Taking Control: Why You’re Not a Slave to Your Emotions

The first Twenty One Pilots song I ever heard was “Holding On To You.” I remember it clear as day: junior year of high school, sitting at my desk before Psych class. Four seconds into the song, and I was sold.

I think what I like about this song is its empowering message. With every line, Tyler Joseph sings about taking over control again of his wandering emotions and feelings of insecurity. As the chorus comes around, he cries, “and I’ll be holding onto You.” I’m not sure what he intended, but I’ve always taken that “You” to be the Big Man Upstairs, and the song as a whole to be a battle cry for those of us trying to hold on to God’s Truth when we feel like we just can’t quite escape our emotions.

If you feel that way — if you’re grasping for Truth amid a storm of emotions — then those lyrics (and this blog) are for you.

“I Fought it a lot” — Preparing for Battle

Emotions, as good as they can be, can also be pretty dangerous. Why? Well, they’re unpredictable and not fully under our control. This means that we need to discern seriously how our emotions influence us, and whether or not they lead us to the truth, especially in our spiritual lives.

Our intellect (our knowledge of good and evil) and our will (our ability to choose our actions) are directly under our control. But emotions, memories, and imagination… those are another story. Those can be influenced — and sometimes even hijacked — by the spiritual, either for good or for bad. Sometimes our emotions make us feel full of God’s love and aware of His blessings; but other times, we feel far from His embrace and hesitant to accept His love.

In moments such as these, it’s important to inform our intellect and will of what is really true. God might speak to us in our emotions and further invite us into His will through them, but that’s not always the case. Instead of bending to our changing emotions, we should recognize that it may very well be a matter of spiritual warfare we’re facing — the Enemy may attempt to leads us to despair and weaken our pursuit of God by using our feelings against us. If so, then we must gear up for battle and arm ourselves with knowledge of Christ’s truth.

How do we know what’s true when we’re dealing with unpredictable emotions? Well, amid our emotional storms, what is being whispered to us? What are our impulses? Are they toward good, or toward destruction — either our own or that of others? If our emotions fill us with darkness, even in the light of God’s mercy, then there’s a good chance they’re not from God, and that the Devil is trying to have his way with us; whereas, if they fill us with God’s light and encourage us to share it, then we know we’re in good hands.

“I’m Taking Over my Body” — Fighting Back

So how do we fight back against unruly emotions when the Enemy is using them against us? A good starting place is 2 Corinthians 10:5, which advises us to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”

Take captive! Pretty cool, huh? We have a say in this fight! We’re not enslaved to even the most challenging and strong emotions. The feelings we encounter are not fully our own unless we accept them as true and run with them, unless we entertain them, as if entertaining guests in the spiritual home of our soul.

This is a pretty encouraging message to hold onto in moments of darkness, despair, or temptation. We can’t fully control what feelings might come and go as we make our way through life, but we can control whether or not we accept these feelings as our own and how we react to them.

“I’ll be Holding Onto You” — Relying on God

So how exactly are we supposed to “take captive” these emotions? Well, the first place to start is prayer. Just as the Devil can get inside our heads, God and His holy angels can do the same… except with them, they whisper not lies, but rather tender affirmations of God’s love and truth.

So the first step is to turn to Him, to hold on to Him closely. “Is this feeling from you, God?” we can ask Him. If it is, the feeling will affirm His truth and goodness, reminding us that we are God’s beloved. If not, it will leave us anxious and doubtful, scrambling for footing amid our chaos. In those moments, when our emotions lead us away from His peace, we can ask Him to bring us through it, to remind us of our identity as His son or daughter. We should never act unless we’ve first been reminded of these enduring truths of His love for us.

Second, it’s important to realize that, no matter how we feel, we are always able to offer God praise. Even when we feel like He’s not there, even when we don’t feel like praying. It wouldn’t be faith if we only trusted Him when it felt good. Any sacrifice of praise, even if it’s dry and desperate, is acceptable to our Father.

When our emotions are blindsiding us, it’s easy to list all the things that have gone wrong, all the ways we’ve felt hurt or cast aside. But in those moments, we must grasp on tightly to the objective truth that God loves us, whether we can feel or sense His love in that moment or not. He paid the ultimate price, a price He in no way deserved, to cover all of our shortcomings, in order to unite us back to His life-giving love. No matter the list of things that haven’t gone our way, His deep love for us and self-giving sacrifice is always worth more.

“Flesh out the Door, Swat!” — God’s got This

As we make this sacrifice of praise and recount our blessings, we can be sure we’re fighting hard in the battle over our minds. But here’s an ugly fact: it doesn’t mean we’ll instantly feel better. It doesn’t mean we won’t have rough days, or times when we once again feel stuck in our emotions. But in those times, it’s important to realize something: we’re more than flesh. We’re fighting a tough battle with odds stacked against us on this earth… but God? He fought and won, claiming dominion over the everlasting Kingdom, a Kingdom we can’t yet fully see.

He’s already emerged victorious. You won’t lose this fight if you’re on His side. We’re not hopeless. We’re not powerless. We’re not stuck, forever subjects to the constantly changing whims of our emotions. We can, in fact, take control, with God’s grace. There’s no need to lay helpless and wait for the emotional storm to pass. Instead, we can reach out our hands to Christ, confidently assured of who He is, and who we are. With trust in His love, we can hold onto His enduring truth: we are His, and He is ours. In Him, we are never slaves to our feelings; in Him, we are truly free.