When a car’s wheels are not aligned, then the car will move forward but the going will be slower, use more energy, be more uncomfortable, and can damage other things on the car. In the same way, when our emotions are out of sync, then our relationships suffer.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31, ESV)
Paul helps us understand the way out of sync emotions work in our relationships. When we have “bitterness, wrath, and anger,” the progression of those emotions leads to shouting, slander, and malice. It’s like the wheels on our car. If they’re not aligned and we don’t correct the problem, then the whole car will be affected. If our emotions aren’t aligned to the Holy Spirit’s control, then all of our relationships will be affected.
1. Identify emotions out of sync.
“Bitterness” (pikria) is an emotion of resentment. It’s not a passive feeling but an active and aggressive emotion that searches for reasons to resent others. Rather than reconciliation, “bitterness” demands that one nurse the wrongs and wounds received from others.
“Wrath” (thumos) is a boiling heart toward another. This is the picture of a pot of water that has just come to the point of boiling. It bubbles and pops. The energy in that pot is easily seen. That’s what the term Paul uses here means. It is a passionate expression of negative emotion due to feelings of resentment.
“Anger” (orgē) is personal animosity toward another. It springs us into negative actions. To yield to anger is to give room for the devil to create sin-saturated carnage in our relationships.
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26–27, ESV)
When the waves of emotions build up in our heart, don’t just run with those feelings. Stop, take a breath, and pray: “God, are the emotions I’m feeling in line with the Holy Spirit?”
2. Understand where out of sync emotions lead us.
When we don’t deal with bitterness, wrath, and anger, then our relationships will have to endure more soul-shattering struggles.
“Clamor” (kraugē) is the barrage of shouting erupting from emotions out of sync with the Spirit. When we are filled with anger, we clang and bang our emotions, attempting to shout down any opposition to our self-focused desires.
“Slander” (blasphēmia) is abusive speech. This is when we talk bad about another person with a desire to cast them in an untruthful and harmful light. It can begin with vitriolic whispers which build into a crescendo of hissing hate for another.
“Malice” (kakia) is the picture of bad intentions. Simply put, we just want to hurt the other person when our emotions are out of sync with the Holy Spirit.
The key for us when dealing with negative emotions is to look to the Holy Spirit to align our emotions to His Word. This isn’t easy. But it is what God wants to do in us to build healthy relationships. He is working in us to transform us, including our emotions, to be more like Jesus.
“Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23–24, ESV)
As we spend time with Jesus through the work of the Spirit in our lives, the Spirit will begin to align our emotions to Jesus.
So, today, let’s stop, take a breath, and pray:
“God, is the emotion I’m feeling a reflection of Your heart?”
If not, then ask the Holy Spirit to help transform your emotions so that they are in sync with the character of Jesus.