Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Engage Your Emotions

Leslie Basham: There’s a big difference between a woman who manages her emotions and a woman who is managed by her emotions. Here’s Mary Kassian.

Mary Kassian: Emotions were meant to be like a dashboard. They’re like indicators on your car’s dashboard, to give you good and vital information. But the lights aren’t doing the driving.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for August 7, 2019.

Dannah Gresh: Nancy, what a rich time of sharing and learning and stretching we’ve had with Mary Kassian as we have been exploring the seven surprisingly simple habits of a spiritually strong woman!

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You got that out, all those s’s! Way to go!

Dannah: I don’t know how.

Nancy: The title of that book she’s written, which is so great, is The Right Kind of Strong.

We want to be the right kind of strong women, unlike some other women that we’re reading about and talking about in Scripture.

Dannah: Yes. As we’ve explored these habits, we’re all the way up to habit number four, which talks a little about passions. In the beginning of the book, Mary confesses that she has a passion for chocolate.

Nancy: I had heard about that. Mary, I understand you do, so I actually brought some chocolate. I think this may be enough to get you through this session, and maybe all of us.

Dannah: It’s a basketful!

Mary: You know, Nancy, you had chocolate for dessert last night.

Nancy: Yes, we did.

Dannah: That was magical chocolate.

Mary: That was magical. 

Nancy: It wasn’t in one of those little wrappers.

Mary: No, that was handmade chocolate balls. I resisted it through the whole evening, until just before . . .

Nancy: And they were sitting right in front of you.

Mary: I resisted it all evening, and then by the end of the evening, I couldn’t take it anymore.

Dannah: You caved.

Mary: I caved, and I had not one, I had not two.

Dannah: How many did you have?

Mary: I think I just had two.

Dannah: Okay.

Mary: But I think I wanted to take one along, too.

That’s the thing with desires or passions or things that you love.

Dannah: One is not enough.

Mary: One is not enough. You just feel like you want it.

Dannah: It’s like a potato chip.

Mary: You want it so badly that it breaks down your resistance.

One of the things about the women in Ephesus, whose story we’re talking about, is found in 2 Timothy 3:6–7. Maybe, Nancy, you could just refresh our memory by reading those verses for us.

Nancy: Yes, because this talks about the bad habits that needed to go. We’re unpacking in this series the habits that need to replace those bad habits. The apostle Paul says to Pastor Timothy, who’s the pastor of this church in Ephesus, that there are certain kinds of people you need to avoid. You don’t want to be around them; you need to be aware. 

He says, “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:6–7).

We’re parking today on this habit of being led astray by various passions. Passions—now, is passion a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Why do we need to watch out for them?

Mary: Well, passions are essentially desires. They’re things that we really want to go after. We’re passionate about something. When you’re passionate about something, it’s something that you feel deeply about.

Nancy: So it’s something that you not only want, but you want it because you love it. It’s a desire.

Mary: You want it because you love it, it’s a desire, and it also engages all of your feelings. We are driven by our passions. We are driven by what we want. When we get what we want, we’re happy. 

Nancy: Unless you get too many of them! (laughter)

And then the happy emotion goes away and . . .

Mary: . . . you have the consequences.

But initially, you’re thinking, I want that, and That is what will bring me satisfaction.

So passion is what you turn to, what you think is going to scratch the itch.

It’s something that you turn to to satisfy the yearning in your heart. I think that we’re driven by our yearnings and by our desires and cravings. It ties into our emotions. It says that these women, these weak women, were “led astray.” Their emotions, their passions, their desires took them in the wrong direction. They were led astray by them.

Nancy: You read a passage like that, and you can think, as some do in the Christian world, or seem to, “Therefore you shouldn’t have emotions,” or “You should just repress them,” or “They’re bad,” or “Passions are bad.” That’s not what he’s saying, is it?

Mary: That’s not what he’s saying at all. I loved when I saw this movie several years ago that depicted the story of Jesus, and it depicted Him as being so happy! He was just happy and joyful.

Nancy: That’s biblical. Hebrews talks about Him being “full of joy, above any of His companions.”

Mary: He was just a delight to be around, because He was so enthusiastic. He felt deeply. When He was in the garden He wept, and He was overcome with sorrow. When He went into the temple, He was emotional about what He saw there.

