James Dobson, in Emotions: Can You Trust Them?, wrote, “Emotions must always be accountable to the faculties of reason and will. That accountability is doubly important for those of us who purport to be Christians. If we are to be defeated during life’s spiritual pilgrimage, it is likely that negative emotions will play a dominant role in that discouragement” (11). Now, emotions are God-given; interest, joy, surprise, anger, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, guilt, and shame are listed by Dr. Carroll Izard as the ten most common emotions (cf. Development and Psychotherapy, 369ff). He contends that only three of the top ten common emotions are positive and the other seven are negative. In a world filled with violent crime, alcoholism, divorce, abuse, road rage, and the like, we can be persuaded by this finding. But emotion is a powerful component of our lives, and some allow it to have too large a place. That is Dobson’s point.
In marriage, you will not always feel in love. You will not always want to do your duty or honor your commitment. In your Christian life, you will be tempted to do what feels good or right in the moment regardless of what the Lord expressly desires.
We talk about feelings getting hurt. Words like “vulnerable,” “afraid,” “stressed,” and “betrayed” are directly connected to our emotions. Those feelings may be very real, but they can drive us to irrational behavior. Marriages end. Churches divide. Friendships are ruined. People fall away from God. All of these commonly occur because of unaccountable emotions.
It is significant that the Bible stresses knowledge, wisdom, judgment, discernment, and thinking. Too, the teaching of self-control, self-discipline, self-denial, and the like suggest that with learning should come a healthy self-check. That includes keeping emotions in their proper place.
McKinney mentions several traits that make for the emotionally mature personality, including heterosexuality, appreciation of others, capability of delaying his responses, and a point of view of life (solid convictions on matters such as ethics, morals, politics and the nature of the world and of man)(Psychology of Personal Adjustment, 467-468). If we are to be socially and spiritually mature people, we must make our emotions accountable! They cannot dictate our decisions. They must be subservient, as Dobson says, to our reason and will. And those things must be shaped and driven by a “thus saith the Lord.”