We’ve all heard of “unconditional love.” It’s the cornerstone of our Christian faith, and yet it’s often misunderstood. Unconditional love doesn’t mean we allow people to treat us however they please. Rather, it means that we will continue to feel or express love toward them regardless of their actions. We still set boundaries. There are still consequences for their actions. But their actions do not dictate our choice to continue to love them.
Love is both a noun and a verb. I feel love for someone because of what I choose to think about them. Sometimes it’s easy to come up with thoughts that create love as an emotion. Other times it’s much more challenging. It’s in those difficult relationships, I choose to remind myself that this person was created by God and deeply loved by Him. I choose to remember that there is much of this person’s story (what has led to their current behaviors and values) that I don’t know.
Love is an emotion.
Emotions are created by our thoughts.
Emotions are created by our thoughts.
Now let’s turn to an emotional favorite: joy.
She’s the little blue-haired, spit-fire character in Pixar’s movie Inside Out. In this entertaining and animated movie about how emotions and memories are created, the “emotions” that live as characters inside an 11-year old girl’s brain create feelings by choosing things for her to think about. And everyone loves “Joy.”
I’m certainly no exception. It’s one of my favorite emotions (along with gratitude and curiosity) and it is completely rooted in the choice to be joy-filled in all circumstances. Psalm 16:11 tells us that joy comes from being in God’s presence. I think there’s something more though, that the psalmist assumes that we already know. Just being in God’s presence (a circumstance) isn’t enough for us to experience joy.
We can’t shake off God’s unconditional love or His presence. These two things are fundamental parts of God’s character and can’t be changed or influenced by us. Contrary to society’s message today, truth is not subjective; It’s true whether we believe it or not. We’re all created with autonomy (“free will”) to choose what we believe though, and this does impact our experience.
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
If I focus on the circumstances in my life and let those determine my emotions, my life will be full of drastic highs and lows. There isn’t anything wrong with this. In fact, I often say that life is 50/50 positive and negative emotions (although not all for the same length of time, thankfully!). This is what makes life interesting. A life where we were happy all the time would get boring after a while. I wouldn’t feel broken-hearted after a loved one’s death if I hadn’t also experienced extreme love for them during their life.
Joy is an emotion unlike any other.
We can feel its presence even during painful negative emotions.
It’s this emotion both as an emotion and construct that girds us up consistently
regardless of the circumstance we find ourselves in.
Those who work with me say I “speak in models.” By this, they mean that I show them repeatedly that how you think about your circumstances is what creates your emotions, and those emotions then drive your actions, bringing about the results you have (or want) in your life. The members of Rising Soul know this model well. They understand that the reason this is true is because God (the Trinity) is the back-drop of the model. He created us to be in Him. Not to compartmentalize who we are and where our “Christian beliefs” fit into our life. But rather, to see all things through the lens of a God who loves you, sees you, and desires a meaningful and personal relationship with you.
It creates joy.
A joy that is bigger than our circumstance.
A joy that outlives us.
And the reason for that joy? It’s not a circumstance. (Remember, that’s not what creates feelings!)
When know God and center our life around Him and His love, we can’t not think about Him.
When we go through hard times, we know that we’re not alone. We choose to think on that.
When something is out of our control, we know that He is in control. We choose to think on that.
When we’re afraid and uncertain about the future, we know that God is working all things together for good. And we choose to think on that.
This knowledge of God and choice to center our thinking on Him allows us to experience the joy that’s only found in Him.
Now that’s something to think about. 😉
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