Dannah: He was angry.

Mary: He was angry!

Nancy: So this is not a flatlined emotion person.

Mary: This is not a flatlined emotion person. I think that in Jesus you see the depth and the richness of pure, wonderful emotion.

You know, emotions are a gift. God has given us emotions.

Nancy: Wait, wait. Just say that again.

Mary: Emotions are a gift.

Dannah: Soak in it.

Nancy: Yes. Yes.

Dannah: How are they a gift?

Mary: They’re a gift because God has given them to us to enrich our lives. I mean, what would it be like if we didn’t have emotions, if we didn’t laugh, if we weren’t moved by a beautiful piece of music.

Nancy: We were singing at our house last night, and there was a sunset. We were facing the opposite direction, and I said, “Look out the window!” We all turned around, and—it was stirring.

Mary: Yes.

Dannah: They’re a beautiful way to respond to the gifts God’s given us, right, the emotions?

Mary: I mean, what would it be like if we didn’t have love, if we didn’t have joy, if we didn’t delight in things, if we didn’t have all those things that stirred our hearts? Emotions are things of movies, right? We go to a movie to have our emotions stirred by stories.

Dannah: We like that.

I think another way that emotions are a gift is they’re protectors. They’re like the skin of our soul. Our skin keeps our bodies safe, our organs, our physical bodies safe. It sends us messages of when we’re in a safe environment, when we’re not; and our emotions can do that, too.

Sometimes, you just might feel off in a relationship. You don’t really know, “What is that emotion? What is that feeling I feel towards this person? I can’t quite figure it out.” I think that’s the skin of your soul saying, “Something’s not right here. Watch out!” Maybe it’s God’s Spirit telling us just what Paul wrote to Timothy: “Don’t hang out with this person! This person isn’t safe for you.”

Or if you’re anxious or stressed, sometimes it’s because you’re doing too much. We as women are terrible at saying, “No,” or “I can’t do it all.” We don’t like to admit that, so we end up stressed out. Then if we adjust our schedules, then our hearts in a safer place.

Nancy: Then there are just emotions that are not the happy ones, but the sad ones—the grief, the lament, the pain. We can think that’s bad, we shouldn’t have to feel those. Or we think, If I feel those, there’s something wrong with me. Like, “If you’re a Christian, you should be happy-clappy.” Whereas, in Scripture we’re given not only permission but encouragement to lament and to mourn and to grieve, whether it’s our sin or the sin of others or just the brokenness of this world. That’s not a bad thing.

Dannah: I had an unbelieving friend tell me one time, “One of the things I find unbelievable about Christians is that they don’t grieve very honestly.”

I think we’ve all been to those funerals where there is honest grief, but they’re still mingling it with hope. They’re grieving, they’re sad, they miss their loved one or their friend; but you can see the hope of Jesus all over them. Then we’ve also seen those times when people just . . .

Mary: It’s artificial happiness.

Dannah: Yes, it’s like they’re not allowed to have that emotion.

Mary: All three of us have a friend whose father died just recently. We were chatting with each other and just consoling her. I told her that one of my favorite verses in the Bible is one of the shortest ones, and it’s this: “Jesus wept.” He was grieved.

Nancy: And it’s not just tears trickling down His cheeks.

Mary: No; He’s weeping.

Nancy: That word there is these heaving sobs. 

Mary: What’s so interesting to me about that is, He knew He was going to raise His friend Lazarus from the dead.

He knew the outcome. He knew that it was going to be victory. And yet, He just fully engaged in the grief and the sorrow of the moment. He felt it.

I think often as Christians we stuff our emotions, and I think that that’s not a good thing. We ought not to deny our emotions. But on the other hand, we ought not to rely on them, either.

Nancy: Yes, we ought not give them too much power, too much control over us. Isn’t that, maybe, what he’s talking about here to Timothy? That these weak women who are captured by creeps, by false teaching, they’re burdened with sins, they’re led astray by various passions, their emotions, their cravings, their longings lead them down paths that aren’t pleasing to the Lord. Then that becomes a bondage.

