Who hasn’t destroyed a relationship, or at least seriously injured one, because of a hot temper? Jealousy can ruin a couple’s relationship in no time flat. We have laws against hate speech. You can get into so much trouble with your emotions.
Throughout the Bible we see some of these volatile emotions playing out. David is a man after God’s heart but commits adultery, conspiracy to commit murder, lying, and suffers an incredible loss in the death of a baby. Unchecked emotions can ruin lives.
The Bible speaks about all of these volatile emotions. Even more, God demonstrates most of them. Think about a God who is angry and jealous and hates. Who wants to be part of that religion? That’s one of the ways we know Christianity is true. God is not a god of human imagination or making. He is his own God.
I didn’t title this, “Get a Grip” because I think you need to fix your problems with volatile emotions. This may be something someone says to you, but don’t listen to them. You’re not broken if you experience any of the subjects I discuss.
We’re going to look at some of the most volatile emotions humans experience. What does the Bible have to say about these emotions? And how can we deal with them in a godly way?
Volatile emotions are the ones that get us into trouble. They are the extremes of our emotional spectrum. They cover anger, hate, lust, jealousy, and even depression. These emotions are the ones that get us into the most trouble.
They usually cause visceral reactions in us that make our actions the kind to ruin relationships, jobs, and even lives if we aren’t careful. As I mentioned in my blog post Feeling It, we’ll have emotions but we must figure out how to react to them.
Some of our emotions are easier to deal with than others. In fact, the exact opposite emotions of these volatile ones we will discuss below are much more comfortable. It’s not that we never have any mixups with the emotion of love, but it usually doesn’t cause us to burst out in an uncontrolled reaction.
Perhaps the most volatile emotion we deal with his anger. We live in the climate of anger right now as I write this in our politics and society. Rather than listen to one another or find a way to compromise between two extreme positions, people choose to ignore one another and shout at each other.
Jesus internalized murder in the emotion of anger during his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:27-30?). He said that murder is the outward reaction to inner anger issues. We have anger management classes to try to control this emotion.
It’s not that if you get angry at someone you will murder them physically, but we do a lot of murdering in our minds. Here’s what I mean by that: if I’m angry with someone, I start thinking about all the things I wish I could do to them. I find a way to murder their character. Even the silent treatment is a reaction from anger. We are essentially erasing that person from the conversation.
We must be careful with our anger. The Bible tells us not to let the sun go down on her anger, to make sure that we don’t sin (Ephesians 4:26). But God is angry with Israel in the Old Testament and he has wrath for anyone who does not turn away from sin.
So how do we deal with anger like God does? By his very nature, God cannot be wrong. If he acts with anger, it is righteous. That’s the key. We need to learn how to have righteous anger in this world.
Righteous anger for us is an anger toward sin and the devil. It is anger for the injustices of this world due to wickedness and depravity. It’s not directed toward people as much as toward the principalities and evil spiritual forces in this world that currently control the world system.
We can be angry at the devil and angry at sin and wickedness for destroying relationships and lives. Any other type of vendor is probably not righteous anger. We can genuinely take it before God in prayer and allow him to help us with anger issues.
The opposite of love is hatred. We have a lot of hateful and spiteful people in the world today. But the Bible talks a lot about hatred as well. John talks about hating our brother or sister in Christ, which you would think would never happen because the Bible tells us to love one another (1 John 2:9).
After all, we’re supposed to demonstrate the unconditional love of Jesus to everyone around us (1 John 4:7). But that doesn’t mean people don’t get on our nerves. We throw around the word hate too much in our world today. That might be the reason we have laws against hate speech.
Although I believe most hate speech is more political than relational, it is not hard for us to demonstrate hate thoughts or hate speech. The problem is that you can’t legislate emotions. You need a heart change and discipline from the Holy Spirit.
Even God demonstrates hate in the Bible. Some people think that when he says he hated Esau and loved Jacob that he was having an emotional reaction. But in that passage, it’s referring to God’s choice of one over the other.
He hates sin and the devil for what they have done to his creation. An awful lot of destruction has happened to God’s perfect creation since the world began. In the same way, we can demonstrate righteous hate by hating the same things God hates. It’s not about hating people but about hating the world systems and evil powers in this world.
God demonstrates jealousy throughout the Bible, especially when he talks about his people Israel’s desire to follow idols. God views his relationship with his people as a marriage. This is what he calls them adulterers, when they follow after idols.
Many prophetic books describe God’s relationship with Israel as a marriage. Hosea talks about the prostitution of Israel. He marries a prostitute by God’s command so his life and marriage becomes an image of what Israel is doing to God by following idols.
We have jealousy in our relationships too. But our jealousy comes out of selfishness and distrust. We can have righteous jealousy when we’re jealous for the things of God being used in the wrong way.
Jealousy is a difficult subject for some people. We begin to think that we own the person we are with, and that only spawns other problems in the relationship. Learning to trust one another and to be selfless helps in the category of jealousy.
Jesus also talked about last being the core in an emotion that leads to adultery (Matthew 5:27-30). Just as he talked about anger leading to murder in extreme cases, lust leads to adultery. This is one of the emotional states the world finds acceptable and exploits.
But the Bible tells us otherwise. Lust robs us of intimacy. According to the Bible, any relationship outside of marriage in which there are sexual thoughts or actions is sexual immorality.
Only within a marriage is sexual activity allowed. When we go outside of marriage even in our heart or thoughts, we violate the biblical rules for our relationships.
Lust draws us away from God. It can keep us from experiencing intimacy with him because we’re focusing on fulfilling our own gratification in the wrong ways. The Bible says a lot about lust, but let’s just say it’s out of bounds.
Depression is one of the touchy subjects within Christian circles. Biblical psychology and counseling have helped us to understand more about depression and why Christians would be depressed.
One of the standard responses to Christians saying they were depressed used to be, “How can you be depressed? Jesus fills our lives with joy every day.” But there are many different reasons for depression. There is long-term and short-term depression, and Christians can experience both.
One of the reasons for short-term depression could be the death of a loved one. It’s only natural to be depressed at their absence. Paul tells us we don’t grieve as the world does when Christians die (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but that doesn’t mean we don’t grieve at all.
Long-term depression for Christians comes from a range of issues. One of the most common is a chemical imbalance that can be corrected through medicine. There is nothing wrong with getting treatment for this type of depression.
Christians are often reticent to visit counselors or psychologists when they have clinical or long-term depression. This has been frowned upon in the past in Christian circles.
However, my advice is to go to a Christian counselor so your treatment will be based on biblical values. Don’t be afraid to get help. Jesus wants you to live the life of an overcomer. Within the body of Christ there are Christian counselors and mental health professionals that can guide you in that direction.
A Biblical Approach
All of our volatile emotions can be challenges. There is help in Jesus for each one of them. First, evaluate whether or not it is a righteous volatile emotion. If it is, direct it in prayer against the powers of this world. If it’s not, ask God for his help to react properly to the emotions you feel.
If you need the help of other saints in the body of Christ who have the professional capacity to counsel you, seek them out. God doesn’t want you to suffer with depression or grief long-term. He wants you to live a life of freedom.
Some of these subjects and emotions are touchy ones. I’ve done my best to give an introduction to volatile emotions and some avenues on how to deal with them. In many churches, the pastoral leadership can help you find resources to deal with these emotions. Don’t be a stranger to those who can help you.