Emotional strength has little to do with stoicism and even less to do with any momentary reaction. Rather, emotional strength is something that can only be assessed over time. By definition, it involves a person’s ability to deal with challenges and bounce back from them, not how they respond in any given moment.
The 7 Characteristics of Emotionally Strong People | Psychology Today
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’
Emotional strength is like a muscle. You gain strength as you use it. You have great days, where it all comes together, and you have disasters where nothing seems to work. From experience with the Scriptures, time with friends and counselors, here are five thoughts to focus our minds and hearts on emotional growth.
To be emotionally strong, you must put Scripture into practice
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
Knowing is just half the battle: practice makes the other half. Those who have knowledge are no better off than those who don’t if they do nothing with what they know. Think about your diet: I know how I should eat, but I don’t eat like I know. I’ll only be healthier if I actually follow the diet.
Similarly, if you know or hear Scripture but don’t follow it, you’ll deceive yourself into thinking you are stronger than you are. If you follow Scripture, you can find emotional strength. For example, I don’t like conflict: when issues arise with friends I avoid them or frame arguments on why I am right and they are wrong. There is a passage in Matthew 18 that says if someone has hurt you, go to them, and talk about it to win them over. When I follow that teaching and talk about our relationship to confess my heart to win them over, my heart changes. Trust in and obedience to the Word bring me serenity and emotional strength.
To be emotionally strong you must be honest
You cannot grow without authenticity. It is easy to blow this off and to want to tune out hurts and emotion.
Why acknowledge difficult emotions at all? Because honest talk weakens the fear and anger that we feel inside. It feels risky and intimidating when I open my heart about my feelings. I get real responses back. Input from others is only useful if I have been honest. The Bible, trusted friends, and counselors bring light to what I feel and I find direction and acceptance from their thoughts.
The Scriptures teach this principle as well:
Ephesians 4:15 says,
“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”
Jesus told his disciples,
“…but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
To be emotionally strong you must find faithful friends
It is a common saying in child-rearing: “It takes a village…”
It also takes a village to work with our emotions. The Proverbs say:
“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out”
I don’t always know what I am thinking: I have friends, my bride and trained counselors to see what I am feeling. They draw me out to help me realize what lives inside my heart. The reason you need to be drawn out is to understand your response to what’s happening to you and act appropriately. Until I know the truth, I cannot act on it.
To be emotionally strong, we need friends who are as close as family. Proverbs says, “better a friend nearby than family far away” (Prov.27:10) when you need help. My friends are like family, people who hear the truth and point me in the way I should go. Do you have friendships that you are willing to treat like family?
To be emotionally strong you need to prepare for testing
You won’t know how you’ve grown until you are tested. Personally, I struggle to see challenges as tests; I see them as evil personal disasters. However, challenges are the way I can see how I am building. Am I building an authentic life that withstands challenge or a fragile life that is only bearable when the seas are calm?
Jesus said in Luke 6:46-49 to dig down deep to build the foundations of your life (on the rock) so you can withstand the storms. James 1:2-4 says we should consider it joy when we face trials, because trials test faith, faith yields perseverance, and perseverance makes you mature. I am a slow learner at 65; I am still looking for maturity … but it will come.
To be emotionally strong you need to understand that failure is not fatal
Failures are teachable moments where God allows you to see how strong you really are. The purpose is so that God can show you where you need to get stronger. It is during the teachable moments where God shows you how to build a more spiritual life. I hate teachable moments because I get exposed, people know the things I have been doing to avoid work on my emotions.
Peter had a teachable moment. In Matthew 14:22-33 he was walking on water and sank. He had done something crazy; he got out of a perfectly good boat and stepped onto the stormy water. He sank, and Jesus asked, “Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). Dag, he was doing something great and he was exposed, in front of a bunch of friends who were safe in the boat watching. But then Peter went on to serve God in great ways. His momentary failure was left behind.
In conclusion, we can learn from our successes, failures, and memories and improve our emotional strength. As Paul said,
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.