The Emotional Tug

I guess none of us wants to hear we need to 'wean ourselves' off the old ways of thinking and acting, do we? In fact, whenever someone points out something in my character that needs a little adjustment, I almost want to cringe because I thought I was doing 'okay'. We actually 'suffer' a little pain with that reminder everything is not 'okay' in our lives. Whether it is physical, mental, or emotional in nature, human nature just lends itself to suffering. We cannot escape the fact - some suffering is brought on by our own doing! Other times, it is completely out of our control. The hardest thing to deal with is the type of suffering brought on by our own doing. We often associate a sense of guilt and shame to our own failures, compounding the suffering any wrong choice, thought, or emotional attachment we may be going through. Weaning ourselves from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get our own way is indeed necessary, but it isn't easy!

Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. (I Peter 4:1-2)

The instruction to us is to learn to think like Jesus. In essence, we are reminded of the power of the mind, because as we think, so shall we go. We all know how hard it is at times to even admit we need a change of thinking, much less actually accomplishing it! God is faithful - he gives us a key to our inability to independently "deal" with suffering in our lives, but to walk above it in his power. To better understand the power of the mind, let's look for a moment at Paul's teaching to the Corinthian church when they were struggling on the rigidity of rule-keeping required by the Law of Moses: We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all. (I Corinthians 8:2-3) Do you see it? WE tend to think we know it ALL already - we have all the answers we need. How's that pattern of thought been serving you, my friends? I can tell you it doesn't serve me well!

In our suffering of any form of pain, we often gravitate to trying to "figure things out" in our own capacity. We get into the "fix" mode, trying to "undo", "redo", or just plain "do". The "thinking" part of our suffering is something we cannot neglect. No one knows what we are going through like Jesus does, so why do we exclude him from our times of 'suffering' through issues in our lives. He "connects" with us in our suffering because he is "connected to us" in his own suffering. Learning to think as he thought in the midst of his suffering is then something we will do well to latch onto. But...we cannot change our thinking until there is a change of heart and the change of heart is linked directly to the change of mind, so what are we to do? The mind remains rigidly fixed on what it focuses on the most - remember my conversation about our most dominant thought taking us down some path? Remember Proverbs 23:7, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he..." The heart determines our course. If we want to learn to "think" differently, we have to allow our "heart" to be changed. Our "hearts" want their own way. The heart - the mind, will, and emotions that make up our life experiences. Now, isn't this where the majority of our suffering begins? The mind cooks up some scheme, the will engages the body in the mind's contrivance, and soon the emotions are carried away on the winds of foolish thought! If you think you can change mind or heart without taking emotions under control, think again!

Sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. When we begin to determine to destroy the "independence" of our mind, will and emotions, we begin to live with humble hearts. Did you know this is a definition of humility - to have the independence, power, or will of something destroyed once and for all? My emotions want their own way and it is oftentimes not the most reasonable choice I am about to make when following those emotions! Now, chew on this one for a while. When we struggle the most, we find ourselves returning to the place of trying to live independent from God - emotionally driven, independently focused, and set on a course determined in some of the most irrational ways possible. In the midst of our struggle, God is working to break our independence. Peter's word picture says a great deal about our struggle - tyrannized by what we want, we endure much suffering. 

As long as we remain attached to our "independence", we will endure much suffering. It is in the humbling of our minds, submission of our will, and the focusing of our emotions that we come into a place where God can begin to affect our thinking. He is changing our "way of thinking" to align with his so that as we are developing the mind of Christ, we are being delivered from our place of our own suffering. The mind and heart are indeed connected - as a man thinks, so is he! When I begin to allow my independence to be destroyed, bringing into submission my will, the change in thinking begins to affect a change in action - and a control of those unreasonable emotions. Changed actions often do a great deal to alleviate suffering. Beginning to "think right" really goes a long way toward beginning to "act right"! Just sayin!

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