It’s more than a feeling. Or is it?
Exploring emotions is the bread-and-butter work in my role as a therapist. Emotions are neither good nor bad. They just are. Emotions are a creation and gift of God. Pastors and other church workers face emotions every day. How you respond externally and internally can be critical to the success of your ministry.
Whitney Hopler, in her article “Five Ways to Win Spiritual Battles in Your Emotions,” printed in Crosswalk.com, provided this guidance:
- Fill your mind with timeless truths so you can focus on that despite changing emotions.
“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect Will of God.” – Romans 12:2
She suggests that daily meditation on scripture can help temper emotions and allow us to ferret out a truthful interpretation of how we should manage emotions that arise that can potentially disrupt our ministries and our relationships.
- Give yourself a time-out when you notice your emotions are spiraling out of control.
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” – Mark 6:31
We may need to step away from situations that are fostering strong emotions. That step away might consist of just a few minutes, or longer, depending on the situation. Use that time to identify the source of that emotion, which may likely not be related only to the current situation but previous events as well. Stepping away gives the opportunity to defuse and prepare a manner of responding that can be more appropriate.
- Deal honestly with the uncomfortable emotions you feel.
“Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.”- Psalm 112:5
Hopler writes, “Keep in mind that it is normal to experience lots of uncomfortable emotions in this fallen world, and that your emotions themselves aren’t necessarily wrong. What’s sinful is choosing to respond to the emotions you feel in the wrong ways. So if you feel jealous of another person, you can feel that way and still be right with God if you confess how you feel to God and rely on his help to respond faithfully. But if you do not intentionally deal with how you feel, your jealousy will make you vulnerable to temptations from Satan to say or do something wrong when relating to the person of whom you’re envious.”
- Take care of your physical health, which is connected to your emotional health.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – Corinthians 6:19-20
Most are familiar with the term feeling “hangry.” It refers to being irritable or angry as a result simply of being hungry. Physical self-care is a critical foundation for stable mental health. Acting inappropriately on emotion may be related to dehydration, hunger, physical illness, or fatigue.
- Learn lessons God wants to teach you through your emotions.
“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered” – Hebrews 5:8
Hopler shares, “Think of your emotions as school bells ringing for you to pay attention, and the Holy Spirit as your teacher who communicates with you once you come to class. Rather than just reacting to your emotions (as Satan tempts you to do), respond to them with the purpose of learning and growing closer to God in the process.”
If you are a pastor or church worker struggling with emotions and the impact these emotions are having on your personal life and/or ministry, consider making an appointment with a counselor from Lutheran Family Service. Our counselors offer a safe, faith-based place to explore and grow in your relationship with God and others. Reach out anytime through our online web form at: https://lutheranfamilyservice.org/contact/.
Toni Larson, LISW
Director of Church Worker Wellness
Lutheran Family Service