Mary: It does become bondage. Following your heart is not always a good thing. We’re often taught in our culture, “Oh, you need to follow your heart.”

Nancy: Your heart can lead you off a cliff!

Mary: Yes, your heart can lead you off a cliff. We’re told to follow our hearts, but that’s not necessarily a good thing, because our emotions can be very deceptive.

Dannah: Yes. I think of one of the words in the Scriptures. Sometimes when it’s talking about emotions, it says “heart.” It says that the heart is desperately deceitful. We have to be very careful with our emotions.

Nancy: So there’s this kind of push/pull, this ying/yang here about emotions. You say they’re a gift. We know they’re a gift. God has emotions. Jesus expressed emotions. Believers are encouraged to express emotions—and not just happy ones, but sad ones as well. And yet, our emotions can own us, can be the boss of us. We all know what it’s like to feel: it’s that time of the month, or it’s that hard season of life, and we’re under the pile of emotions. That’s not how God intends us to live, either.

Mary: Well, in the beginning God created us to have our minds and our wills and our emotions work together.

Nancy: Synced up.

Mary: Synced up, all agree, and all move in the same direction.

Nancy: Under His authority and lordship.

Mary: Under His authority and lordship. But what happened after the fall, after sin entered in, was our minds and our emotions and our wills started pulling in different directions.

You know, we can go, “Yes, I know I should do that, but . . .” Right? We don’t have the will to do it, or we don’t feel like doing it, because our minds and our wills and our emotions aren’t on the same page anymore, because of sin. We’ve been fractured.

In fact, one of the Scripture says that “your passions are at war within you” (see James 4:1). They war against you; they fight against you. Your feelings can fight against your will. Your feelings can fight against your intellect, what you know you should do. I see that all the time. I go through it all the time, the, “I know, but . . .” kind of syndrome.

Dannah: It’s just as simple as, “I don’t feel like getting out of bed right now,” or “I don’t feel like helping this friend who’s going through a hard time.”

Mary: Or, “I know I shouldn’t be flirting with my boss, but he makes me feel alive,” or “I know I shouldn’t be indulging in another glass of wine, but . . .” “I know I shouldn’t be following this path, but . . .”

Dannah: Yes.

Mary: When you have that kind of pull going on, you know that your emotions are at war with your mind. Your emotions are at war with your will, because you’re not able to do what you know you ought to do.

Nancy: Which is what Paul said in Romans. “I know what I’m supposed to do; the spirit part of me, the part that loves Christ, wants to do what’s right, but then I have this part of me, my flesh, that says, “No, I want to do what I want to do.” 

That’s the emotions, the mind, the will at war with each other and against God. Ultimately, if we indulge our emotions, like, I wouldn’t mind having half that basket of chocolate, you know. I’m not craving it right this minute, although somebody listening to this conversation may be. But there are times when I think, It’s calling my name. I have to have that.

Well, if I give in to any rogue emotion that ends up in my heart, I’m going to become a captive. I think, I’m free to do this; I want to do this, so I’ll do this.” It’s a great day, great freedom, but then you end up feeling sick to your tummy or twenty pounds overweight or just depressed. I’m not saying all those things are always connected, but we can end up being slaves to our emotions.

Dannah: I think that’s one reason why the Scriptures instruct that we should fast. I don’t know that that’s really about the food; I think it’s about our flesh. Our emotions are a piece of our flesh, and I think when we fast and say, “For a period of time I am going to have this type of self-control over what I put in my mouth.” That is our spirit saying, “I’m in charge here. I’m going to make my decisions based on what God’s Word says, not based on what you feel, not what you want, not what you’re having a passion or a desire for right now. Flesh, be quiet.”

Mary: Yes. We don’t know what the passions and desires of the women in Ephesus were. It was a very affluent society, so there were probably passions in terms of . . .

Nancy: Shopping!

Mary: Shopping, shopaholics.

Dannah: Makeup, hair.

Mary: Wanting to keep up with the latest fashions. Envy, perhaps . . .

Dannah: You talked about their houses being very opulent.

Mary: Ten thousand square foot houses that were magnificent.

Dannah: So maybe art in their houses, or better marble, marble from far away.

