Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
It is a medical fact: Either you will learn to control your emotions or else your emotions will control you. When your emotions are out of control, they will create havoc with your physical body. David Messenger is a physician who has specialized in structural medicine. Speaking of the effect of your emotions on your wellbeing, Dr. Messenger says, "Negative emotions are energy‑draining, mind stifling and completely counterproductive. Allowing oneself to hang onto and revel in the bondage of bitterness, anger, resentment and hatred is a most self‑destructive way of living. Bitterness, with its subsequent anger, resentment, hatred and then self‑pity, is the emotional disturbance I see most."
Dr. Messenger is not alone in his diagnosis. In recent years a new approach to medicine has developed which doctors call "holistic medicine," or medicine geared to the entire person‑‑body, soul and mind. They have come to recognize that treating a symptom, such as an ulcer, is not the answer when that ulcer is caused by bitterness or anger. How much suffering in our world is the result of being unable to control our emotions, or being unable to handle negative feelings and conflicts?
Plenty, according to Dr. Dennis Cope. Early in his career Dr. Cope was recognized as the outstanding professor at UCLA’s School of Medicine. He had a successful career as an endocrinologist and professor. I will always remember the time we were together talking about the relationship between the emotional and the physical well‑being of people. "Dennis," I began, "It is said that 65% of all hospital beds are filled with patients who are suffering from psychosomatic illnesses. Do you agree with that?" (May I interject the fact that a psychosomatic illness does not mean that you are ready for the psychopathic ward. It means that the illness is caused from emotional conflicts or sources. Believe me, the suffering is real, but it is the emotional that causes the physical.)
And what was Dr. Cope's response? Paraphrasing what he said: "No” he replied to my surprise, adding, “I really think that the percentage is much higher‑‑perhaps as high as 80%." Think of it. Perhaps as many as four out of every five hospital beds are filled with patients who suffer physically, when much of that suffering could be eliminated by finding a way to handle the stress and conflicts of life. Of course, that would not apply to developing countries where only the sickest ever get to a hospital, but it does to life in the West.
How do you handle those negative emotions and people who distress you? Pretend they do not exist? Not on your life! As William Powell says, "When I repress my emotions, my stomach keeps score." There is a better way, and that is by learning to submit our conflicts and troubles to a court of higher appeal, to bring them to the Lord and to learn to resolve them at the throne of grace. Is it possible? You can be sure it is.
Dr. William Saddler discovered how to do it. This psychiatrist wrote, "A sincere acceptance of the principles and teachings of Christ with respect to the life of mental peace and joy, the life of unselfish thought and clean living would at once wipe out more than half the difficulties, diseases and sorrows of the human race.... Laying aside all discussion of future life, it would pay any person to live the Christ‑life just for the mental and moral rewards it affords here in this present world."
Much of our difficulty is the result of trying to "play God" to make things happen, and to suffer indignation, bitterness and anger when they do not happen. The Bible says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path" (Proverbs 3:5‑6). That is the real answer! It’s the better way to live.
Resource reading: Proverbs 24:1-34