How To Deal With Emotional Doubts

February 15, 2013 — 3 Comments

Our thought life is central to living a vibrant Christian life. In Romans 12:2, Paul says that the way we resist the pattern of this world is by renewing our minds. Now he could have said a lot of different things instead of mind—heart, emotions, worship—but he didn’t. The reason is that what we think about and what we believe are critical to how we live. Dallas Willard, a Christian philosopher who has done a lot of work in the area of spiritual formation, offers penetrating insight into the interplay of thoughts and emotions:

Our thoughts are one of the most basic sources of our life. They determine the orientation of everything we do and evoke the feelings that frame our world and motivate our actions. Interestingly, you can’t evoke thoughts by feeling a certain way, but you can evoke and to some degree control feelings by directing your thoughts. Our power over our thoughts is of great and indispensable assistance in directing and controlling our feelings, which themselves are not directly under the guidance of our will. We cannot just choose our feelings.

We don’t have direct control over how we feel. But we can indirectly affect our emotions by thinking in certain ways. If we want to get at the root of the emotional doubt, then we have to change our thinking and stop allowing ourselves to believe lies. We must tell ourselves the truth—God’s truth—until we accept it. Again, this is not a one-time remedy; it’s a habit we need to build into our life.

In light of this, I hope that you will no longer feel ashamed when you experience doubt, nor idly sit by and allow emotional doubt to paralyze you with fear. I will let the poignant words of Oswald Chambers conclude our discussion: “Unless we train our emotions they will lead us around by the nose, and we will be captives to every passing impulse or reaction. But once faith is trained to control the emotions and knows how to lean reso- lutely against weakness of character, another entry way of doubt is sealed shut forever . . . Much of our distress as Christians comes not because of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature.”

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Jonathan Morrow

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Jonathan Morrow (D.Min) is the founder of Think Christianly. He is the author of Welcome to College: A Christ-follower's Guide for the Journey, Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority, Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture, and Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (with Sean McDowell), and contributed the chapter "Introducing Spiritual Formation" to Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ. Jonathan contributed several articles to the Apologetics Study Bible for Students and has written for Leadership Journal Online (of Christianity Today). He graduated with an M.Div. and an M.A. in philosophy of religion and ethics from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and served as the equipping pastor for 6 years at Fellowship Bible Church in Murfreesboro, TN. Jonathan is currently the Director of Creative Strategies and Immersion at Impact 360 Institute where he trains high school and college students in Christian worldview, apologetics, and leadership and serves as adjunct faculty with Union University. His books have been featured on shows like Family Life Today, Stand to Reason, Breakpoint, WAY-FM (Mornings with Brant), Frank Pastore, The Janet Mefferd Show, and Apologetics 315. He and his wife have been married for 13 years and have three children.

3 responses to How To Deal With Emotional Doubts

  1. Great article. Thanks. Would you have any books your recommend? Or any other advice on how to train the emotions? Read the Thomas Factor by Gary Habermas.

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