Mortification of emotions?

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by arapahoepark, Feb 12, 2017.

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  1. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior

    Is there such a thing as mortifying of emotions or feelings? I find I tend to have a disposition toward melancholy and overthinking (something is wrong somewhere I feel at times) and answers to prayers for peace or comfort or faith in that promise seem to be fleeting or elusive.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2017
  2. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Sinful deeds and earthly members are to be mortified. Emotions are a part of the human constitution and not able to be mortified as such, but they will be sanctified and moderated as part of the work of grace. If one holds to the old and responsible psychology they are seen as the product of rationality, even though the reasoning behind them may be obscure at times of strong emotions. There is always some pattern of belief and thought, and some process of motivation working to produce them; hence the word e-motion, movement from something. As a Christian it is important to address the thinking process behind emotions: take thoughts captive to make them obedient to Christ, to be renewed in the spirit of our minds and put on the new man which is created in the image of God in righteousness and true holiness, to be renewed in knowledge after the image of God, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds according to the will of God.
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  3. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Sophomore

    Do you have John Owen Volume 6, Section on - Mortification of Sin in Believers?
    If not, I would be happy to send you a pdf of this treatise. (Or post it where anyone can download it)
  4. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior

    Indeed, I do. I haven't rumaged through all of it, only parts I thought most pertinent to my sins at the time. Though that list seems to grow ever larger, like this.
  5. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Jesus understood the tendency of the human heart to be 'troubled' and urged us not to let that dominate over His reassurances. His gift of peace is often something I have to grasp against my own troubled heart. I find it incredibly easy to feel guilty about all sorts of things (the list of my sins keeps growing too and I guess it probably will so long as I'm being sanctified!), and that I do not have peace with God. It's very important for me to base fellowship with God on His words and on Jesus' perfect work. As Rev. Winzer pointed out, feelings are part of our human makeup and experience: in the Psalms we learn that God wants us to be taking this part of our experience to Him in prayer. That's not the same thing as suppression or destruction of them. But we also see that the Psalmist reminds Himself of the truth about God in order to calm his troubled heart.
    Jesus words: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives (God does not give and then take away, or give based on what we merit). Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27). The peace He purchased is a reality every moment, no matter how we are struggling. He knew we would need reassurances of that!
    I have found John Newton's letters an easy read, and a very comforting and stabilising one. I think they're a good help in struggling with this. A lot of our struggle with lack of peace arises from tiredness and other things we are going through in life, but I think a lot of it can also be due to an inadequate view of God's grace and the perfection of Jesus' work as we learn more about our sinfulness. Newton is really helpful in showing us that our sins are not bigger than our Heavenly Father's grace -- and in showing how that growing understanding of our sin actually ministers to our Christian maturity.
  6. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member


    Emotions, and their accompanying feelings, are fickle things. Sometimes there is a direct correlation between our behaviors, their outcomes, and how both of these make us feel. At other times the cause of feelings like melancholy seem to be non-specific. I agree with Matthew, that mortifying emotions and feelings are not able to be mortified in the same manner as sin, however, our emotions and feelings are not completely detached from our actions.

    I am reminded of the account of the Lord speaking to Cain in Genesis 4:6-7:

    Genesis 4:6-7 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."

    In Cain's case, there was a direct correlation between his anger/jealousy, and his fallen countenance. But what do we do when there is no specific incident we can point to as being the cause of our despondency? While God will never leave us or forsake us, sometimes our emotional infirmity can be the tool that God uses to keep us close to Him. Theologians disagree on what Paul's thorn in the flesh actually was. Whatever it is was it had God's desired result of keeping Paul humble and dependent upon Him. That may not be the answer you are looking for. It is natural for us not to want negative feelings and emotions. It is often more easy to treat the cause of physical pain than it is emotional pain. I have a tendency towards melancholy myself. When I feel that way I have the sense of being utterly alone. It is during those times that I lean heavily on God's promises as contained in His word. I cherish the love of the saints in the local church.
  7. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior
    This proved immensely helpful:
  8. Grant Van Leuven

    Grant Van Leuven Puritan Board Freshman

    Brother, first thank you for being bravely vulnerable so that the saints can support you. I concur with all the advice above (and look forward to reading the suggested link to John Owen's work).

    I was planning to especially share this post with you tonight after I preached the last section on Matthew 6, "Take No Thoughts ... Instead, Behold, Consider, Seek", which I will entitle "Keep Changing the Way You Think", but my son got very sick overnight and I had to stay home today to care for him and the church backed me up with video sermons (he's beginning to do better: stomach bug). I thought it best to share the rest on my heart to offer you in the mean time per above, and I will post a link to that sermon after I preach it next week, Lord-willing. But here are two sermons related to it that will set it up and might also be helpful in the mean time:

    "Focus On Your Father", an introduction to Matthew 6:19-34 in the Sermon on the Mount.

    "Let Home Be Where Your Heart Is", Matthew 6:19-24.

    I have often said over the last two years of our family and church's difficult providence that Christ's command not to worry about tomorrow is a most merciful one and sometimes the only way I pull off tackling anxiety and getting peace (simply because I must obey I can leave it be with that).

    Related to the above, we just began a Wednesday Night study through Thomas Watson's, The Art of Divine Contentment that is very much intended to help us through what you are expressing. I highly recommend reading the book. Here is a link to the series of our audio lectures based on Watson's book we just began two weeks ago.

    I also am doing a weekly e-devotion with supplemental readings to Watson's book (cliff-notes, if you will) from Jeremiah Burroughs', The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment that I also highly recommend you get (which I began reading while preaching on the 10th Commandment a while back with a WLC series and said to church friends, "This book is going to change my life."). Here is where I offer the e-devotions series re: Burroughs' work on contentment publicly on the church's website as our "Pastor's Posts". Watson's book I advise starting with as it is pastorally pithier than Burroughs' (in my humble opinion).

    As my family and church have had to get through a very painful trial together, we've been spending a lot of time on this need for contentment in the midst of heavy storms by guiding our emotions by controlling our thinking in subjection to King Jesus. So I also offer the following resources that have come out of serving our own needs dealing with melancholy and the need to steer our thinking as potential encouragement for you (the impetus also for our Wednesday study with Watson per above):

    "We Carry Heavy Burdens, But for Christ We Carry On", sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:7-10.

    "Hold On Through the Hurt by Hoping in God", sermon on Psalm 42:5 (note the refrain of verse 5 in verse 11 and again in the fifth verse of the next Psalm: Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance).

    "Faith is Not a Feeling", sermon on Hebrews 11:1-12:13.

    "Take Yourself Up to the Rock", sermon on Psalm 61:2.

    Lastly, this Pastor's Post shares wisdom from Christiana's lesson in Pilgrim's Progress, Book II: Melodious Companionship through Melancholy.

    May Christ the Lord grant you more of His peace and abundant life that is not of this world but that passes all our understanding, and may He help you learn Paul's lesson in all things and in every state.
  9. Grant Van Leuven

    Grant Van Leuven Puritan Board Freshman

    We were able to work through Matthew 6:25-34, "Keep Changing the Way You Think"
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