Of Moods and Motivation

by Jason Moore

There are days I don't feel like working. There are days when I'm around people that I don't want to be. I'd rather not smile. I'd rather be alone and not be bothered.

Moods are peculiar things. Like the weather, they're hard to predict. They are affected by so many variables -- health, work, appetite, family, friendships, traffic, temperature, or evening news. Depending upon the mixture of these different conditions and which one is allowed to dominate our thinking, we are found to be in a mood that is good or bad, gloomy or bubbly, somber or cheerful, happy or sad, angry or lethargic, or somewhere in between.

Unlike the weather, moods can be controlled. We are not at the mercy of the present climate in which we find ourselves in a new mood or succumb to our present one. Ultimately it's our choice.

Your feelings spring from your decisions. The Lord has so constructed the heart of man that the will is given the governance. The emotions certainly prod the will. They fuel your decisions but the will is in the driver's seat. The course of your feelings can be changed by turning your attention to other matters, steering clear of known hazards, or doggedly driving ahead through the inclemency even when you don't feel like it.

The fact that your feelings are guided by the will can be demonstrated.

First, experience. Who has not engaged in some endeavor when he didn't feel like it and found that his mood was changed? Perhaps it was a job, or ball game, or vacation, or an unpleasant dinner guest. Such a change of emotion certainly doesn't happen in cases where you boast of your bad mood throughout the enterprise. But when you dive into the project with forced enthusiasm, soon manufactured zeal turns into genuine ardor.

Some will argue that the experience of "falling in love" violates the premise that feelings follow choices. Does it? The fact is that from childhood we store up a mental list of personality traits by which we define "attractive." Some of those choices are conscious. Having a parent who's a drinker causes one person to adopt an intolerance toward a prospective mate with the same inclination. Other traits -- maybe eye color -- are less deliberate, even optional. One day we meet the personification of this mental list that we've been compiling, and we "fall in love." It may even be dubbed "love at first sight." That one whom we have only imagined is now a reality.

Secondly, the Bible affirms that feelings are the product of choices. When Jesus spoke of the superiority of heavenly stores to earthly treasures, He said, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). A man's heart or affection lies with his treasure. He feels strongly about those concerns in which he has invested his time. energy, or resources. A woman's feelings about the condition of the home are justified on the basis of the energy she has expended in making it clean and comfortable for the family. A man's pride in ensuring the family's security through his employment is based on his personal investment in labor. It is no accident that the woman carries a baby for nine months. It would seem that the Lord planned such an investment on the part of womankind so that natural affection or "bonding" results. Feelings follow choices. Where the treasure is, there the heart is.

Now make this information practical. Folks excuse behavior on the basis of their moods. They do or don't because they're "in the mood" or "not in the mood." That kind of justification is even used to defend immorality or to dismiss duty.

Consider a few applications. Hungering for righteousness is an acquired appetite. You will feel about Bible study how you choose to feel. lf you invest no time and energy in the exploration of the word of God, you will not be excited by the enterprise. You set the mood for your worship. Paul said, "Let a man examine himself" (I Corinthians 11: 28). If you make no preparation for the assembling of the saints, such will be a bore to you. Your feelings for your spouse will follow your choices. When you stop doing the little things that accompanied your courtship, is it a wonder that feelings wane? If we make no investment in a relationship, the relationship stops growing and becomes vulnerable to failure or intrusions from an outside party.

"Set your affections on things above, and not on things of this earth" (Colossians 3:2). That commandment implies the possibility of mood control, of regulating our spiritual climate. We must be managers of our affections and not let our affections manage us.

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