Have you ever wished you had been created without emotion? For me, the answer to that question is a resounding, “YES!” Couple a chronic illness that results in extreme fatigue with an ongoing battle against depression, and you have the recipe for misery. It seems the better part of the last few years have been spent suspended in this cloud of fogginess formed by depression, stress, disease, change, and fear. That’s a pretty heavy cloud. There is a commercial on television, advertising an anti-depressant, that focuses on the daily activities of a cartoonized woman. She struggles to get out of bed, get dressed, walk her dog, make breakfast–all the things that many people get up and do every day without a second thought. Her actions are being narrated by a voice that suggests that depression is keeping her from enjoying the life she is meant to have, and even portrays her depression as a small, dark cloud that is always hanging above her head. When she moves, the cloud moves as well. There have been many days that I have felt like there was a cloud hovering over me. It blocked any light, and therefore any hope, and fed my mind with thoughts like, “Why am I even alive?” and “No one would care if I were gone.” If you have ever found those questions ruminating through your mind then you understand exactly what I am talking about. If you haven’t had those thoughts take up residence and become your “best friend”…well, I can only say I envy you.
What if we had been created as beings incapable of feeling emotion? What would that look like in every day life? When I honestly answer that question, I have to admit that I don’t think I would enjoy life like that. Don’t misunderstand–I hate depression. It has stolen countless hours from me. It has caused me to doubt and mistrust not only those closest to me, but also God. I have wished more often than I can measure that I didn’t have to deal with depression. And, as if depression isn’t enough, throw in a chronic illness that easily lends itself to depression, and I often feel like I am being hit from all sides with the hopelessness and despair that comes with the dark clouded best friend. Yet, how boring would life be if we had no emotion? The excitement of children on Christmas Eve would be gone–replaced by stone faced humans just muddling through daily tasks. The joys of a new baby, the thrill of the first snowfall of the season, the satisfaction of a job well done–none of these would be experienced if we had no emotions. Of course, that would also imply that the loss of a loved one or a beloved pet would not result in sadness. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? No, I don’t think it would be. If a heart never knows sadness, how can joy be measured? The inverse of that is true as well–without joy, a heart wouldn’t know what true loss really is–and there are many times it is very appropriate to really feel a sense of loss. Knowing all this, though, doesn’t make living in a state of depression any easier.
The reality is we were created with emotions. The falsehood is that we have to be controlled by those emotions. This is a lesson not easily mastered. It’s much easier to be the marionette on the end of the strings of emotions. If our emotions are up, so are we; if our emotions are down, we are down as well. If, like me, you’ve become accustomed to living like that, you know how exhausting every day can be. On any given day, my emotional meter can swing from high to low and every point in between. On most days, it hits every point more than once. I liken it to many amusement park rides. The thrill of a ride is often found in its speed and unpredictability. A roller coaster, for example, makes a slow climb up a hill and then quickly drops, sending its riders into various twists, turns, loops, dips, and tunnels. Riders find that as soon as breath is caught from the initial drop, there is something else that takes the breath away. Life is like that, too. Joy can turn to heartbreak with a phone call or a pink slip. I remember several years ago when my husband was working for a large accounting firm. Those above him said they saw great potential for him in the company. They were grooming him for promotion–they had stopped just short of guaranteeing it. Imagine his shock when he went to work one day and was told he was being laid off. A promising career suddenly halted. Unpredictability is about the only predictable thing in our day to day lives on this earth.
Up and down.
Up and down.
Like a second hand on a clock that is always moving either up or down, so too will we if our emotions are allowed to be the boss of our attitude.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
While God created us with the capacity to feel, to hurt, to laugh, and to cry (among other things), he never intended that these feelings be our master. In his book titled Emotions, Dr. Charles Stanley said, “Our emotions often stand in direct opposition to our faith in the Lord and what He is achieving for us.” In other words, our hearts only have room for one head honcho. Just as a car has one steering wheel because it would be impossible for two people to be steering a vehicle at the same time, so too our hearts have room for only one to be in charge. The throne of our hearts cannot be occupied by fear and peace at the same time. They will constantly be battling for supreme reign. The ride will be a bumpy one if we let our emotions rule our days. I speak from years of experience. The six million dollar question, though, is how do we stop our emotions from mastering us and move toward us mastering our emotions?
It is at this part of the writing that I so desire to type something profoundly wise. I desire to lay out a formula or a special trick to mastering the emotions of humanity. Alas, though, I have no such trick nor do I know of any such formula. What I do know is that much of our battle with emotions begins in the mind. Aimlessly allowing thoughts to wander, at least for me, is often the catalyst to downward spiraling emotions. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote that we are to put off the old self and be renewed in the spirit of our minds. The same concept is found in Romans 12–be transformed by the renewing of your mind. This is a process, not an overnight transformation. The process is written in verb form. Verbs, by definition, show action or a state of being. The process of renewing the mind–mastering our emotions–is an active process. We have to be mindfully aware that we need to be acting on something, not just once or twice, but over and over again. Since God is our Creator, only He is capable of renewing our mind. Our part in the process is allowing Him to do so by being in His Word every day.Every. Day. Sometimes, maybe, several times throughout a day. It is only by submitting to the will of the Creator that we will eventually gain victory over our emotions.
Feelings–emotions–are a gift from God, given to allow us to experience all that is around us on earth. They are a blessing but they should not have ultimate power over us. Depression is a formidable foe, at least in my life. I know God is bigger than depression, and I know He is more powerful than it as well.
Some days, though, that is hard to see through the cloud that surrounds me.