But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9)
Everyday we make decisions. Big decisions and little decisions. Some decisions are fairly insignificant. What color socks will I wear. What will I eat for breakfast? Who will empty the dishwasher (I hate emptying the dishwasher). Yet other decisions can have major life implications. What job do I take? Should I marry this person? Should we buy a house? Our decision making process will play a role in the course that my life takes.
During my 20 years in the Air Force I worked for some very smart general officers who taught me sound decision making skills concerning very important defense and national security issues. Among the most important things I learned: get the facts, be patient, and stay calm. Big decisions take time to process and the solutions and outcomes are never what you expect. Additionally, time has a way of revealing solutions to large and complicated issues. Furthermore, these key principles removed one very large factor that tends to destroy every decision making process—emotions!
In 2 Corinthians 1 Paul was brought face to face with very strong emotions. The trials of apostleship and leadership were destroying him so much so that in verse 9 he spoke of the sentence of death that occupied his mind. Shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, nakedness, cold, and the care for all churches had drained Paul both physically and emotionally. Verse 8 reveals his mindset, “we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.”
Emotional setbacks will happen to all of us, even the great Apostle Paul. We must be prepared for them for it is in these times that we tend to make big, life-changing decisions that have long lasting, negative consequences.
So, the answer is not to avoid emotions—that is simply unreasonable. The issue for us is how we deal with the emotions in order to avoid making “emotional decisions.”
Be Honest about your emotional state (v. 8). Paul stated, “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble...” In order to avoid disastrous decision making in the midst of distress we must confide in others. No one can handle the stress of life alone—we need each other. We must hold each other accountable. Paul was very honest and open concerning his emotional state—“we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.”Be Humble about your emotional state (v. 9). When emotions take over our lives, we cannot trust ourselves to make sound decisions. In Paul’s case here the emotions were distress, despair and a death wish. Certainly no one should make decisions in this type of emotional state. But the opposite is true as well. When life is good and our emotions are on the upswing, we should avoid major decision making. The good emotions can provide a false level of confidence that can lead to disastrous decisions. Paul’s solution to his emotional state was simple. His mind was telling him—“I want to die.” But his consistent walk with God provided the right safety net—“we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” Paul confessed his problem and acknowledged his real solution—trust in God who has resurrection power and not in my emotions which are temporary and blinding.Be Helpful with your emotional state (v. 4). Verse 4 is a great reminder that our suffering and emotional ups and downs occur not only to grow us in Christ, but also to help others. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” God uses our trials and emotions to train our sympathies toward others in suffering. Nothing breeds compassion in someone like a trial that invokes strong emotions that must be surrendered to God. Paul knew the comfort and mercy of God first hand due to his incredible trials and therefore enabling him to write to all the churches and encouraging them to trust in God through their trials and watch God do a mighty work. Paul had been there and knew God’s plan was always perfect but rarely without some level of pain.
So what is the purpose of our emotions in directing our lives? Simple. Our emotions exist as strong indicators that it is time to seek God. Emotions do not exist for decision making! When you are emotionally drained—seek God in prayer, in His Word and in His counselors. When your emotions are high and life is good—seek God in praise and thanksgiving and seek His Word. As you allow your emotions to drive you to God and less to emotional decision making—God’s perfect and detailed plan will slowly open up in your heart and in your life!