For five years his story has haunted me, a story tucked quietly away in a big book about ancient kings and wars and disasters. His is a story of legacy.
For hundreds of years his actions were followed by an entire nation. And his legacy? Idolatry.
Yet buried in the annuls of I Kings we read the astonishing account of how Jeroboam’s idolatry was birthed in fear. God had promised him the kingdom, yet his fear of losing it drove him to take matters into his own hands. Fear led to control and control lead to idolatry.
It became his legacy.
Jeroboam’s story has haunted me because in it, I see how one out-of-control emotion led an entire nation into idolatry for hundreds of years. Jeroboam’s fear corrupted his leadership and crippled his calling. By giving in to fear, Jeroboam set an evil precedent for succeeding kings, even long after he was gone.
We can only imagine what would have happened if, instead of following fear, Jeroboam had clung to God’s promise. What if he had lived by faith, not feeling?
Jeroboam’s legacy of out-of-control emotions is timely for us. In this day of despair and fear and rage and depression and insecurity, we need to know that our emotions can be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word.
God created us in His image and that includes our capacity for emotions. Emotions are not bad or sinful in and of themselves; but like everything else, they are affected by the fall. II Peter 1:4 tells us that by Christ’s blood, we are partakers of His divine nature. This means that we can partake of His emotional nature as well and can experience godly emotions. Take a look at Galatians 5:22-23 to see what some of those look like. As a side note, according to Brian Borgman, the most frequent emotion mentioned in the Bible is joy ( i.e.”rejoice”).
Scripture teaches that we are not to be controlled by our emotions but rather our emotions are to be controlled by the Spirit of God.
This became very real to me when God graciously showed me how many of my daily decisions were being driven by how I felt, especially by the feeling of being overwhelmed. He gently but painfully showed me that by placing too high a priority on my feelings of exhaustion, I was not being diligent in serving my family with excellence, I was not reflecting God’s strength and character to those around me, I was failing to attempt the good works God had called me to do, and I was laying a faulty emotional foundation in my children’s lives.
Pretty serious stuff.
It was a liberating moment when I realized this, however. Knowing that I did not have to be in bondage to the feeling of fatigue set me free. I confessed it as sin to God and to my family and I began learning from Christ. I’m still learning and practicing what He reveals to me in this area of godly emotions.
Here are some key truths that help me get a grip:
1. Emotions are strong but they need not be sovereign.
This one little nugget of truth is what saves me from the slippery slope of out of control emotions. Only God is sovereign and I can choose to place my emotions under His authority.
2. Emotions need truth to direct them.
Physiologically, emotions are a result of our thoughts. Emotions are best controlled by renewing the mind with truth.
3. Knowing my proclivity to certain emotions means I can be pro-active in controlling them.
For example, I know that I am easily overwhelmed. I also know that God promises sufficient grace at all times for every good deed. So I have identified several truths, like the promise of God’s sufficiency, that I constantly renew my mind with. Bringing truth to the forefront of my mind keeps my emotions grounded and where they need to be.
If you would like more in-depth practical help, join me at my blog for an upcoming series on cultivating godly emotions. This series is intended to help develop discipline in our emotions by looking at biblical truth. I will be drawing from scripture as well as looking at what others like Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Elizabeth Elliott, and Brian Borgman have to say about the role of emotions in the believers life.
We really can leave a legacy of godly emotions!
Read Jeroboam’s story here: I Kings 11:28-40 and I Kings 12:25-31.
Arabah Joy and her family have served as missionaries to East Asia for the past eleven years. She is married to Jackson and they have four children, both adopted and biological. She has authored a guide on how to increase energy as well as a newly released eBook on living Complete in Christ. Mostly though, she is a broken woman redeemed. She writes about God’s sufficiency to transform at Arabah Joy.
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