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Jonah A: Questioning the Heart - Jonah 4:4, Psalm 42:5

Is there a louder cultural message being pushed right now than “follow your heart?” We are constantly being asked to make all sorts of decisions and actions simply on the basis of emotion. Instead of heart, mind, and will uniting against a fractured sense of self, they seem like enemies who are fighting each other for supremacy. The result is what Psalm 42:5 describes: our souls are not quiet; they are in turmoil. And so we’ll take any drug, try any therapy, listen to any guru; we will do anything to avoid confronting our emotions.

Because of this, one of the most practical things we can learn from the book of Jonah is found in Jonah 4:4. The prophet knows that he is angry, and he rushes to act on that anger, but God brings him up short by asking: “Do you do well to be angry?” What God asks of anger is something we need to ask of all our emotions. Instead of trusting our feelings, we need to teach our feelings to trust in Jesus. Here are three pointers towards that goal:

1: Emotions are good servants, but bad masters. The first thing to say is that emotions are God-given gifts. God gave us emotions so that we can bear His image, and so the goal of Christian maturity is not overcoming or suppressing all feeling. Christian emotional maturity means learning to feel the way God feels about everything in your life.

Emotions send signals that help us respond to the world by guiding our thoughts, actions, and desires. They are a sort of fuel for our soul, powering the engines of the mind to turn the wheels of the will into motion. But this is the point that our culture refuses to see: emotions can be wrong, and so they must be questioned, challenged, and at times rebuked and replaced. When feelings are never questioned, they become tyrannical and self-destructive. Emotions are good servants, but bad masters.

2: Questioning the heart dethrones the emotions, but doesn’t destroy them. As a person made in God’s image, you have a mind for thinking, emotions for feeling, and a will for doing. The discipline of questioning the heart takes place when you involve the mind and the will in the discussion that your emotions are having with your soul. You involve the mind when you ask the emotions for reasons, and you involve the will when you consider what to do with your emotions. The heart needs to work with the mind and the will to guide your soul, and they must together be guided by something higher than any one of them.

Our task as human beings with hearts, minds, and wills is to disciple our hearts, minds, and wills in line with the way God made the world and according to the Word that God gave us. Unless this is taking place, your emotions are out of control, and your soul is disquieted within you. But when your thinking and feeling and doing are integrated under God, that’s when you find a quiet soul.

3: Jesus is Lord of your emotions. Live like it! Unless Jesus Christ is your Lord, then you will be at the mercy of either your thoughts or your feelings or your will and desires. The way Jesus delivers you is by taking your weaknesses and sins and failures onto Himself, crucifying all of it in His own body, and rising again into newness of life. When we stop trying to fix ourselves and turn to Him to save us, He unites us to Himself so that we can share in His new life, guided by His Word, and empowered by His Spirit.

So when you entrust yourself to Jesus as Lord, you’re putting Him in charge of your emotions, and you are called and enabled to calibrate your self, your inner life, to the standard of Jesus. The Great Commission extends all the way to your feelings: because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, you are to go and make disciples of your emotions.

Discipling your emotions means telling them to take up their cross and follow Jesus, not by mere willpower, but with a will strengthened by the Spirit through the means of grace. Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength includes the constant practice of questioning the heart and submitting your whole self to the Word of God. By faith, you must put Jesus in charge of your feelings, balancing them with God’s other gifts of mind and will, and cultivating the Spirit’s fruit of self-control. This is the way to have an undivided heart and a quiet soul that hopes in God, no matter what you feel.

Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2019 by CJ Bowen