Prepare Yourself . . . Emotionally

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven,” says the author of Ecclesiastes. 

What activities fill your time? 

While, indeed, there is a time for everything; we discover that we lack the time for everything.  Whatever your choice of tool – iPhone, Blackberry, or paper calendar – your dates fill up with haste.

This blog post and the next three will look to Scripture to find the tools to prepare ourselves emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically for service to God. 

Prepare Yourself Emotionally

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
  1 Peter 5:6-11 (NIV)
As Peter closed out his letter to the believers throughout Asia and Europe, he provided instruction to church leaders; then he broadened his focus by starting his sentence with “pántes de” – “And all of you.”  In other words, “Now everybody pay attention.”  His words to everybody tell us how to prepare ourselves emotionally.

Three Actions for Emotional Readiness:
1.    Humble Yourself –
Do you fear your emotions?  Some people even use the words “very emotional” as a negative descriptor of others.  Emotions should not be feared, nor should they be held in check; true emotions are positive gifts from God that help us navigate through life.  When He created us, He knew we would need to laugh, need to cry, need to recognize fear; He knew we needed to be real.

One of the biggest roadblocks we face in handling our emotions in a healthy manner is our pride.  Pride stops us from laughing when we listen to the lie that we should always maintain seriousness.  Pride hinders our tears when we fear that others will think we are weak.  Pride stops us from asking for help because we don’t want to appear needy. 

Ken Blanchard writes,
“Humility does not mean you think less of yourself.  It means you think of yourself less.”
In order to know the full power of the resurrection, you need to think of yourself less.  Some of you are blocking the full impact of God in your lives because you are too concerned with how it will appear to others.  We talk a lot about “loving your neighbor as yourself,” the second part of the Great Commandment.  We need to follow that.  However, you cannot serve God to the full if you are too in love with your neighbor’s opinion of you. 

Let go of pride and humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.

2.    Cast Your Anxiety –
We all encounter issues that wake us up in the middle of the night or cause our fingernails to lose some length.  We call that anxiety.  As we look to the cross and beyond, take confidence in knowing that the one that conquered death can handle your stress.

Emotions go haywire and get a bad name when we that possess them allow the healthy expression of them to sour and turn into uncontrolled outbursts.  God equipped you with emotions so that you could live your life with stability and honesty.  When we forget their purpose, we find ourselves presenting displays of outbursts to anyone who will listen, even if that “anyone” is oneself listening to a party thrown for pity.

Cast it on Him; He cares.

3.    Be Self-Controlled and Alert –
As His child, God cares for you; as God’s child, the devil considers you prey.  It’s nothing personal; the devil hates anyone who seeks to serve God.  You are doing well when the devil hates you.

In one of his classic works, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imagines a letter correspondence between a head demon and a demon “in training.”  As a team, they set out to destroy the faith and testimony of a Christian they refer to as a patient.

My Dear Wormwood,

I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. Do not indulge the hope that you will escape the usual penalties . . .   There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy's camp and are now with us.  All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favour. 
. . .  Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman.  The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour.  It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek.  It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together.  In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing.  The Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His "free" lovers and servants - "sons" is the word He uses, with His inveterate love of degrading the whole spiritual world by unnatural liaisons with the two-legged animals.  (p 15, 17)

You must be self-controlled and alert when the excitement of the new gives way to the demand of the laborious doing.  Goose-bumps, high-fives and moments of illumination, as good and rich as they are, last for brief moments.  True faith is founded on trust in Jesus as your Lord, not on highlights of spiritual experience.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.
         Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)
In the Message Eugene Peterson expressed the prophet Samuel’s words this way,
“If you are truly serious about coming back to God, clean house.”  1 Samuel 7:3

As you commit to Preparing Yourself Emotionally, you may need to clean house.  Perhaps you need to dust or perhaps you need to scrub the grout with a toothbrush.  Whether a once-through or a deep cleaning, commit to preparing your emotions.
There is a time for everything!

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