Because emotions are such an integral part of our lives, it is easy to assume that they are the correct response to any given situation. We think our anger is always justified, and our anxiety is for a good reason. It rarely occurs to us that we need to evaluate what we are feeling.
The truth is that emotions are chosen by the brain to suit a purpose. Sometimes the brain is wrong in its choice. That the brain could be wrong should not come as a surprise, and this happens often. Emotions are chosen in a split second as a reaction to sensory information. Feelings do not come out of a situation but are applied to a situation for purposes of motivation. In other words, fear draws us away from danger, surprise draws us closer to potential learning, and disgust keeps us from eating something dangerous.
Oh, how I wish I could feel a bit of disgust about sugar and less disgust about cooked spinach. However, these are the mistakes my brain makes. Over the long term, good choices happen just often enough to keep us alive and learning.
While we cannot edit the work of our brain and replace an unhelpful emotion with a helpful one, we can influence what emotions our brains choose.
We can set our minds. We do this by practicing the things that give us better emotions. For instance, when we answer our anxiety by reading the Psalms, the Spirit feeds our faith. This practice of reading God’s Word strengthens the neural pathways that support emotions of calm and peace because we continually realize the power, glory, and love of our Heavenly Father. When these pathways are more robust, the brain is more likely to choose the emotions connected to them. It is a poignant illustration of how God uses His creation, and His Spirit, to assist those He created.
As people of the world, we want everything we do to be about us, about our decision, about our strength, and our desires. Fortunately, life, as a child of God, does not work that way. Take trust, for example. The world wants us to believe that trust is our power, and we can wield it when we need it. We are told to “have faith and trust,” while the object of that faith is conveniently left out. Am I better off trusting myself? Certainly not, as that kind of faith just sets me up for failure.
My faith and trust should be in God. Yet, there is still something wrong with that statement. Is it truly MY faith or MY trust? If it is, I am again setting myself up for failure. I cannot be trusted.
The ability to trust comes from God. Trust has been won for us. Jesus already defeated all enemies to our life and safety. There is nothing we can do to make that victory any sweeter. We trust God because of God. We trust God because of what He has done for us and what He continues to do for us. We trust God because we feel His love, and that is the perfect emotional response.
In these strange times of challenges we to be encouraged to trust God, because, well . . . God.
God is strong. God is steadfast. God is in control.
To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6