Your Emotions: The Compass that Leads Astray
The navigation of life requires precise and reliable instruments. And like the ships at sea, we are subject to the winds and waves that would threaten to thwart our course. Today, we’re going to talk about emotions — because when managed inappropriately, they have the potential to cause us shipwreck.
Throughout the epistles there is a consistent metaphor — one which depicts the lives of believers as that of a ship at sea. And it’s no surprise – given that the New Testament was written by fishermen who then became apostolic mariners to reach the world with the Gospel. Paul warns us candidly of the potential of being shipwrecked in our faith (see 1 Timothy 1:19), and likens our hope to an anchor (see Hebrews 6:19). James speaks of those who are double-minded being as the waves of the sea driven and tossed by the wind (see James 1:6), and describes the tongue as a helm which directs a great ship (see James 3:4). And finally, Paul speaks of Christ as the Captain of our salvation (see Hebrews 2:10). There is no question that this metaphor is applicable. And today I’d like to introduce yet another practical element — the faulty compass of our emotions.
The Structure of the Soul
God created each one of us with a soul — living, breathing, and unique to that of any other individual. Yet within that uniqueness, we all have the core elements of our mind, will and emotions. These are the common denominators for every facet of our personality, temperament, thoughts, decisions, aspirations, feelings and desires. Much like the physical anatomy of a human being — we all appear very different although we have the same parts. The anatomy of the soul is no different. We have the same anatomical parts, but we are all very unique individuals in our soul’s design. No two people are alike. Each one of us are distinctly different.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, (Hebrews 4:12, KJV).
The Word of God serves to divide between soul and spirit. That is a necessary task if we’re to navigate our lives in Christ, and it’s the only “tool” by which we can do so precisely and with accuracy. As the Captain of our salvation, Christ provides us with a very accurate, precise, and fool-proof compass — the Word of God.
So what role do emotions play? Truly, emotions are a great gift. They make excellent indicators. But they are a horrible compass. God never designed them or intended them to guide our lives. He intended them to serve us as markers, much like the buoys that bring a reference point for location. As for navigation — they will inevitably fail.
God designed our soul to be governed and guided by our will — which is to be governed by the Holy Spirit in full submission to the will of God. When our will is submitted to God’s will — things fall into order. Heaven comes to earth. The will of God is accomplished through us, and we are able to navigate accurately despite what we may feel, think, or see. When everything is contrary, we’re able to come into alignment. When the fog rolls in and the cockpit goes black, the word of God is our only reliable compass — by which the will of God is revealed. Through the Holy Spirit we are able know and discern God’s truth even when everything else in our soul is contrary.
Yet many believers choose otherwise by living according to their emotions. Whatever “tickles” them is the trump card they will play. And that card is a wild card that constantly changes. It’s unreliable and inaccurate. Like the buoys at sea, emotions are subject to constant change. They are influenced by the wind and waves of life, which ebb and flow unceasingly. Emotions are never steady. Again, they are excellent indicators — but horrible navigators. They may tell you where you are. But they’ll never tell you where to go.
Using your emotions as a compass is like navigating your ship by a buoy. You will shipwreck — eventually.
Dividing Soul and Spirit
Many individuals who do not understand the manner in which God designed our soul to operate, naturally gravitate toward their emotions. Emotions are powerful.
God gave us emotions and they have a purpose. They bring us everything from joy and delight to fear and apprehension. Every emotion serves a purpose — and there are a vast range of emotions. They can change depending on who we’re with, what music we’re listening to, and even where we are and what we’re involved in. To diminish our emotions is not healthy. They simply need to be understood and given appropriate place so they can serve us as God intended.
God has emotions — very strong ones, in fact. But if we read the word of God we will soon find that God does not make rash decisions based on His emotions. He makes decisions based on His will — and the two are very different. Throughout the Word of God we can see God’s pleasure and delight; His anger and jealousy; His sadness and disgust. Study His decision-making process. God is guided by His will and His sovereign wisdom — not his emotions. In the same way, if we can learn to appreciate our emotions for what they are instead of relying upon them to govern our lives, we will be serviced by them very well. Again, they are excellent indicators and markers — but they are not a reliable compass.
