Engage Your Emotions
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What does the Bible mean when it calls women “the weaker vessel”? Author Mary Kassian explains that women are more vulnerable to being abused and hurt. Kassian gives women practical advice for engaging their emotions in a God-honoring way.
Engage Your Emotions
Bob: We tend to think that strength and humility are on different parts of the spectrum, that they’re antithetical to one another at some level. Mary Kassian says a strong wife/a strong woman is going to be humble.
Mary: We tend to look at our spouse and be critical and say: “Well, it’s his fault,” or “It’s her fault,” and “If only she were this,” or “If only she didn’t have sin in her life,”/“If only he didn’t have sin in his life.” I know that every time that I have done that—and come to the Lord, complaining about Brent—that the Holy Spirit has very gently pointed out the sin in my life. I find that, when I get rid of the sin in my life, all of a sudden, things improve.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 18th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. It takes a lot of strength, for both husbands and wives, to acknowledge our own weaknesses. We’ll talk more about that today with Mary Kassian. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I remember getting a text from one of my sons. He’d been married for maybe a year or two; and he said, “Dad, help me understand this verse that talks about women as the weaker vessel.” I don’t know the context—I don’t know if it was a conversation with his wife; I don’t know what was going on—but he was trying to honor and esteem his wife. You read this verse that says women are the weaker vessel; and he goes: “What am I supposed to do with that? What am I supposed to make of that?”
Certainly, that’s one of those verses that a lot of people in our culture today would say: “Scratch that one out. Just cover that/just skip over that and go on to the next verse.”
Dave: I actually don’t think I married that woman.
Bob: —the weaker vessel. [Laughter]
Dave: She’s not the weaker vessel. But it is a great question; what does it mean?
Bob: Well, we have a woman here, talking about the right kind of strong with us this week—Mary Kassian, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Mary: Thank you so much.
Bob: Mary is an author; she’s a speaker. The new book she’s written is called The Right Kind of Strong. She’s been on FamilyLife Today regularly.
When you came across that verse the first time, “Women are the weaker vessel,” did the hackles on your neck kind of raise up?
Mary: Absolutely, the hackles on my neck rose up! I had never considered myself to be a weak woman; I’ve always considered myself to be a strong woman.
But that passage is a fascinating one; because when you dig down into it, it basically says, “Guys, you better treat women with respect; because they’re weaker”; in other words: “They are more vulnerable. They’re more vulnerable to being abused; they’re more vulnerable to being hurt. So, guys, if you are men, you will step up to the plate and you will protect women, and you will look out for them. You need to treat them with respect and with care, and not be careless and not be cruel,” and “You need to be a man and treat a woman well.” That’s what that passage is talking about.
Bob: There’s another passage, and it’s the one we’ve been talking about this week, that talks about weak women in the Bible; it’s 2 Timothy, Chapter 3. Read that one more time for us, because Paul is talking about a problem in the church in Ephesus that he’s counseling Timothy on dealing with. The problem is women, who are spiritually weak; and as a result, there are all kinds of issues emerging in their homes and in the church.
Mary: Yes, the passage is in 2 Timothy 3, verses 6-7. Paul says, “Among them are those who creep into households”—so it’s talking about false teachers here; these false teachers creep into households—“and capture weak women.” These women are “burdened with sins, led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”
We talked about the problem of these women being weak because they were allowing creeps in, and that they were weak because they were allowing their minds to be captured and captivated rather than being taken captive by Scripture.
Bob: They’re weak because they’re burdened with sin, because they have baggage in their lives?—is that right?
Mary: Absolutely. That’s exactly what that phrase means, “burdened with sins.” Actually, in the Greek, the word is a word picture of being loaded up, like a wagon being overloaded with sin, and just being burdened and weighed down.
That’s the thing about sin: I think sin, when we don’t deal with it in our lives—when we just allow it to accumulate and we don’t address it—when we don’t get rid of that baggage, then it begins to weigh us down. It actually can become very heavy, and it can actually make us weak.
