Recently I’ve been learning a new way of thinking about relational wisdom from Ken Sande and his team at rw360.org. I highly recommend his work to anyone who wants to have healthier relationships and get upstream of conflict.
Pastoral counseling has been a huge part of my life one-on-one, in group settings, and in public teaching, but not until now have I seen as clearly the answer to a couple of things. The tools provided by rw360 are wonderful, and I’m beginning to make use of them daily. Management of my emotional responses is getting better in the hope that I reflect the Lord Jesus as He truly is. How to respond to others, when feeling anger or frustration, delight or satisfaction is now much clearer, and therefore the follow through to peace is becoming easier than it has ever been.
Waking up to relationships
The best kind of life is truly one in which relationships are thriving – molded by selflessness, joyful expressions of delight in each other, and cooperative effort to walk together in whatever opportunities or challenges life brings. That means that the first thoughts I have in the morning do not remain on how I’m feeling or what I’m going to do in the day, but move to how God and those around me are feeling about this day and what I might do to become a helpful part of what can be done together.
Emotions are God’s gift
There is built into every one of the core emotions the possibility of enrichment (see table below). I’ve heard that all emotions are a gift from God and meant to be an integral part of a whole, together-kind-of-life. And yet I have especially struggled to accept the negative ones, failing to see why I should embrace them rather than running from them or fighting against them. When I’ve been depressed, for instance, I’ve done everything in my power to be rid of the depression but not to discover the benefits hidden inside those feelings. I have grown through those times, but usually only with hindsight. Now, however, my mind and heart are changing toward these things that have been so much a part of my living. I can see now that it is possible to be “emotional,” and be energized in a good way whether the emotions be positive or negative, as long as my spirit is aligned with my Creator (cf. Matthew 26:36-46).
The question remains
What about core weariness? How do we deal with the relational difficulties of living with weariness of body or soul? With chronic illness comes chronic weariness. With persistent struggles to do good toward, and with other people who can be very selfish, deceptive and mean comes weariness of soul. With persistent effort to keep a worldview centered on the Lord and to understand a complex and messy world comes weariness of mind. How can I love the Lord with all my, now very tired, body, soul and mind, and how can I love others as weary as I sometimes am of life?
I’m not sure yet how it all works out, but for me one of the greatest difficulties in responding well emotionally to life’s challenges is how tired or unwell I’m feeling in body or soul. Those times of core weariness add confusion and a sense of helplessness or hopelessness that bring on irritability, impatience, and self-pity – all enemies of the best kind of relating.
Hoping in answers because of what Jesus said
Not everyone today feels soul-weariness, or the crushing weight of past sins, failures, hurts, and rejections. But when you do, the words of Jesus may be your greatest reason to hope. Jesus said…
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)
Because of what Jesus said, I can imagine being at peace in the midst of any storm. I can dare to imagine being loved and forgiven – when I’ve been at our worst. I can dare to imagine teaming up with the Creator – when I can’t imagine facing another day.
 Emotions are a gift of God
“We were given emotions by God, being made in the image of God, not from sin. So why throw away a gift from God? In moments of despair or grief we wish them away. Yet the right response is not to run from them, but to learn to deal with them and use them. We cannot just let our emotions go but we don’t have to pretend they are not there. These emotions of ours are tools God has given us: tools to grow, tools to love, tools to inspire.” (Brandon Fusco, theodysseyonline.com)
“We have wrongly concluded that negative emotions are from Satan. The Scriptures teach that emotions are a gift from God. They motivate us to take constructive action. Anger motivated Jesus to clear the temple of robbers and thieves. Emotions call us to engage the mind and to make wise decisions on what needs to be done. When we make wise decisions, emotions have served their purpose.” (myemail.constantcontact.com)