We really can be in control of our emotions. I think this is an important lesson for us to learn right now. Our society urges us to go with our feelings. If it feels good, do it. If it stops feeling good, stop doing it. Right and wrong are subjected to the fickle fate of feeling.
We are more than what we feel. If our initial reaction may be considered somewhat beyond our control, certainly how we choose to proceed from there is not. Experience and observation have brought me to this conclusion, but any doubt I may have is alleviated when I see that the Bible teaches the same thing.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, (Ephesians 4:26)
I’m focusing on the first verse today, but I include the second to illustrate that we are to control all of our emotions. If we are told to rejoice, then it must be within our power to do so, regardless of our circumstances. “Always” doesn’t leave any room for alternatives. This is not to say other feelings are not appropriate. Jesus displayed them all. We were made to feel, but we were also given the means to decide how we will feel.
When I researched the words that are translated “rejoice” for a sermon a while back, the common vernacular words that seemed appropriate to me were to celebrate or party. To rejoice in the Lord is to openly and ecstatically celebrate Him.
Do I do that ? Anyone who knows me can answer that. I do not. So, how can we change? It begins with how we think. When we learn first of all to be mindful of what He has done for us, how can we not rejoice? We must then train ourselves to see our circumstances differently. When something happens, how will we interpret it? Will we see the evil in it or will we see the good? Sometimes the only good may be that Yahweh is still Lord and He will bring us through, but that’s quite good enough! Will we se potential hardship and danger around every corner, or will we see the potential for blessing? In the same chapter where Paul tells us to rejoice always, he gives us the tools to do it. He says,
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:6-8)
I whish I had time to share the whole of what I learned when I set out to study this, but I have other things to do. So in an effort to practice what I preach, I will say “thank You, Lord.” I’m off to get ready for church. He worked everything together for my good, just as He said he would. I can look at my long list of to-dos and lament that I will again leave most of them undone, or I can praise God that I get to go to church, which has meant so much to me and been such a part of God’s fulfillment of his promises to me. That truly is a reason to rejoice, and my whole attitude is changed just by thinking about it that way. Try it yourself. It works!