Most people have experienced the frustration of trying to untangle the laces on a pair of tennis shoes. Frustration only escalates as the knot tightens which leads to a sense of heightened angst. This normal occurrence vividly depicts how many people approach their emotional lives. People approach emotions in different ways: Some deny their emotions; others allow their emotions to dictate their lives.
Untangling Emotions by J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith helps clear the fog about this confusing matter. The authors seek to nurture the emotional lives of their readers and ultimately point them to the Savior.
The book is arranged in three sections. The first section, understanding emotions, is a candid look at the way we live our lives. One of the most helpful aspects of this section is that emotions turn us Godward: “Every emotion you ever feel reflects your loves, or what you worship.” The authors examine the emotional life of Jesus and reveal how he lived to God’s glory. Real change is found in submitting our emotional lives to God.
Section two, engaging emotions, explores how we engage with God. “Engaging emotions,” according to the authors, “without engaging God is a recipe for disaster.” The authors stress the importance of evaluating our hearts (which is a summary of our emotional lives): “Changing your feelings is not your biggest goal. Instead, we want to let our evaluation of our emotions drive us to act in ways that will actually have an impact on the deep loves and treasures of hour hearts.”
The final section, engaging the hardest emotions, tackles some common issues that people battle, namely – fear, anger, grief, guilt, and shame. I found the third section very helpful and touched a nerve in me. The above emotions are discussed candidly and subjected to the light of biblical revelation.
The truly encouraging aspect of this book is wrapped up in the reality and hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “The end of the story really is radical, complete comfort. No more tears. Every earthly pain a ‘light momentary affliction’ compared with the glory of heaven. And yet the trials we’ve been through, and the sins we’ve committed are exactly the things that now make our souls hunger and thirst for redemption and God’s restoring all things. Our tears whet our appetite for heaven.”
Untangling Emotions is a deeply meaningful book. The writing is plain but also penetrating. It carries the full weight of biblical authority but never comes across in judgmental tones. There is much wisdom to be gleaned here – so much that I will certainly revisit these pages in the days to come.