Ann: So what does a woman do? How does she counteract that baggage?
Mary: Scripture tells us that a strong woman will have a habit of looking for sin in her life. A strong woman makes a habit of getting rid of the sin. If I’m a strong woman—and I’m going through my day, and I’m finding that I’m snipping at my husband or am just being rude—if I am strong, I will make a habit of going to the Lord with that and saying: “Lord, I just sinned against You; and I was really nasty towards my husband. Help me correct that.”
If I am a weak woman, I’ll go, “Aw, not a big deal,” and I’ll just let it sit there and accumulate. The thing about sin is that sin tends to attract more sin. If I let that sin of criticism fester there, and I don’t deal with it/if I don’t get rid of that baggage, then chances are there will be more criticism coming pretty soon, and more criticism, more snarkiness, more discord, and more of letting that creep in and starting to fester with an attitude and with sins. It will start to weigh me down in my Christian life.
Bob: What you’re talking about is what Puritan writers used to call the mortification of sin. It’s looking at sin—I remember my friend Crawford Loritts, who said: “Most of us don’t want to mortify sin; we want to manage sin. We want to keep it around so we can pet it from time to time, but we don’t want it to get bigger or to do anything disruptive.”
Well, the Bible says that doesn’t work with sin. Sin will get bigger; sin will break out of its cage; sin will consume you. You have to put it to death—that’s why Jesus said—“If your right hand sins,”—you don’t say, “Well, I’ll put a glove on it,”—“you cut it off”; right? So to be smart/to be strong is to say: “I will not let sin remain. I will deal with this. I won’t treat it lightly.”
Mary: That’s right; these women, who were weak, were letting it pile up—they were letting the baggage pile up. It says that they were “burdened with sins.” We don’t know what those sins were; but we do know that they were many, and that they were accumulating, and that it was weighing these women down.
Now, the thing about sin is that Jesus dealt with all of it on the cross. He forgave our sins—past, present, and future—and sin is dealt with; it’s done with. Romans tells us that: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” because once we enter into a relationship with Jesus, there’s no condemnation.
Dealing with sin, as a Christian, is a matter of what the Bible calls—is sanctification—it’s becoming holier. It’s not justification, which means your standing before God. You are accepted; you are fully loved; it doesn’t matter how much sin is in your life. And yet, God wants us to deal with sin, on an ongoing basis, in order for us to become freer, in order for us to become holier, in order for us to glorify Him, and in order for us to have lives that are fruitful and productive.
Dave: Your phrase, “ditch the baggage,” is a good phrase; because I think it’s easy—because we’re justified and we are forgiven—to just pile on the sin.
Dave: You know, it’s like: “Oh, it’s no big deal; I am forgiven,” or “If I’m not forgiven right now, in terms of my experience, I will be tonight when I deal with this sin; and I get on my knees and ask for forgiveness.” I am adding baggage; I am literally putting a backpack on, weighed down with weights, if I play around with this sin rather than ditch it.
Bob: “The sins that so easily entangle and encumber us,”—that’s what the writer of Hebrews says; yes.
Mary: Hebrews says: “Get rid of it.
Mary: “Get rid of it. Set aside the sin that entangles you and encumbers you.” I think we forget that—we forget that sin messes us up; it entangles us; it trips us up.
Dave: Think about this in your marriage; because when I play around with sin and bring that into my marriage, I can’t have the marriage I want. I can blame my spouse; I can blame God; I can blame the big creep, Satan; but I am bringing baggage to my own marriage.
I’ve done this—I’m like: “What is wrong with my wife?” “What’s wrong with my marriage?” I’m playing with something—I’m not taking it captive; I’m not dealing with it—I’m bringing weight. The second I receive the forgiveness of God and confess my sin, there’s a freedom that enables us to get to the marriage we want.
Bob: Mary, talk about the woman, who is weakened by/unable to be strong—not because of present sin—but because of the burden of past sin, and the shame, and the guilt—and she just, as much as she would like to be free, the accuser continues to remind her of her baggage that she can’t seem to ditch. What does she do with that?
