“Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . .”
Have you ever said, “My head is telling me one thing, but my heart is telling me another.”? If you have, then you understand the difference between the heart (emotional) and the mind (mental).
In Jeremiah 17:9 we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Buyer’s remorse is a good example of what happens when we let our emotions guide a very important decision. This is why sales people try to get you to act as quickly as possible. They know that if you take your time and really think through a decision, you will likely back out. So they do their best to get you to make a purchase based on impulse - on how you feel.
The same is true in relationships. This is why we say, “Love is blind.” Emotions keep us from seeing reality and thinking objectively. It’s the reason we confess, “I let my emotions get the best of me.” It’s also why we often ask ourselves, “What was I thinking?” The fact is, we weren’t thinking; we were feeling.
Clearly, the emotions can get us in a lot of trouble. This is why Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
If the emotions are so troublesome, then why did God design them into us? What’s the purpose? Well, as it turns out, the emotions truly are the wellspring of life.
First, God gave us emotion and the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) to protect us. The sympathetic branch of the ANS controls the fight or flight response. It is designed to help us confront or avoid danger. When we are threatened, all available energy is directed toward the heart, lungs and skeletal muscle. Adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones, have a profound effect on us: eyes dilate, breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, heart rate increases and intensifies, and skeletal muscles tighten. We literally become sharper, faster and stronger. It is an amazing and necessary emotional response to physical danger.
The parasympathetic branch of the ANS controls the rest and digest processes. When we are not in danger, the ANS directs energy to restorative functions: digestion, kidney function, and healing. Both branches of the ANS were designed by God to protect us.
Second, God also gave us emotion to motivate us to be productive. Researchers suggest that without emotion, the human race would get very little done. God designed us to create, pursue and accomplish. Emotion drives us to improve life’s circumstances — both for ourselves and for others.
And third, God gave us emotion for pleasure. God designed us to enjoy rest after work, comfort after grief, happiness after sadness, and provision after need. Without emotion, life would be cold and flat.
It may help to think of emotions as tension and closure. Tension is stress and strain, anxiousness and worry. Closure is peace and calm, contentment and fulfillment. Tension and closure provides the powerful ebb and flow of life. No one would watch or participate in sports without tension and closure. Movies and television shows would be terribly boring without tension and closure. Even hunting and fishing adventures are all about tension and closure. God designed us to enjoy a balance of both.
And this is the problem with our stressed-out world. Too many people are living in constant tension and stress. They don’t experience closure and peace. Calendars are packed, debt is sky high, work never ends and relationships are filled with relentless drama. The result is a tension-packed life that never enjoys the necessary blessing of closure and peace. Too many people are living in constant fight and flight mode — and the consequences are devastating to individuals and families and even entire communities.
Sound familiar? If so, then it’s time to begin guarding your heart. We can’t control our emotions, but we can control the variables that affect our emotions. Through careful and balanced decision-making, we can introduce a flow of closure and peace into our lives. It is essential that we do so. How can we possibly present to God a great return on His investment if we are destroying our lives, our relationships and our potential? We can and must do better.
Next week, we’ll talk about the greatest tension of all — and how we can experience true closure and peace.
(To read previous articles in this series, please visit www.webbweekly.com)