacks. We can think this villain doesn’t exist until bait feeds the frenzy and then we are assaulted with a vengeance.
Praying for others is the best way to get our eyes off ourselves and put the jealousy in the graveyard. When we humble ourselves before the Lord, He lifts us up (Hebrews 4:10).
Our part is to think about our blessings and how we are to use our gifts, not on what others have. Replace envy with the Son’s humility.
View People the Way God Does
None of us are perfect and we all fail at times. If we will view other people who transgress against us through God’s eyes, we can be empowered to contain our emotions. Wouldn’t we want them to do the same for us? (Matthew 7:12). They may have been in a crisis themselves. This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but neither does it excuse ours.
All five of these emotions can also be the root or fruit of anger which is prevalent in our society. Pastor Greg Mohr of Charis Bible College in Colorado has said, “Anger is unresolved revenge.”
If we control these other feelings and attitudes with scripture and prayer, we can also kill anger at its source.
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)
As we mature in Christ, we can learn to reign over our moods and our responses to other people by training our thoughts before allowing them to transform into harmful frames of mind.