Emotions. The very word itself likely either drew you to this article or caused you to roll your eyes. The thing about emotions is that they always seem to be either in abundance or deficiency. We’ve stereotyped women as having too many and men as having too few. Whether you’re a man or a woman, and regardless of what end of the emotional spectrum you identify with, the reality is that emotions are part of the human person and, if we learn to order them so that they work for us rather than against us, are a God-given gift. The point of this article, however, is not to define what that virtuous emotional mean looks like or how to attain it, but rather to identify one way that the Devil uses our emotions to work against us.
If you’re like me and fall into the camp of struggling with an over-abundance of emotion (as a woman I unfortunately fit the stereotype), you know how overwhelming and suffocating emotions can be at times. Now every emotion has a time and place. Even if we don’t like them, there is a time to be sad, angry, guilty, and fearful. These are signals to us that something is not right and are needed to move us to appropriate action. There’s an angry bear within 50 yards of me… being fearful is a good response! A loved one died, sadness is an emotion that will help you cope with and process that loss. An explicit wrong was done to me, justified anger will propel you to seek reconciliation. The problem arises when these emotions either exist when they shouldn’t or are disproportionally present. Sometimes I find myself overcome with anxiety, fear, sadness, or guilt, and I genuinely don’t know why – there’s no bear in sight, nobody recently died, and I can’t think of any reasons to justify my anger that would convince a person of average intelligence.
Thoughts Are the Parent of Emotions
If you have a background in psychology or have ever sought counseling yourself, I’ll bet you’ve heard of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). The gist of CBT is that our thoughts lead to emotions which lead to behaviors which perpetuate our external situations: I don’t think my boss likes me (thought), which makes me sad and insecure (emotion), as such I don’t assert myself at work (behavior), and the result is I’m unhappy with my job and am never offered a promotion (crummy situation). It’s our thoughts that lead to our emotions. If you’re a typical person of average mental health, emotions don’t just fall from the sky and land on you, rather they are always the result of a thought. Enter the Devil.
Rightfully so, the Devil is known as ‘The Father of Lies.’ He is incapable of speaking truth and his mission is to distort the truth and convince us that his distortion is indeed true (brutal, huh?). I have come to realize in my own life that when I find myself in the state of being buried in negative emotion, rather than resulting from fluctuating hormones, it’s almost always because I’m thinking of and believing the Devil’s lies. We’re always thinking, and oftentimes we’re not even aware of what exactly we’re thinking of. I’ll be the first to admit that it takes me awhile to backtrack out of whatever emotion I’m experiencing and discover what the original thought was, but with some time, I can always find it, and trust me, it’s not pretty.
Get Behind Me Satan!
Life throws you difficult situations and the Devil will attempt to use them to create downward spiraling thoughts, but don’t let him. You may have broken off a relationship, but it does not mean you’re unlovable and unattractive. You may have gotten passed over for that promotion at work, but it does not mean your boss hates you and you fail at everything you do. You may be at a very different place in life than you imagined you would be when you turned 30, but it doesn’t mean you’ve messed up everything and set your life on the wrong track. Sometimes it may just require identifying these untrue thoughts, but if you’re still prone to believing them, model Jesus’ example and rebuke the Devil. “Get behind me Satan!” (Mt 16:23). The Devil is cunning and we need to be prepared to identify his tactics and fight against them. Don’t believe his lies, they’re simply not true!
Can you imagine how amazing life would be if your emotions were working for you rather than against you? Well, this is a great place to start. By simply being mindful of your emotions, you can see what thoughts led you there. By becoming mindful of your thoughts, over time you can recognize which are of the Devil and rebuke them. Hold steadfast to truth and don’t let him play with your emotions. Nobody, especially you, has got time for that!