We tend to focus on emotions that are troublesome, but there are many
emotions that are good—emotions that promote health, contentment, joy,
productivity, and a sense of well-being. Without those emotions, it would be a
dull, dull world. Yes, many emotions need to be managed, but many of them can be a source of enjoyment. The first example of a positive emotion that comes to mind is happiness. I believe the main thing everyone wants in life is to be happy.
No matter what our pursuits are, we hope they bring us happiness.
If a person works hard to accomplish goals, she does it because it makes her
feel happy. My daughter Sandra is a highly organized woman. She told me once that when she can check everything off her list as being done, it makes her feel really happy. Frequently when we talk by phone and I ask her what she is doing, she says, “Organizing.” I am a little different from my daughter. I love for things to be organized, but I prefer not to be the one who organizes them. My assistant is good at organizing. I can give her a pile of all kinds of stuff and say, “Get this organized somewhere so I can actually look on a shelf and see what I have.” I pay her to organize so I can be happy.
I believe things being well organized gives us a sense of order and peace, and
that produces a sense of calm as well as happiness. Chaos, on the other hand,
leaves us confused and unhappy. God is a God of order, not confusion. If your
surroundings are chaotic, I’d venture to guess that other parts of your life are out
of order too. I suggest you get organized. If you just can’t seem to do it yourself,
you might pay someone to do it, or find a friend or relative who actually loves
the task of organizing and ask them for help. You can “barter” with them and in
turn help them with something you’re especially good at.
What do you do that makes you happy? People go on vacations hoping to buy
a little happiness. Sometimes they even go into debt to buy a week’s worth of
happiness, and then when the bills come in, they aren’t happy anymore. Some of the things we purchase are needs, but many are just things we think will make us happy. People worldwide stand at merchandise counters right now, waiting to pay for something they think or hope will make them happy.
We get married hoping it will make us happy, and after a while some get
divorced hoping it will make them happy. People often change jobs searching
for happiness. We even do things we don’t like doing, just so we can be happy
with the end result. A woman may not like to clean house, but she looks at her
clean house and feels happy, so week after week she cleans it. Actually, I cannot think of anything we do that does not have happiness as a motivator. There are many things that make me happy, but I have found that obeying God is the
number one thing that makes me happy. When I am flowing with God I have a
deep contentment that nothing else compares to. I may not always like what He asks me to do or not to do, but if I resist and rebel, I will not be happy down deep in my soul; and if I obey, I will be happy.
Sadly, many people don’t obey God and then frantically wear themselves out
trying to get or buy happiness some other way. No matter what we own, we will not be happy if doing God’s will is not a priority in our lives.
Why Are So Many Christians Unhappy?
I think some people have a perception that Christianity is stern, severe, and
joyless. That’s because many who call themselves Christians have sour attitudes and sad faces. They are critical of others and quick to judge. Those of us who love and serve God and His Son, Jesus Christ, should be the happiest people on earth. We should be able to enjoy everything we do, simply because we know that God is present. It was a great day for me when I finally discovered through studying the Bible that God wants us to enjoy our lives. In fact, He sent Jesus to ensure that we would be able to (see John 10:10). Our joy makes God happy!
Happiness is an emotion that fosters well-being, and I believe it is
contagious. One of the best ways to witness to others about Jesus is to be happy and enjoy all that we do. Since everyone simply wants to be happy, if they see that being a Christian will produce happiness, they will be open to learning about and receiving Jesus themselves.
There are many emotions we have to resist, but happiness is not one of them!
So go ahead and be as happy as you can possibly be.
I Feel Excited
Excitement, zeal, and passion are also positive emotions. They energize us to
press forward in our pursuits. The Bible instructs us to be zealous and
enthusiastic as we serve the Lord (see Rom. 12:11). In Revelation 3:19, God
instructs us to even be enthusiastic and burning with zeal when He chastises or
corrects us. Why should we do that? Simply because He expects us to trust that everything He does is for our ultimate good.
I make a point of trying to be excited about each day that God gives me. The
psalmist David said this: “This is the day which the Lord has brought about; we
will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Good emotions come from good
decisions and good thoughts. For years I got up each day and waited to see how I
felt, then I let those feelings dictate the course of my day. Now, I set my mind in
the right direction and make decisions that I know will produce emotions I can
For years I got up each day and waited to see how I felt, then I let those feelings dictate the course of my day. Now, I set my mind in the right direction and make decisions that I know will produce emotions I can enjoy.
I wasted enough years of my life letting negative and even poisonous
emotions control me, and I refuse to do it any longer. Each day I decide to enjoy
the day, to be excited about whatever I do and do it with zeal and enthusiasm. I
make a decision every day to be content! I won’t be able to carry out my
decision if I don’t set my mind and keep it set in the right direction. I firmly
believe that feelings follow decisions.
