Can We Change Our Emotions?
Emotions are God-given responses in the inner man that are activated by one’s desires and thoughts and are often reactions to the words and actions of others, including God. They are complex reactions with both mental and physical manifestations. They can be good or bad. The Bible gives numerous examples of emotions including: fear (Genesis 3:10), hate (1 John 2:9), love (Song of Solomon), anger (Genesis 4:5), and joy and sadness (Psalm 30:5). Sinful emotions can be changed only as we submit our hearts to the Holy Spirit, renew our minds with the truth of Christ, and discipline our responses to the challenges of living in a fallen world. In other words, as our mind is brought more and more into line with God’s mind in Scripture the more our emotions will follow. Thus, it is God’s will that feeling-driven believers become Word-driven as the mind is trained to think more and more like God.
For example, the man battling habitual anger toward his wife and children must have his mind renewed regarding God’s will for him as a man, husband, and father (Ephesians 5:23, 6:4). He must learn that self-control is possible when he submits to the Spirit by obeying the Word (Galatians 5:23). He must discern the common triggers of his anger and change wrong thinking. But he must also ask God to reveal the expectations of his heart that have been thwarted or stalled (James 4:1-3). What selfish desire has been unfulfilled of which he must repent? In what way has unbelief gripped his heart and caused him to doubt who he is in Christ? In what way does he think the treasure that he has in Jesus is inferior to whatever he now considers indispensable? What lie has he believed?
Since we have been raised up with Christ our desire should be for the things that are above. We must continually set our minds on Him and realize that we have died and the only life we have now is the life that is “hidden with Christ in God” (meditate on Colossians 3:1-4). When false thinking is exposed, repented of, and replaced by a fuller realization of all that we have in Christ then godly emotions will follow.