The Gospel and Negative Emotions

From Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson.

Without our feelings shining the light on our hidden inner person, we wouldn’t know that we have treasures that are in competition with God’s place in our lives.

Take anger, for example. Although we profess to believe that God is good, wise,and powerful, our anger frequently tells us that we believe something else.  When a rude driver cuts us off on the freeway and we become angry, the true beliefs of our inner person are made evident.  Do we really believe that a good God means for us to be stuck behind this smoke-spewing truck? Why should this inconsiderate river be blessed with an open road? Do we believe that a wise God has decreed that we arrive a few moments late to our destination?  What would be wise about that? Although we confess that we believe in God’s sovereignty, do we humbly acknowledge that God’s will for us at this moment is to be trapped behind this inconsiderate driver?

If we get angry at such things, our feelings of anger are a billboard on the side of the road that reads, “You say you believe, but right now you don’t! Look at your heart! You are envying the prosperity of others! You are forgetting the savior who trudged up Calvary’s road for you!”

….Since our feelings are the by-product of the inner person, we won’t be able to change them directly.  There is just no sense in telling ourselves to be happy when we feel sad, or to love when all we feel is disgust.  The only way that we can change our feelings is by changing our core beliefs and the thoughts that occupy our minds.  As we learned earlier, we need to be “transformed by the renewal of our mind” (Rom. 12:2).

When we are stuck behind a smoke-generating heap and we feel our blood beginning to boil, we can remind ourselves about who God is.  He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger.  We must think: he has been merciful and gracious with us personally.  He is not sitting in heaven fuming because we are slow to believe and change. He abounds in steadfast, unchanging love for us, and he is completely faithful to his promise to continue to love and forgive, no matter how quickly we cut him off, no matter how blind we are to our sin.  Our anger does help us know that we need to repent, but we never repent fully of all our sin, because we don’t know the deep secrets of our own hearts.  Yet still he loves us, pardoning our transgressions and sins.  He doesn’t do this because he thinks sin is no big deal. No, he punishes all sin.  We can be thankful that the punishment for our sin has already been poured out on his Son.

Taken from, Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ, by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson, pp. 139-141.

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