Let’s assume that two things are true in your life:
- You know that only God’s Word is sufficient to win in your emotional struggles.
- You are in the midst of a struggle right now.
I hope the second isn’t true this moment. But if you’re like every other person on the face of this planet, there are times that it is.
In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of using God’s Word as the only sure escape from the emotional rollercoaster we all find ourselves on at times. But in this post, I’d like to give ten practical ways to bring God’s Word into focus during these times.
When your emotions feel out of control, how do you bring the truth of God’s Word into your reality?
1. Praise God.
The command to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) is perhaps the most all-purpose command of the Christian life. Because God never changes, we always have reason to praise Him.
And praising God for who He has revealed Himself to be in His Word—even when we don’t feel like it—allows us to do two things: exercise faith and recalibrate our focus.
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.—Hebrews 13:15
Sometimes I think we oversimplify the emotions of the psalmists when we suggest that anytime a Psalm started on a heavy note and ended in praise the psalmist felt better by offering praise. I don’t know that this is always the case. Praise doesn’t always immediately change our emotions. Sometimes it is an act of the will, acknowledging that God is good and true and faithful in spite of our emotions.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.—Psalm 42:11
So don’t praise God just to “feel better.” Praise Him because He is worthy. Offering faith-filled praise is a way you can glorify Him.
Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.—Psalm 50:23
2. Run to God’s Word first.
Sometimes we expect our friends to be our emotional regulators. That is too heavy a job for any human. Sometimes we think we need just the right book or to hear just the right sermon. Indeed, the Lord sometimes uses friends, printed resources, and messages to give us the truth we need.
But there is no substitute for opening the pages of God’s Word and crying out to God for help. Do this first—before sending that text to a friend or asking for book recommendations. Your relationship with the Lord will grow in a way it never could when it is always filtered through others’ experiences.
The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.—Psalm 119:130
3. Realize you’re not alone.
Like a roaring lion seeking to devour its prey, Satan tries to make us feel isolated and desolate. He tells us no one else has felt how we feel, and if they have, they haven’t emerged victorious.
I remember some years ago when a friend was going through a difficult, frustrating, and teary time. We were having lunch together, and she told me she knew that I never cry. I laughed out loud. She didn’t know it, but I was going through a personal difficulty at the time and was crying every day!
The fact that many emotional battles are very personal means that we often don’t realize that the people around us have been or are going through similar battles as we face.
Even in the pages of Scripture, we find many who dealt with emotional battles.
- When you struggle to sense God’s care, study the disciples in the storm in Mark 4.
- When you’re dealing with depression, study David’s prayer in Psalm 42–43.
- When you feel like quitting, consider Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 4.
- When you sense personal rejection, read about Joseph in Genesis 37.
- When you feel depleted, read about Elijah’s exhaustion and God’s restoration in 1 Kings 19.
These testimonies—and many more—teach us that we are not alone, and they teach us how God’s grace ministers to us through emotional struggles. Look to the testimonies of saints of the past in Scripture. Read and meditate on their stories. Hearing their difficulties and seeing God’s grace gives us the courage to continue.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.—James 5:11
4. Memorize specific verses.
What verses has God used in your life throughout the course of this struggle? Often we hear them, draw strength from them, and then forget them. We need to instead keep them ready as a weapon for when we need them.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.—Psalm 119:11
Emotional sins (and emotional struggles often lead us across the line to emotional sins) are just as much sins as physical sin. Fleshly anger, worry, unbelief—all of these are not just weaknesses, but sins.
Seek out, memorize, and keep accessible Scriptures that deal with the specific sins your struggle tends to lead you to.
5. Repeat truth to yourself.
Have you ever noticed how easily we let negative or untrue thoughts replay themselves in our minds?
But we give up too easily in repeating the truth to ourselves. Sometimes, we simply need to preach to ourselves—over and over.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.—John 8:31–32
6. Speak truth to yourself in song.
Music is such a powerful way to turn your emotions around. Even as God instructs us to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), He follows with instruction on speaking to ourselves in music that makes melody in our hearts and turns our thoughts toward Him.
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;—Ephesians 5:19
If you’re too emotionally tied up to sing, listen to godly music and sing in your heart.
7. Share your needs with someone who will speak the truth to you.
Is this thought in opposition to number 2—run to God first? No, you should run to God first. But God has given His people the church and the gift of Christian friendships partly so we can transparently share our needs and ask for prayer and help.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.—James 5:16
If you’re up against an emotional battle that just won’t seem to go away, reach out to someone for help. Not just someone who will sympathize with you, but someone who is a mature Christian, adept at using God’s Word to share truth.
Not all emotional struggles are emotional defeats, but they easily become that. Satan actively works to exploit our points of weakness. Thus, we need transparency with those who will help to encourage us from Scripture and pray for us.
8. Recognize physical components.
It is true that some emotional symptoms are spiritually driven. For example, unresolved guilt brought profound emotional distress in David’s life (Psalm 32:3–4).
But it is also true that some spiritual symptoms are physically sparked. For example, when Elijah asked God to take his life, God told him to rest and eat (1 Kings 19). Eventually, God did bring Elijah to confront the spiritual components of what he was feeling, but He first dealt with the physical.
People sometimes look at an emotional battle such as depression (which you could surmise was part of Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19) and want to know, “Is this physical or spiritual?” I believe that in most cases, the two are more intertwined than we want to recognize.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.—Psalm 139:14
But where you can recognize a physical component (even if you can’t positively know it is the cause), address it! Are you dealing with lack of sleep, general health needs, diet imbalances, no exercise? Sometimes taking a nap or going for a walk will do wonders for your emotions.
Make the changes you can, and trust the Lord with the rest.
9. Find refuge in the Lord.
God is your Father, and He loves you. Go to Him with your emotional needs; don’t hide from Him because of them.
Are you angry? Pour out your heart to Him.
Bitter? Defeated? Hopeless? Pour out your heart to Him and ask Him to change you.
Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.—Psalm 62:8
Over and over in the Psalms, we see the raw emotions of men who poured out their hearts to God. They didn’t fix themselves up first and then tell God about it. They came to Him with their difficulty and let Him realign their thoughts with the truth about who He is.
10. Recognize there are some thoughts that can only be answered in God’s presence.
I love Psalm 73 because it shows the progression of someone who started with emotional confusion but ended in peace. And the hinge of the entire Psalm deals with God’s presence.
When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.—Psalm 73:16–17
When a thought is “too painful” for us, that is a clue that it is a skewed perception. And only time in the presence of the Lord, allowing His Word to shift our reasoning back to truth will change our understanding.
A path, not a destination
When we are in the thick of an emotional struggle, we tend to see victory as a destination. We want to be free from whatever negative emotion we are experiencing. God does give victory, so there is truth to that desire.
Yet, emotional victory is also a path. It’s a process of choosing to praise God regardless of how I feel, going to Him for refuge, and acting on the truths of His Word. And the path itself—even before you feel you’ve “arrived”—holds victories along the way.
Remember, our chief goal is not emotional comfort—it is to glorify Christ. So beware of making your emotions—even victory over them—an idol. For there is only One who deserves our consuming attention. And His name is Jesus.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.—Philippians 1:21
For me to live is Christ and nothing more.
For me to live is Christ whom I adore.
Lord, let me be, consumed with Thee,
So that for me to live is Christ.