Living Ordinary Days with an Extraordinary Attitude
Most of our days are rather ordinary. We all have moments in life that are
amazing, but a lot of life is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,
Saturday, Sunday, and back to Monday all over again. Two weeks ago I stood in
front of 225,000 people in Zimbabwe preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and teaching the Word of God. It was my birthday, and 225,000 people sang “Happy Birthday” to me and that was rather cool. Yesterday I went to the Target store to
buy new kitchen rugs and then to the grocery store, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed Zimbabwe and the grocery store equally. Zimbabwe was a once-in-a-
lifetime event that was exciting, and one I will never forget, but having another
day to enjoy God is also exciting, even if the day is spent doing errands. God’s
presence makes life exciting if we have a proper understanding of life as a
whole. Everything we do is sacred if we do it unto the Lord and we believe that
He is with us. Ask yourself right now if you truly believe that God is with you. If
your answer is yes, just think about how amazing that is, and my guess is that
your enjoyment will increase immediately.
I believe the psalmist David discovered the secret to enthusiasm. He simply
decided and declared, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be
glad in it.” The “I will” says it all. He made a decision that produced the feelings he wanted rather than waiting to see how he felt.
The Value of Optimism
Optimism is an attitude we can adopt that will produce anticipation and joy.
Living with positive expectation is a lovely thing. Optimism takes a very gray
day and paints it with beautiful color. Anticipation and expectation wait with an attitude that something good is about to happen at any moment. What are you
expecting today and tomorrow, or, for that matter, what are you expecting out of life? The psalmist David said that he did not know what would have become of him had he not believed that he would see the Lord’s goodness while he was still
alive (see Psalm 27:13).
The feeling or emotion of anticipation is good, so go ahead and expect God
to show Himself strong on your behalf. Anticipation is the opposite of
hopelessness, and I personally believe hopelessness is the worst feeling in the
world. We have to have a reason to get up each day. Hopeless people become
depressed. Everything in their lives seems dark and gloomy. God wants us to
live in Technicolor. His desire is to be good to us, but we must be expecting His
goodness in faith. Some people might think it humble to expect nothing, but I
think it is unbiblical. We don’t deserve anything, but God is good and kind and
He wants to give us good things anyway. Isaiah 30:18 states that God is looking
to be gracious, to have mercy and show loving-kindness, and those who wait for
Him to do that are blessed indeed. What are you waiting for? Are you a “get out of bed and see what happens” person? Or do you get up each day with an
optimistic view of anticipation, expectation, and joy?
Relax and Go with the Flow
A feeling of being relaxed is wonderful. Being nervous, tense, and worried is not
wonderful, so why aren’t more people relaxed? Jesus said if we are weary and
overburdened, we should go to Him and He will give us rest, relaxation, and
ease (see Matt. 11:28–29). Jesus wants to teach us the right way to live, which is
different from the way most of the world lives.
It would be putting it mildly to say that I was an uptight woman for the first
half of my life. I simply did not know how to relax, and it was due to my not
being willing to completely trust God. I trusted God for things, but not in things.
I kept trying to be the one in control. Even though God was in the driver’s seat
of my life, I kept one hand on the wheel just in case He took a wrong turn.
Relaxation is impossible without trust! Dave is the most relaxed individual I
have ever met. Part of it may be his God-given temperament, but most of it is his
faith in God. Dave truly believes that no matter what happens in our lives, God
will take care of it, and that enables him to relax.
We have even discovered that God can and will fix our mistakes and make
them work for our good if we keep praying and trusting Him. All things are
possible with God. If you know you can’t fix the problem you have, then why
not relax while God is working on it? It sounds easy, but it took many years for
me to be able to do this. I know from experience that the ability to relax and go with the flow in life is dependent upon our willingness to trust God completely.
If things don’t go your way, instead of being upset, you can believe that
getting your way was not what you needed. God knew that, so He gave you what was best for you, instead of what you wanted. The minute you do that, your soul and body relax, and you will be able to enjoy life.
If you are waiting much longer than you had hoped to in some situation, you
can get frustrated, angry, and upset, or you can say, “God’s timing is perfect; He
is never late. And my steps are ordered by the Lord.” Now you can relax and
simply go with the flow of what is happening in your life. Of course there are things we need to resist, such as evil and the temptation to behave in an ungodly way. But when it comes to things that are out of our control, we can either ruin the day or relax and enjoy it while God is working on the situation. As long as we believe, God keeps working!
Closeness and Detachment
I believe we are created for connection. God wants us to be able to connect with
and feel close to other people, which is one of the great joys of life. Sadly, it can
also be a source of pain, making it easy to become aloof and detached. We think
we are protecting ourselves, but the pain of loneliness and isolation is much
worse than the pain of relationship.
I did not trust anyone after fifteen years of being sexually abused by my
father and experiencing unfaithfulness from my husband in my first marriage.
My motto was, “If you don’t let anyone into your life, they cannot hurt you.” It
seemed to work for a while, but then I realized I was lonely and missing a lot in
life that could be enjoyed only with other people. Even though I was with people
in my home, at work, and at church, I never really entered in, but remained aloof and detached. I participated only if I could be in control of the situation, because then I felt safe. I am sure that many of you know exactly what I am talking about.