Mary: There were professional women; there were women who owned businesses; there were women who just wanted to learn more. So there are all kinds of things. Maybe they were lusting after the gladiators down at the marketplace.

Dannah: It was a very sexual culture.

Mary: It was a hugely sexual culture. There were brothels; there was a lot of sexual permissiveness. People got divorced. Women were able to initiate divorces; they could get divorced if they wanted to. There was one woman at the time, it was recorded she had a lot of husbands—I don’t know whether it was six, seven husbands.

Dannah: Yes, wasn’t she a Caesar’s wife or a senator’s wife or something like that? I don’t know.

Mary: Yes, there was just a lot of that.

Nancy: Promiscuity.

Dannah: Yes.

Mary: So, obviously sexual passions are involved here and included in this word, but it actually says various passions. Passions has sexual overtones, but not just those. There were other passions as well: materialism, the desire for a bigger house, maybe the desire to be affirmed or the desire to be loved. That’s a driving desire. Or just the desire to feel like you’re someone, to feel like somebody notices you, or you’re important, or the desire to feel beautiful.

Dannah: Yes.

Nancy: To me, I think for all of us as women, at times, the battle is stopping to assess, “Are the things I’m feeling right now reliable emotions? Are they based in truth? Or are they emotions that I need to bring into subjection to truth?”

I’ve shared a little bit of this with—we’ve talked about it. Both of you women watched as I went through my courtship with Robert. He’s an amazing, precious man, such a gift to me. I had never married. At age fifty-seven I married for the first time to just such a precious man.

But I will tell you—and I have shared with you that early in our marriage, it was such a huge adjustment for me. Everything was different. Often, for me, it would be during the night, when Robert would go to sleep earlier than I do. I’d be awake, and I’d be thinking—

Dannah: Wait, he goes to sleep early.

Nancy: He goes to sleep early.

Dannah: So it’s not like you’re being picky here. He goes to bed . . .

Nancy: Oh, no, no, no. He’s an early riser, early to bed. So I would sometimes be lying in bed at night, in the darkness, alone with my own thoughts and my own emotions. We were making all these adjustments, and it couldn’t have been with anybody better to do it. I just don’t want to in any dishonor or disrespect him, because this wasn’t about Robert. It was about my own emotions feeling squeezed. 

I wasn’t used to having somebody around all the time. So I was feeling things like, “Being single was way easier than being married.”

Mary: And sometimes it is.

Nancy: I mean, for me, I had spent a lot of years learning how to be single. I was thinking, “I don’t know if we can really . . . How are we ever really going to gel together.” Again, this wasn’t about him, but sometimes those emotions would feel very overpowering to me.

Mary: Especially in the dark, in the middle of the night.

Nancy: Especially in the dark. You’re tired.

Mary: When you’re alone and there’s . . .

Dannah: That’s the canvas of emotions, right?

Mary: Absolutely.

Nancy: I am so thankful that for years leading up to that of learning to anchor my mind and my heart in the Word of God. I was able to recognize, “I don’t have to be controlled by this emotion, by these feelings. They’re real. There’s nothing necessarily bad about them, but I can’t act on them. I can’t mull over them. I need to counsel my heart according to truth.”

So I go back and I tell myself what I know to be true. This would happen, sometimes, also, in the daytime hours, when Robert would say or do something that he didn’t realize was hurtful to me, that I took the wrong way. He didn’t know that; he never would have wanted to do that. But at times you nurse this, and by the time you’re done mulling it over in your head, it is like this great cardinal offense! How could somebody be so thoughtless? I mean, it’s ridiculous things!

If you let your emotions go, where you can end up . . . It was such a sweet thing to come back and say, “Okay, here’s the truth: God blessed me with this man. He is a good man. He is a gift from God. We have made a covenant relationship, and by God’s grace, God’s going to show us how to do this.”

I remember one night we had a call, the three of us and a couple of our other friends, and it was very early on. I was just kind of weepy. I didn’t even know how to put words to what I was feeling, and I didn’t want in any way to disrespect my husband.

Mary, you said, “Can I just pray for you?” You felt the emotions that were threatening to overwhelm me at that moment, and you prayed the most beautiful prayer, breathing faith into me that God could and would even this all out, that He would help me, that His grace would be there.

