Why Did God Give Us Emotions?: A Biblical Perspective on What Science has Discovered About Emotions
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Number of Pages: 240
Vendor: Lifeskills Publications
Dimensions: 8.5 X 5.5 (inches)
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Q&A with Reneau Peurifoy
A: A well-known Indian parable tells of six blind men who encounter an elephant for the first time. As each one touches a different part of the elephant, they arrive at conflicting conclusions as to what the elephant is like. The first man touches the elephants leg and states that it is like a pillar. The second touches the tail and declares it to be like a rope. The third touches the trunk and says it is like the thick branch of a tree, etc. Although each mans perception is accurate, none has really understood the true nature of the elephant.
The same thing can happen with emotions when individual aspects of emotions are studied without stepping back periodically to see how they interconnect. The four main aspects of emotions explored in detail in Why Did God Give Us Emotions? include:
- The subjective nature of emotions: This includes how they make you feel, how they focus your energy and attention and how they urge you to take actions to obtain the things you want and avoid the things you dont want. This aspect of emotions also includes the experiential understanding of events and concepts that is much more powerful than simple knowledge.
- The physical side of emotions: This includes the various parts of the brain associated with emotions, the physical reactions they cause in your body and the ways injury, illness or other malfunctions of the brain can affect how you think and feel.
- The mental side of emotions: This includes the role that your thoughts and beliefs play in generating emotions and how emotions, in turn, affect your thoughts.
- The spiritual side of emotions: This includes the way emotions reveal both your true character and the nature of your relationship with God as you struggle to live in a broken world. It also includes the way emotions give us insights about the nature of God.
Q: Can some emotions be good and others bad?
Christians sometimes spend a great deal of time pondering this question, whether some emotions, such as love, are good and others, such as anger, are bad. This is similar to wondering whether your hands are good or bad. Emotions, like every other aspect of your being, were originally intended to help you enjoy and serve God. However, just as the actions of your hands can be pleasing or abhorrent to God, your emotions can also serve good or evil. What we need to focus on is the source of the emotion or action. The source of evil lies in a mind and heart tainted with sin. The actions you take and the emotions you experience are just the outer expression of what is in your heart and mind. Yielding to the Holy Spirit transforms your inner being into what God intended it to be. As this occurs, your emotions, desires and thoughts are transformed so they function more closely to what God intends.
Q: In the introduction to Why Did God Give Us Emotions?, you point out that this book was twenty years in the making. Why such a long process?
A: When I completed my first book, Anxiety, Phobias & Panic: Taking Charge and Conquering Fear in 1988, I knew that I wanted to write a companion version from a Christian perspective. However, after being back in church for only four years and with so many conflicting ideas from my wanderings still in my head, I knew I wasnt ready. In 1995, I started attending classes through Fuller Seminarys extension program to deepen my understanding of the Bible. At this time I learned Greek and began studying the New Testament in Greek. A year later I wrote the first draft of this book but realized after several chapters that I was not yet mature enough in faith or understanding to write the book I wanted to write. So, I put it aside. I made another attempt to write it about five years later, but again was dissatisfied with the results.
Now, after twenty years of being humbled and growing in Christ, I believe that God has helped me write a book that will be useful to many. From the very start, Ive had two goals: I wanted to look at what science has learned about emotions from a biblical perspective, and I wanted to do it in a way that would strengthen the readers walk with God. Over the last two decades Ive seen the strengths of science and psychology in helping people and making our lives more comfortable. Ive also become acutely aware of the inability of science and psychology to address the true source of human misery: sin and our separation from God.
Six Steps to Managing Emotions
Q. What are some steps we can take to manage our emotions effectively?
A: When you experience emotions that seem overwhelming or puzzling or when you have responded to a situation in an ungodly or self-defeating way, be sure to ask God to open your heart and mind to His guidance before you begin.
Step 1: What Am I Feeling?
Clearly identify what emotion you experienced. Be sure to use words that describe true emotions. If you are working with an inappropriate behavior, identify what you were feeling just before you reacted.
Step 2: What Triggered this Emotion?
Most emotions are a response to needs and wants being met, a threat or a loss that has been experienced. Once you identify what you felt, the easiest way to identify the need or want that triggered it is to ask yourself, What did I want in this situation? or If I could control events, what should have happened?
Step 3: Was My Emotional Response Appropriate
Decide if the response was a logical response. If there was a real threat, then some level of anger or fear would be appropriate. If a loss occurred, sadness would be appropriate. Ask yourself if the level of the emotion fit the situation. If the emotion was logical and at an appropriate level of intensity, go on to the next step. If not, you will need to look deeper for any hidden needs, unbiblical forms of thinking, core beliefs, or conditioned responses that triggered the response.
Step 4: Were the Actions I Took Appropriate?
Most of the time, simply asking yourself the question, Was my behavior something that glorified God? is enough. However, if you are not sure, talk to someone who is mature in the Lord. This might be a fellow believer or a pastor. An objective third person is often helpful in looking at your behavior more clearly.
Step 5: What Does God Want Me to Learn from This?
Because we are experts at rationalizing our responses, this is often the most difficult step. However, if you ask God with a sincere heart to help you see what He wants you to learn from this experience, He will reveal it to you. Be willing to allow God to lead you to those things in your life that are keeping you distant from Him and need His healing touch such as fear, pride, resentment, self-importance, emotional wounds or sin that you are reluctant to give up.
Step 6: Is There Some Action I Need to Take?
Strong emotions always indicate a need to take action. Sometimes the action involves dealing with unresolved hurts from the past, ungodly beliefs, pride, or sin in your life. This is especially true if you identified issues like this in Steps 3 or 5. Other times, your emotions are signaling that you need to take some other type of action. If you have clearly identified a need or want that is reasonable and doesnt violate what has been revealed in Scripture, ask God to help you plan actions that will please Him.
Sometimes the required action has to do with setting limits or confronting someone. Sometimes it involves making changes in your life or pursing something your heart desires that you have been ignoring. If it is difficult for you to identify actions you can take that would be appropriate and pleasing to God, seek the counsel of other believers or your pastor.