The ability to connect with others cannot happen if one of the parties is trying
to control the other. We are not created by God to be controlled; therefore, we
will always resent it. Eventually people get tired of being controlled, and begin
to prefer relationships where they have the freedom to be who they are and make some of the decisions that need to be made. If you have a tendency to want to control people and situations so you don’t get hurt, I strongly encourage you to give it up and learn how to do relationships God’s way.
As I grew in my relationship with God, He taught me that I needed to trust
people and be vulnerable even though I would get hurt from time to time. He
promised me that when I was hurt He would heal me and enable me to go on and try again. I have been deeply hurt from time to time by people I was in
relationship with, but I refused to let it make me bitter and suspicious. Love
makes allowances for the weaknesses and flaws of others. People certainly are
not perfect, but in the end, they are worth the effort. Few things on earth
compare to the joy and benefits of a close, connected relationship with another human being.
You can feel close to people if you will choose to open your heart to them
and if you are willing to go through the difficulties we all encounter when
developing good relationships. I believe that when we have a problem in a
relationship but we resolve to work through it, in the end the bond is made closer than it was before. Too many people give up at the first hint of difficulty. They have resolved to never get hurt again, and that decision prevents them from the
joy of close friendships and intimacy with their spouses and other family
I want to stress again that we cannot have closeness if we are not willing to
go through some pain. People simply are not perfect, and we do make mistakes.
It is the willingness to forgive and go on that makes relationships strong.
The feeling of being connected and close to others definitely goes under the
heading of “Good Emotions.” I knew a man who never in his life allowed
himself to be close to anyone; he died lonely, and nobody misses him. That is a
sad ending to a life. He missed it all and doesn’t get a do-over. The Bible says
that we have one opportunity to live and then comes judgment (see Heb. 9:27),
so I think we should try to make the one opportunity we have count.
The Beauty of Empathy
It is wonderful to feel empathy for others who are hurting, oppressed, or being
mistreated in any way. I absolutely hate to see people hurting with no one to help
them. God feels compassion for and takes action to help those who are hurting,
and we should too. True compassion begins with a feeling that becomes so
intense it moves us to action.
One of the sweetest examples of this behavior took place at the Seattle
Special Olympics in 1976. Nine young competitors, all mentally or physically
disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. At the sound of the
gun, they all started running toward the finish line—all except one little boy,
who stumbled and fell and began to cry.
One by one, the other children stopped and looked back. Then each one of
them turned around, walked toward the little boy, and gathered around,
comforting him. A little girl leaned down and kissed his skinned knee, saying,
“This will make it better.”
All nine children stood up, linked arms, and walked toward the finish line
together. That day a stadium full of able-bodied spectators learned about what
really makes us happy.
I believe Satan is on a mission to desensitize us to the pain other people go
through. It seems that all we hear on television or read in the papers is about
some terrible thing someone has done to someone else. It has become so
commonplace that we can be guilty of not even paying much attention to it.
Dave remembers when the first paperboy was robbed in St. Louis where we live.
He said the entire city was shocked that such a thing could happen. Now,
He said the entire city was shocked that such a thing could happen. Now,
because of such extreme violence, a paperboy being robbed wouldn’t even be
worthy of mentioning in the news.
The Danger of Becoming Hard-Hearted
I will give them one heart [a new heart] and I will put a new spirit within
them; and I will take the stony [unnaturally hardened] heart out of their
flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh [sensitive and responsive to the
touch of their God].
This scripture means a lot to me because I was a hard-hearted person due to the
abuse I had suffered in the earlier years of my life. This Bible verse gave me
hope that I could change. God gives us things in seed form and we must work
with the Holy Spirit to bring them to full maturity. This is much like the fruit of
the Spirit, which is in us but needs to be watered with God’s Word and
developed through use.
As believers in Jesus, we have tender hearts, but we can become hard-hearted
if we are not careful in this area. I find that taking the time to really think about
what people are going through in their particular situations helps me to have
compassion. Jesus was moved by compassion, and we should be also. Moved to
pray, or help in some way.
Empathy is a beautiful emotion and thankfully one we don’t have to resist!
Let’s learn to resist evil emotions that poison our lives and embrace those we
can enjoy and that will bring glory to God. Emotions are a gift from God; in fact,
they’re a large part of what makes us human. Without them, life would be dull,
and we’d be like robots. Because emotions are a vulnerable part of us, Satan
seeks to take advantage and make what God intended to be a good thing into an
I like to try to imagine all the enjoyable emotions that Adam and Eve had in
the garden prior to allowing sin to enter the world. I am sure it was wonderful
indeed. But when they fell into sin, their emotions fell with them. Jesus has
redeemed every part of us, including our emotions. It must have been wonderful
to never experience guilt, fear, hatred, jealousy, or worry—to not even have to
resist any of the ugly emotions we deal with today. But even though we have to
resist those emotions, we can still be free from them through Jesus Christ.
God’s desire is that you enjoy the life He has provided for you, and that is
impossible to do unless you learn how to control your feelings instead of letting
them control you.
With God’s help, you can do it!