Some people love running – they feel at peace when they run. But others of us find running very challenging. The Bible often talks about running as a metaphor for our spiritual life; it is something that takes hard work, determination and perseverance. It pushes our limits and shows us our level of tenacity.
Have you ever tried to go from the “chip and dip” level of physical exercise to deciding you really want to get in shape? After jumping in into your workout filled with enthusiasm, you find yourself halfway around the block, panting and sore, and you quickly remember why you stopped working out in the first place.
Running stretches our boundaries and shows us what we are made of; at times it overwhelms us and we want to quit. It makes us emotional.
Learn to Deal with Your Emotions
You know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. So run to win! 25 All those who compete in the games use self-control so they can win a crown. That crown is an earthly thing that lasts only a short time, but our crown will never be destroyed. 26 So I do not run without a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something—not just the air. 27 I treat my body hard and make it my slave so that I myself will not be disqualified after I have preached to others.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NCV)
It matters how you run. To “run to win” takes work – physical work, spiritual work, and emotional work.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us
Emotions are one of the greatest challenges we face in life, and if we are going to “run to win” we need to learn how to handle them.
And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.
Genesis 4:6-7 (AMP)
This scripture outlines 3 of our most powerful emotions: sad, depressed, and dejected. These are emotions that need mastery. When we feel this way, the Bible says sin crouches at our door.
Suppressing emotions, however, is not the way to overcome them. Suppression is different than mastery; suppressing emotion gets you sick. When we bury emotions by refusing to admit, deal with, or work through them, sin grows in our lives.
For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.
Galatians 5:17 (AMP)
The word “desire” in the Bible is often the word used to refer to emotion. Why then would we “desire” to feel negative emotions, like depression or dejection? Sometimes these emotions are what we desire to communicate to others that we need help.
When we deal with our emotions, we will deal with our sin. Sins like drunkenness, bad food choices, immorality, adultery, and impurity are all driven by emotion and the desire for intimacy.
In marriage, we sometimes substitute physical intimacy for emotional intimacy. The problem is that physical intimacy will wear off. We need to learn to build more intimacy in other areas of marriage, like emotional and spiritual intimacy.
To run to win, we have to deal with our emotions. We have to wrestle with them and overcome them, not stuff them and deny them.
Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city.
In the scriptures, emotional discipline is called self-control. It means having balance in our lives, and it is better than charging ahead on pure emotion.
Like a city whose walls are broken through
is a person who lacks self-control.
Without emotional self-control, we will begin to experience breakdowns. Living by our emotions all the time will cause damage to our marriages, family, friendships and even our own well-being. Support groups, diet changes, and other forms of self-help are all good ways of helping us through our emotions, but they are not enough. Without God, we will break down over time. We need encouragement and emotional discipline, so we can experience the fulfilling life God desires for us:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.Against such things there is no law.
Mastering Emotion: Discipline or Breakdown
They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires.
2 Timothy 3:6
I believe the passage in 2 Timothy 3 can be applied not only to women but to men as well. Both men and women can be weak-willed and vulnerable. Why? As the scripture says, because we are guilty and full of lots of undealt with emotion. When we get this way, slimy people can work their way into our lives.
So we have a choice: deal with our guilt (which, by the way, is an emotion) or live life weak and broken down.
There are four stages of breakdown:
- Freak out: Lose faith
- Fall apart: Lose strength
- Burn out: Lose desire
- Fall away: Lose hope
1. Freak out: Lose faith
If you fall to pieces in a crisis,
there wasn’t much to you in the first place.
Prov 24:10 (MSG)
Freaking out is the first step to losing our faith and it’s a sign that our emotions are taking over. Women and men are often different in this – women may freak out outwardly, while men freak out inside, silently.
How easily do you freak out in a crisis, or when something goes wrong?
2. Fall apart: Lose strength
So I bow in prayer before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth gets its true name. 16 I ask the Father in his great glory to give you the power to be strong inwardly through his Spirit. 17 I pray that Christ will live in your hearts by faith and that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. 18 And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. 19 Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God.
If you freak out long enough, you will eventually fall apart. You can actually talk yourself into destroying yourself, and convince yourself you are breaking down.
The solution here is to do inner work on our internal strength from God. How much work do you do on your own personal relationship with God, to find the inner strength to handle your circumstances?
3. Burn out: Lose desire
That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the gracious gift of God, the inner fire that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands with those of the elders at your ordination.
2 Timothy 1:6
Do you ever get so tired that you don’t even care how you feel? That is a sure sign of burn out. Our inner fire is gone. Many of us aren’t doing the work we need inside and nurturing our relationship with God, so we have lost our desire to be close to God and help others.
4. Fall away: Lose hope
When we freak out, fall apart, and burn out long enough, we will eventually give up. Despair kills our relationship with God. We start to think we will never overcome. The dangerous thing about emotion is that it can convince us we have no hope when we absolutely do have hope. While we can’t ignore our emotions, we do have to put them under the authority of God.
These two things cannot change: God cannot lie when he makes a promise, and he cannot lie when he makes an oath. These things encourage us who came to God for safety. They give us strength to hold on to the hope we have been given. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and strong. It enters behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place in heaven, 20 where Jesus has gone ahead of us and for us. He has become the high priest forever, a priest like Melchizedek.
Hope is not about our circumstances. No matter where we end up, we will always have hope if we trust God more than our emotions.