Now I look back, and it’s just so sweet. The emotions have been—they’re precious, they’re good emotions. It’s not that I never struggle with negative emotions in my marriage and other areas, but I’ve watched how God evened out the emotions, because they came under the control of right thinking. But I also realize, if I had given control to those emotions . . .

Mary: They would have taken you in the wrong direction.

Just like these women in Ephesus. Their emotions led them astray, took them in the wrong direction.

Now, emotions in and of themselves are not sinful desires per se, but sometimes we want to fulfill those desires in an illegitimate way, in a way outside of what God says we ought to be doing.

So I think it’s really important for us to not suppress or deny our emotions, but to examine them and to see what kind of truth they are saying to us. Then we need to bring them together with our minds and our intellects and our wills, so that all three we’re bringing back together into balance. We need to use our emotions to help us think the right way, to drive us to truth of Scripture, and then to counsel ourselves, so that we’re not just having our emotions drive us around.

Emotions were meant to be like a dashboard. They’re like indicators on your car’s dashboard, to give you good and vital information. How’s your engine running? Are you low on fuel? Is your door open? Do you need to fasten your seatbelt? What do you need to do? But the lights aren’t doing the driving. You need to be behind the wheel and you need to take control.

Nancy: Such a great word picture.

Dannah: That’s a beautiful word picture.

Mary: Now, you don’t ignore them, but you use them to move you in the right direction.

Dannah: So, the way you say it is habit number four: she engages her emotions. I like that, because you’re not ignoring them, you’re not being managed by them; you’re engaging them.

Nancy: You’re saying a weak woman is managed by her emotions.

Mary: Yes. She either denies them or she relies on them, she lets them drive her around.

Nancy: But a spiritually strong woman manages her emotions. Here’s the thing about when you know Jesus; you have not just your own emotions to deal with, your natural emotions, but because His Holy Spirit is in us. He gives us the power of a greater love, a love for Christ and affection for Christ. If we’re fueling that, we’re going to have less trouble being driven by emotions for things of this earth.

God made us for heaven. He made us for eternity. He made us to long for what is ultimate and true and beautiful, so we want to be emotionally alive to Christ, loving Him and focusing our emotions on Him.

Mary: We want our emotions to be full and engaged. I think everyone who met Jesus became alive. There was something—their emotions just took off, they bloomed, they blossomed. I think that as we bring our emotions to Jesus, He helps us with them, because He’s not only Lord of our bodies and our minds, He’s also Lord of our emotions.

Nancy: Dannah, this is such a rich study, such a powerful study. It has implications and applications for every area of our lives, what it means to be the right kind of strong. And these surprisingly simple habits of a spiritually strong woman. Mary says they’re simple.

Dannah: They’re not. They’re simple in concept.

Nancy: They’re simple in the sense that they’re basic, they’re foundational; but they’re a lifetime of learning.

Dannah: Yes. I think we need encouragement.

Nancy: So what a rich resource this book is.

Dannah: That’s exactly what this book is; it’s an encouragement. We’d love to send you a copy. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for helping us help women become free in Christ and fruitful in their lives.

If you make a donation this month in any amount to the Revive Our Hearts ministry, we’ll send you a copy of Mary’s newest book. You can make that donation by calling 1–800–569–5959, or visit and make your donation there. Be sure to ask for a copy of Mary’s newest book, The Right Kind of Strong.

Nancy: So Dannah, we’re halfway through these surprisingly simple habits of a spiritually strong woman. Did I get it right?

Dannah: Yes, I think did. You’re getting so good at it.

Nancy: They’re building on each other, as the apostle Paul does in 2 Timothy. So where are we heading in the next section?

Dannah: Well, now that we have explored the first few habits, which help us to determine if there are some things in our lives that need to be eliminated or managed, it’s time to ask a really important question. That is: Do we have the habit of walking the talk of the Christian faith, or are we all talk? So we’re going to ask a few questions that help you really measure how you’re doing in that area. I hope you’ll join us for the next session with Mary Kassian.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to point you to greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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About the Speakers

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian is an award-winning author, an internationally-renowned speaker, and a frequent guest on Revive Our Hearts. She has written more than a dozen books and Bible studies, including …

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