Mary: She needs an infusion of truth. She needs to run to the Word of God and ask God to make His truth real in her life; because the truth of the matter is God forgives us/that we are forgiven, and that all of the certificate of debt was nailed against the cross when Jesus died for our sins, and that there’s no condemnation.
Now, there are sometimes some things that we need to deal with in terms of working through the journey, particularly if we’ve been sinned against. Sometimes it’s not our sin, but sometimes it’s a sin that’s been committed against us; and then we need to deal with bitterness and unforgiveness, because our response to that sin is piling on the baggage in our life as well.
Sometimes it’s a process. I think God gives us a lot of grace for that process, but we need to be walking that journey of saying, “No, I am a child of God.” We need to be truth-declarers, saying: “I am forgiven. I am a child of God. I am taking this sin, and I am confessing it, and I’m getting it out of my life right now.”
I think what you said, Dave, is so applicable in terms of marriage; because we tend to look at our spouse and be critical and say, “Well, it’s his fault,” or “It’s her fault,” and “If only she were this,” or “If only she didn’t have sin in her life,”/“If only he didn’t have sin in his life.” I know that every time that I have done that—and come to the Lord, complaining about Brent—that the Holy Spirit has very gently pointed out the sin in my life. I find that, when I get rid of the sin in my life, all of a sudden, things improve.
Bob: What we’re doing is—we’re saying: “My sin is justified.
Bob: “My critical spirit/my harsh attitude—that’s justified—because the other person is provoking it in me.” It’s never justified.
Dave: Yes, we love to see sin in other people; don’t we?—[Laughter]
Dave: —whether it’s our spouse or a neighbor. It’s hard to look in the mirror.
But I go back to the passage, and I want to know what you have to say about this; because it says, “…burdened with sins,”—which we just talked about—“and led astray by various passions.”
Mary: That’s a big one for women.
Dave: Oh yes; let’s talk.
Mary: Passions, which are desires, or longings, or yearnings—we all have them—and they’re so tied to our emotions. I think that that’s a mark of a strong woman—is a strong woman gets a grip on her emotions.
Now, I think emotions are a really good thing; they’re God’s gift to us.
Mary: I would never want to tell women, “Oh, don’t be so emotional,” because being emotional—or having those emotional feelings and having that depth of feeling—that’s a real gift; and God gives us that as a gift.
Ann: It’s part of being a woman.
Mary: It is part of being a woman, and it’s a precious part of being a woman.
I think that women tend to respond to that in two opposite ways. They either tend to let emotions run their lives; or they tend to suppress their emotions and say, “I’m not going to have any feelings,” and they stuff them down; and they don’t acknowledge what those emotions are.
Neither of those are a good response. These women in Ephesus—it said that they were “led astray by various passions”; in other words, their feelings/their desires were leading them astray.
Dave: You often hear, “Women are emotional—more emotional than men.” I’m not saying that’s true at all—I don’t even think it’s true—but you hear that—“And they can’t control their emotions; they’re just going to follow their emotions.”
You don’t even say, in this habit, to manage your emotions; you say, “engage.”
Mary: Well, a good illustration that I like to use is that I think emotions are like those indicator lights on your dashboard of your car. The light comes on—tells you the tire pressure is low—
Dave: “Those lights we’re supposed to pay attention to?” [Laughter] Like, “I’m not doing anything about that; that thing’s faulty!”—right? [Laughter]
Mary: Exactly—the tire—I think I’ve got one on my car right now—tire pressure: “Tire pressure is low”; or you need “More gas”; or “This needs attention”; you need more “Windshield wiper fluid.”
I think that your emotions give you good information, but they’re not supposed to be the steering wheel. Your emotions are to come under the lordship of Jesus Christ in conjunction with your will, and your mind/your intellect.
