Emotions. We all have them. Men and women alike. Stereotypically women are “more emotional.” Are we? And men? They are known as the gender that doesn’t share their emotions. Is that really true?
What seems to be lacking in both stereotypes is how we MANAGE our emotions. Women, we must admit, we DO tend to wear our hearts on our sleeve. Emotional self- control is more difficult for us. And often times we use our emotions to manipulate those around us. Men are more characterized by keeping their feelings bound up inside, bound so tightly at times that they are accused of having no feelings at all. Again, it’s how they MANAGE those emotions, because they are most definitely there.
As I studied Lesson 10 in Loving God With All Your Mind by Elizabeth George, I was brought face to face with the many emotions of the Apostle Paul. Sure, I realized that he had difficulties. This is one of those instances where we read words on a page but fail to FEEL them, or to SEE what God has for us in them. Elizabeth included MANY verses from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in the study and I must admit, I was totally overwhelmed when I allowed myself to be affected by his words. Most of us would have crumpled under just one or two of the things he suffered. Yet Paul persevered.
Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11: 23-33
Are you kidding me? And we think we are in crisis when we are misunderstood by those who we once considered friends. I take that back. That statement sounds like I don’t believe those things cause us pain. They do. They most CERTAINLY do. But do we have our struggles in the proper perspective?
Paul was a powerful man of God. We can learn so much from his example. Even being such a strong man, He was not afraid to share his emotions with others.
But amidst the pain he experienced, pain that made him feel as if he could not go on living, he CHOSE to focus on the TRUTH. Yes, he was dealing with unimaginable suffering, but God was THERE; God was his STRENGTH.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed... (2 Corinthians 4: 9-10)
Not only did Paul experience the situations I mentioned above, and more, he also dealt with an ongoing physical ailment that made life more troublesome on a daily basis. We aren’t told what his “thorn in the flesh” was; perhaps that is so we can relate to his situation more easily. We often ask God “WHY.” According to Paul, he knew why he was dealing with it. I have included the entire paragraph so you can see the context of Paul’s words.
Paul loved to boast! But we all know it is far more commonplace for us to boast about ourselves. Paul knew that as well. His thorn in the flesh, however, humbled him on a daily basis. It caused him to seek God consistently for the grace he needed to cope, lest he would think he could get by on his own fortitude each day.
Paul is a wonderful example to us of how to follow Matthew 6:34.