When I first began teaching Freedom from Emotional Eating two or three years ago, I had a couple of women drop out of my Bible study. They didn't want to discourage me, they said, but it was just too painful to work on their emotions to keep going. I can sympathize with those ladies. I know how hard it is to work on some of these things.
Our tendency is to blame our feelings on other people or on situations we have no control over. It's hard to recognize that we also have a certain amount of responsibility when it comes to our emotions. And it's hard to go through all the work we need to go through to find peace and joy in difficult situations.
When you first start working on an emotion, it may take awhile to bring your thoughts captive to Christ. You might need to spend a long time wrestling through a situation with God before you experience peace, and even then, the peace will feel somewhat shaky. But the more you do it, the easier it will get and the more long-lasting and all-encompassing the peace will be.
At some point you'll find that situations which at one time would have annoyed you or sent you into a frenzy of worry no longer affect you that much. You'll begin to see the benefits of renewing your mind, and that in and of itself will make you want to keep going.
If you're not at that point yet, I'd like to encourage you to work on your negative emotions. Here are four benefits I see as a result of regular renewing of your mind in the area of your negative emotions:
1. It will bring you closer to God.
The Bible actually has a lot to say about negative emotions. For example, in Matthew 5:22-28, Jesus implies that both anger and lust are sin. In Romans 1:28-30, envy, greed, and arrogance are included in a list of wrongdoings that also includes murder and hating God. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus doesn’t say that worry is a sin, but He does tell us not to do it.
Now here’s the interesting thing. We all know that sin separates us from God, but usually we focus on behavioral sin. What we need to recognize is that sins of the heart can cause distance in our relationship with God just as easily as sins of behavior. If I’m constantly wallowing in an emotion that God has told me I shouldn’t be wallowing in, then that emotion is going to affect my walk with Him, whether it’s labeled sin in the Bible or not.
Renewing my mind on a regular basis has done more for my walk with God than any other discipline. It keeps me feeling close to Him, and it keeps me wanting to spend time with Him, both in the Word and in prayer. What I've found is that when I'm all wrapped up in emotions that don't honor Him, I don't want to be with Him. Renewing my mind not only gets rid of the negative emotions--it also brings me back to God.
2. It will improve your relationships.
Here’s an interesting exercise. Take out a piece of paper and list the three negative emotions you deal with most. Then ask yourself this question: How does this emotion affect my relationship with God and others? We can easily see how an emotion like anger hurts our relationships, but the surprising thing is that seemingly benign emotions like stress and worry also hurt our relationships.
3. It will make your life more peaceful and joyful.
This is kind of an obvious benefit. The problem is that the peace and joy don’t come the minute you start working on the emotion. Instead, life is less peaceful and joyful in the beginning because of the stress working on that emotion brings into your life. Depending on your situation, you may want to think about working through some of those really difficult emotions with a counselor.
4. It will help you lose weight.
Renewing your mind in the area of food will help you lose weight, but renewing your mind in the area of your negative emotions will help you lose even more weight. That’s why five out of eight chapters in Freedom from Emotional Eating deal with the emotions.
Think of it this way—if you tend to eat when you’re worried and all of a sudden you start going to God whenever you’re worried, you’ll eventually learn to trust in Him and you’ll begin to live a life of relative non-worry. It will take a lot of renewing your mind to get to that point, but you will get there if you keep pursuing God each time you’re worried.
Once you get there, you may still eat when you’re worried. But since you won’t worry much anymore, that won’t be a big deal.
One Last Thought
Before I close, I just want to say a word to those of you who either have experienced or are experiencing devastating things in your lives that are causing your negative emotions. I can’t claim to know what you’re feeling, because I haven’t walked in your shoes, but God knows.
Think of all Jesus Christ went through when He lived on earth. He knows how you’re feeling, and He grieves over what happened to you. He doesn’t condemn you for your feelings—but He doesn’t want you to continue on in those feelings either.
Often we don’t find peace until we’re willing to accept the unacceptable. Renewing our minds helps us see life from God's point of view. Through it, God can show us if there's anything we need to accept--and He'll also give us the strength to accept what we need to accept. Renewing our minds in the area of our emotions can be very difficult, but it's worth the peace and joy and intimacy with God that comes with it.
In my next post, I'll give you a renewing of the mind challenge for the emotions.