I think, when the Lord created us, our minds, our wills, and our emotions all pulled in the same direction; but sin broke us, so now we have the situation that Paul complained about—is that he does what he doesn’t want to do; right? Your emotions aren’t pulling you in the same direction as what you know you ought to do.
Whenever you have that situation, where you go, “I know I should, but…” it’s probably because your emotions are not in line with your intellect. It’s good to acknowledge that—say: “That’s the light on my dashboard; that’s what this is indicating to me. My emotions tell me that I want to linger with this thought,” “…I want to linger with this guy,” “…I want to send him a text message”; but my mind tells me, “I ought not to do that.” I don’t know if I have the will to resist doing what my emotions are doing, so you take that whole package to the Lord and you say, “God, help me with this.”
Ann: That’s good. I kind of like the idea of putting a bridle on your emotions; and taking the bridle—you take it to the Father. Here’s the habit that I’ve gotten into: “Father God, this is what I’m feeling…”—insecure; comparing myself—“What do You want me to know about that emotion?” It’s almost like you take it to the Father; because He goes deep into our soul of, “This is what’s going on, Ann.”
Mary: Exactly. “Why is this emotion here? Why am I feeling this way? What is it connected to? What belief is deep, deep in the depth of my heart that is causing this emotion to rise up?”
Bob: I’ve never forgotten something that I heard Robertson McQuilkin say on FamilyLife Today. Years ago, he was telling the story. He’s a pastor and was the president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, before it became Columbia International University. His wife Muriel had Alzheimer’s disease; he resigned to go home and take care of her.
He said they were driving one time, and they were in a heated conversation. They were in disagreement, and he was being logical with her about what she was going through. She would say something; and he would go, “Well, look at this logically.” She finally—he told us this—he said, “She looked at me and she said, ‘Robertson, logic isn’t everything; and emotions aren’t nothing.’” [Laughter] It’s a good word.
Emotional intelligence is a phrase that’s been coined today. There are things that our emotions will tell us that will give us insight that our logic will never get us to, so we need to be alert to, and listening to, and paying attention: “What is that emotion; what’s that data supposed to mean?”
But as you said, it’s not the steering wheel. We don’t say, “I feel this way; therefore, I am this way; therefore, I will act this way.”
Mary: “Therefore I will go this way.”
Bob: That’s right. Our will is to get information from our mind and from our emotions before it decides, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” If our feelings aren’t in line with what the Scriptures teach, then we need to recalibrate and we need to govern our emotions; but we don’t ignore them, and we don’t stuff them, or repress them. We have to listen to them and know what we can learn from them.
Mary: They give us such valuable insight. Sometimes my emotions will give me insight into my spiritual condition in a way that nothing else will give me. If I evaluate my emotions, and they are not in line with the way that God wants me to feel, then something’s off; and I need to address that.
Bob: Anybody who doesn’t think that emotions have a place at the table hasn’t read the Book of Psalms. In Psalms, when David is feeling these emotions, and he expresses them, and he brings them before God—as you were talking about, Ann—then the next thing he does is—he says, “But I see where these are out of line.”
I always go back to Psalm 13—one of my favorites—where David says: “How long are You going to forget me, Lord? How long will You withhold favor from me? How long will my enemies triumph over me?” This is all the emotional processing of: “Life is not going the way I want it to. I’m frustrated; I’m defeated; I’m feeling this way.” Then it ends with: “But on Your kindness I will rely. I will exalt in Your saving grace. I will sing to the Lord. That’s what I am going to do.”
Bob: He’s counseling his own soul and saying: “I know this is what I’m feeling. These feelings are real, but I’m going to bring them under the authority of God’s Word and God’s Spirit; and I’m going to respond to life, based on what’s true, not based on just what I feel.”
Dave: I’ll one-up you, Bob. How about this?—Psalm 73.
Dave: Again, David’s complaining about, “Everybody’s prospering; we’re not prospering.” I’m not one-upping you, but I’m just saying he does the same thing here. I’m trying to find exactly where he says it at the end—he says, “But then I went into the sanctuary of God.”
