“How to Overcome Disagreeable Emotions”
By Hannah W. Smith
When the child of God has, by the way of entire abandonment and absolute trust, stepped out of himself into Christ, and has begun to know something of the blessedness of the life hid with Christ in God, there is one form of difficulty which is very likely to start up in his path. After the first emotions of peace and rest have somewhat subsided, or if, as is sometimes the case, they have never seemed to come at all, he begins to feel such an utter unreality in the things he has been passing through, that he seems to himself like a hypocrite, when he says or even thinks they are real. It seems to him that his belief does not go below the surface, that it is a mere lip-belief, and therefore of no account, and that his surrender is not a surrender of the heart, and therefore cannot be acceptable to God. He is afraid to say he is altogether the Lord’s, for fear he will be telling an untruth, and yet he cannot bring himself to say he is not, because he longs for it so intensely. !
The difficulty is real and very disheartening.
But there is nothing here which will not be very easily overcome, when the Christian once thoroughly understands the principles of the new life, and has learned how to live in it. The common thought is, that this life hid with Christ in God is to be lived in the emotions, and consequently all the attention of the soul is directed towards them, and as they are satisfactory or otherwise, the soul rests or is troubled. Now the truth is that this life is not to be lived in the emotions at all, but in the will, and therefore the varying states of emotion do not in the least disturb or affect the reality of the life, if only the will is kept steadfastly abiding in its centre, God’s will.
To make this plain, I must enlarge a little. Fenelon says somewhere, that “pure religion resides in the will alone.” By this he means that as the will is the governing power in the man’s nature, if the will is set straight, all the rest of the nature must come into harmony. By the will I do not mean the wish of the man, nor even his purpose, but the choice, the deciding power, the king, to which all that is in the man must yield obedience. It is the man, in short, the “Ego,” that which we feel to be ourselves…
The practical bearing of this truth upon the difficulty I am considering is very great. For the decisions of our will are often so directly opposed to the decisions of our emotions, that, if we are in the habit of considering our emotions as the test, we shall be very apt to feel like hypocrites in declaring those things to be real which our will alone has decided. But the moment we see that the will is king, we shall utterly disregard anything that clamors against it, and shall claim as real its decisions, let the emotions rebel as they may.
I am aware that this is a difficult subject to deal with, but it is so exceedingly practical in its bearing upon the life of faith, that I beg of you, dear reader, not to turn from it until you have mastered it.
Perhaps an illustration will help you … A lady, who had entered into this life hid with Christ, was confronted by a great prospective trial. Every emotion she had within her rose up in rebellion against it, and had she considered her emotions to be her king, she would have been in utter despair. But she had learned this secret of the will, and knowing that, at the bottom, she herself did really choose the will of God for her portion, she did not pay the slightest attention to her emotions, but persisted in meeting every thought concerning the trial, with the words, repeated over and over, “Thy will be done! Thy will be done!” asserting in the face of all her rebelling feelings, that she did submit her will to God’s, that she chose to submit, and that His will should be and was her delight! The result was, that in an incredibly short space of time every thought was brought into captivity; and she began to find even her very emotions rejoicing in the will of God.
Again, there was a lady who had a besetting sin, which in her emotions she dearly loved, but which in her will she hated. Having believed herself to be necessarily under the control of her emotions, she had therefore thought she was unable to conquer it, unless her emotions should first be changed. But she learned this secret concerning the will, and going to her knees she said, “Lord, Thou seest that with one part of my nature I love this sin, but in my real central self I hate it. And now I put my will over on thy side in the matter. I will not do it any more. Do thou deliver me.” Immediately God took possession of the will thus surrendered to Himself, and began to work in her, so that His will in the matter gained the mastery over her emotions, and she found herself delivered, not by the power of an outward commandment, but by the inward power of the Spirit of God working in her that which was well pleasing in His sight.
And now, dear Christian, let me show you how to apply this principle to your difficulties. Cease to consider your emotions, for they are only the servants; and regard simply your will, which is the real king in your being. Is that given up to God? Is that put into His hands? Does your will decide to believe? Does your will choose to obey? If this is the case, then you are in the Lord’s hands, and you decide to believe, and you choose to obey; for your will is yourself. And the thing is done. The transaction with God is as real, where only your will acts, as when every emotion coincides. It does not seem as real to you; but in God’s sight it is as real. And when you have got hold of this secret, and have discovered that you need not attend to your emotions, but simply to the state of your will, all the Scripture commands, to yield yourself to God, to present yourself a living sacrifice to Him, to abide in Christ, to walk in the light, to die to self, become possible to you; for you are conscious that, in all these, your will can act, and can take God’s side: whereas, if it had been your emotions that must do it, you would sink down in despair, knowing them to be utterly uncontrollable.
When, then, this feeling of unreality or hypocrisy comes, do not be troubled by it. It is only in your emotions, and is not worth a moment’s thought. Only see to it that your will is in God’s hands; that your inward self is abandoned to His working; that your choice, your decision, is on His side; and there leave it. Your surging emotions, like a tossing vessel, which, by degrees, yields to the steady pull of the cable, finding themselves attached to the mighty power of God by the choice of your will, must inevitably come into captivity, and give in their allegiance to Him; and you will verify the truth of the saying that, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine” [John 7:17].
The will is like a wise mother in a nursery; the feelings are like a set of clamoring, crying children. The mother decides upon a certain course of action, which she believes to be right and best. The children clamor against it, and declare it shall not be. But the mother, knowing that she is mistress and not they, pursues her course calmly, unmoved by their clamors, and takes no notice of them except in trying to soothe and quiet them. The result is that the children are sooner or later compelled to yield, and fall in with the decision of the mother. Thus order and harmony are preserved. But if that mother should for a moment let in the thought that the children were the mistresses instead of herself, confusion would reign unchecked. Such instances have been known in family life! And in how many souls at this very moment is there nothing but confusion, simply because the feelings are allowed to govern, instead of the will!…
Have you given Him yourself, dear reader? Have you abandoned your will to His working? Do you consent to surrender the very centre of your being into His hands? Then, let the outposts of your nature clamor as they may, it is your right to say, even now, with the apostle, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
This article is an excerpt from The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, chapter 7 “Difficulties Concerning the Will.” (Article’s title added by editor.) Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) was born again in 1858 after suffering years of depression and skepticism. Nine years later she appropriated Christ as her source of abundant life, claiming the truth of Romans 6:6. Her books and teaching in America and England have inspired many to discover the joy of the abiding in Christ. The complete text of the book is available online at CCEL.org. (Note: Publishing articles by featured authors does not necessarily indicate GFI endorsement of every doctrinal or textual viewpoint contained in their other writings.)
This week’s topic is echoed in this poem on Romans 12:1,2 by Charles R. Solomon:
Give your body and your soul
With not a whit left out;
Yield your all to his control
Without conditions or a doubt.
Forsaking the world’s molding
So He can your mind renew,
Will result in your beholding
What Christ within can do.
Grace Notes, January 6, 2005. The purpose of Grace Notes is to highlight the dynamics of abundant living as summarized in Galatians 2:20. Back issues are available at the Web site. Please pray for God’s blessing on these articles. Your comments are welcome.