Thanksgiving Day has now passed, and here we are in the official Christmas season, one of my favorite times of the year. But for many, and very sadly, Christmastime is not a happy season. No small number of individuals face a real crisis of depression and sadness.
I am an emotional man. No doubt. I always have been, and hopefully always will be. Emotions, in and of themselves, are not a bad thing – not by a long shot. We need them! Our affections for God, and for those we love, are dependent on them.
But unchecked emotions can bring along some highly troublesome side effects. When any of us live by what we feel, then we can wake up any ol’ day and be depressed, discouraged – or feel “out of love” with our spouse, or even God.
Love and emotions are definitely linked. Love is not ultimately defined by emotions, but rather by truth and commitment. When I say I LOVE my wife, I am declaring that we are one. Even on days that we aren’t clicking, or during times when we conflict, I love her. We WILL have those days. All couples have them. And those days don’t mean that we don’t love each other. It means that we are human. It is our love that takes us through those dry and trying times. It is our commitment to each other that sustains our emotional state.
A friend once gave me a phrase that I have never forgotten. I was in one of those times, battling a feeling of depression. It seemed very real, and I was fully believing all that I was feeling. But my friend encouraged me to “informmy emotions”, not be governed by them. We don’t throw them out altogether in hard times. We are not to become robotic in our relationships. But when our feelings start to dictate things like our emotional “love” for one another, and take us down the path of feeling like we “lost our love,” then it is time to inform our emotions with truth. I have found it to be necessary to resist what I feel, and trust in what the Word of God, the Bible, tells me when those two things are in conflict. I am a big believer in having a clear conscience, so don’t misunderstand and think that I ignore all inner feelings. But I do have to weigh those feelings – with truth.
Here is why – we also battle against an enemy who would love to wreck our minds by planting thoughts and doubts. The devil is not omniscient, and is no match for God. But that doesn’t mean that he is not a roaring lion, seeking to devour you!
I spent 36 years in fulltime ministry, counseling couples and individuals – and way too many times, I have sadly seen couples split up, even divorce – all because they believed what one popular song by Barry Manilow stated. In the song, the singer had gone to a doctor and looked all over the place, trying to find the “feeling” once again, but realized that those “feelings” had disappeared…seemingly as fast as they came.
Those lyrics make for a catchy song, even a big hit in popular music. But they also describe a terrible way to live one’s life. It is much better to inform those feelings with truth than to be tormented and directed by them.
Doing so will help you find joy, and it just might make for a better and much brighter Christmas season.
Mike Gilland is Operations Manager for The Shepherd Radio Network, a group of radio stations in Florida that features the “Christian Teach/Talk” format. Mike hosts a daily talk radio show in the 2 PM hour called “Afternoons with Mike”, talking to local pastors and newsmakers. In Gainesville, Mike is heard on WTMN – 96.3 FM / 1430 AM. In Ocala, on WRZN – 103.5 FM / 720 AM. In addition to his broadcast experience, Mike spent 36 years in full-time ministry as a pastor and worship leader. As a guitarist, Mike performs at concerts, restaurants, private parties, etc. He is married to Cindy, the father of four grown children and grandfather to seven grandchildren.