It’s sort of what Ann was saying, taking your emotions to Jesus and saying: “What’s going on here? When I sat with God, I then had a perspective and control to respond correctly.”
Mary: Counseling your emotions—I think that’s the problem—is that we let our emotions sometimes speak to us so loudly, and we never talk back; we don’t counsel our souls.
There’s another verse in Psalms, where it talks about—David said: “I counseled my spirit,” “At night, I counseled my spirit.” So, when he was laying there in the dark, and all kinds of emotions and thoughts were there to overwhelm him, he began to speak to his emotions and speak truth to his emotions.
Ann: I don’t think this is something that we wait to do for a quiet time or a devotional time. This is something that we do as we go—as we’re walking along the way—as we’re coming out of a meeting, as we’re engaging with somebody. We’re talking to God, all along. As we talk to Him—when Paul says you “pray without ceasing”—we’re talking to Him all day long about our emotions, about our situations; and we’re taking it all to the Father.
Dave: I would add this to the listener right now: “When this program’s done, quiet yourself.” If you’re like me, you’re running, running, running; you’re not even looking at this emotion that you’ve been feeling. “Ask God: ‘Why am I feeling this? What do You want me to do with this?’—that’s a strong woman; that’s a strong man.”
Mary: Yes. I think, for women, it’s so important that we have each other, also, because we have hormonal things going on in our bodies that really impact our emotions. A lot of women struggle with that time of the month, just in terms of the emotions just going. You don’t even know where it’s coming from, and you can’t even evaluate it; it’s just the way you’re feeling. Sometimes it’s so good just to have a girlfriend come alongside and just help us with that.
Sometimes, also, just after giving birth, women are struggling if you have a brand-new baby at home. They used to call it “the baby blues.” You just went through these times of emotions, that were just overwhelming, and you didn’t even understand what it was connected to.
It’s good to counsel your own emotions, but also good to draw in the community of believers to speak truth to you and to help you counsel your emotions.
Bob: That is the right kind of strong; that’s what we’re talking about here. It’s not how the world defines strong; and it’s not some kind of artificial weakness and softness that sometimes gets thrust upon women in church contexts, where women feel like, “Oh, I guess my job is to go to the fellowship hall and fold the napkins, because that’s what women are supposed to do.” That’s not what the Bible’s calling women to.
The right kind of strong is the kind of strong that you’ve outlined in this book, Mary. I hope a lot of women will get together with a lot of other women; and they’ll go through this together, chapter by chapter.
Ann: This would be a great study to go through together with a group of women.
Bob: This could be revolutionary in a lot of women’s lives.
Bob: Mary, thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.
Mary: Thank you.
Bob: And thanks for writing the book. We have copies of Mary’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Again, the title is The Right Kind of Strong. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order one or multiple copies—again, if you want to go through this with other women. The book is called The Right Kind of Strong; the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now I want to wrap up today by reading you a passage of Scripture that I think is good for all of us to meditate on in our current circumstances. This is from Philippians 4. The Bible says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” It’s not easy to find ourselves rejoicing in our current circumstances but the Bible tells us, “Again, I say rejoice.” It goes on to say, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” Let’s be reasonable people.
And then, “Do not be anxious about anything,” that’s easier said than done, right? But we need to follow the biblical pattern for how we deal with anxiety. It says, “when you’re facing anxiety in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” Thankfulness is a big part of how we deal with our own anxiety. Be thankful for the blessings of God we experience “and let your requests be made known to God.” It goes on to say that “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
These are days when time in God’s word is paramount. In fact, think about how much time you’re spending on social media or cable news and ask yourself how much time am I spending renewing my mind with God’s word? That ought to be a priority for all of us in these difficult times. So, we want to keep pointing you in that direction here at FamilyLife and just take this time on today’s program to remind you to rejoice, not to be anxious, and to be prayerful.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow as we continue to provide practical help and hope for your marriage and family. Vicki Courtney is going to join us to talk about how we raise strong, confident daughters. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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