Your Decision-Making Process
If you are someone who has wondered why your life doesn’t make sense; why things keep going awry; why life is especially frustrating; or perhaps you are always second-guessing whether or not you made the right decision — it’s time to squarely reckon with your decision-making process.
People who are more emotional than others may struggle in this area. Emotions do indeed play a part in our decisions. But they are not intended to be the governing power; they are merely representatives of what may be happening within us, to us, or around us. We need to be willing to examine them from an objective point of view before we weigh them so heavily in the balance of our final decision.
Many, many people are frustrated in their lives with the outcome of their decisions. And they truly believe they made the right ones, only to find themselves disappointed later, and ultimately frustrated with the outcome and consequences they incur. After all, many of the decisions we make alter the very course of our lives. Key decisions in life should be made according to God’s will, being weighed carefully by prayer and the Word of God, with wisdom, and even the counsel of others who have traveled that path before us. Be willing to invest that time and effort to make an excellent decision that brings an optimal outcome with the Word of God at your helm, and choice godly counsel at your side.
On the contrary, when we make huge decisions that are weighed strictly by our emotions, we may end up making decisions that bring consequences we weren’t prepared to live with — for a long, long, long time, which in turn brings emotional pain, disappointment, frustration and anger.
Decisions are not the same as choices. There are many choices that will be made within any given decision. The Word of God will help you make right choices, even if it’s not defined within the Word of God. For example the Word of God is not going to tell you what city to live in and where to work or who to marry. The Word of God is based upon principles — and those guiding principles will sift those choices, and ultimately give you the ability to make a decision that will guide your life according to the perfect will of God for which you are destined.
Peace, Prosperity, and Fulfillment
God operates within our will.
From the very beginning we have been given the gift of free will affording us the wonderful and liberating ability to choose. God tells us to choose death or life; blessing or cursing (see Deuteronomy 30:19). Herein lies the power of decision. God wants our will fully intact, engaged, and in agreement with His. This is where our soul begins to thrive with optimal health. When Satan can break the will of an individual they no longer have the ability to make sound decisions. That is Satan’s ultimate goal for destruction — bringing deception whereby people choose death instead of life, and cursing instead of blessing.
Our will is created to operate in agreement with God’s perfect will. Through Him we are enabled to make divine decisions that bring Heaven to Earth. Christ made it clear that anyone who should follow Him must choose to do so in taking up their cross daily. We are obligated by default to choose life if we want to live in His blessing — because the alternative is simply not an option. On the most base terms we must choose the salvation He offers if we want eternal life with Him. But if we really want to cooperate with God and experience the abundant life He promises, we must learn to choose obedience to Him in every decision if we want to reap the blessings and benefits He promises. The manner in which He’s purposed us to live our lives is very clear: God intends that our will be fully engaged and in agreement with His. Apart from that, we are in danger of shipwreck.
Emotions do not have the ability to guide us in telling which direction to go. They merely indicate where we are.
God wants His children walking in His perfect will. To know God’s will morally is one thing — that comes through the knowledge of His Word. But to know it personally requires intimacy with Him through His indwelling Holy Spirit.
O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done, (Matthew 26:39, KJV).
When the Holy Spirit governs your life, it’s no longer as challenging to discern the direction He wants you to go. The Word of God will point the way, and the Holy Spirit will be the Captain at the helm. Despite the wind and waves that come, you’ll be able to stay the course. When our will is in alignment with God’s — even despite our fiercest emotions (whether they be anger, love, or elation) we will be able to divide between soul and spirit with divine discernment that ultimately brings peace, prosperity, and fulfillment.
If your life seems to be out of sorts and constantly awry, consider who is at the helm of your ship. Consider your compass. Because wind and waves will come. They’re inevitable. And when the fog rolls in, and the cockpit goes black you need a compass that is precise, accurate and reliable.
The Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit will never fail you. But emotions will. Choose your compass wisely. Put your will where it belongs, and respect your emotions for what they really are: an indicator of what’s going on, and a marker for your location. If you expect them to function in a manner for which they were never intended, you will be sadly led astray, and very frustrated with your life.
Cheers & Shalom,