A couple of weeks ago, I attempted a Pinterest recipe for Hawaiian chicken kabobs, and since I don’t have a grill, my plan was to use a grill pan on the stove (one that I recently acquired and had yet to try out). But about halfway through cooking the kabobs, smoke started filling the kitchen, and the incredibly sensitive smoke detector in my apartment started blaring. And let me tell you, that thing was so loud it would have startled a deaf person.

To clarify, there wasn’t a fire. In fact, I even had a warning that things would get smoky cooking on a grill pan. So I threw on the fan above the stove, opened the doors, turned down the air conditioning, and grabbed a magazine and started fanning the smoke detector to get it to turn off. After what seemed like ages (but was really seconds maybe minutes later), the blaring whistle of the smoke detector finally shut off (although my apartment carried some smoke and the smell of Hawaiian chicken for the rest of the day, inducing the need for a lit candle and, later, the big dog - an essential oil diffuser).

Although it was slightly annoying, the smoke detector was doing its job - it was alerting me to a potential problem. Along these lines, I had a counseling professor this past semester tell us that our emotions are like smoke detectors. They’re not the problem, but they signal that there is one.

In the previous post, I mentioned that our emotions can be sinful or righteous, right or wrong. While this is true, our emotions follow our thoughts. We feel the way we do because we think the way we do. So whatever that emotion is - anger, joy, fear, etc., it acts like a smoke detector. The “smoke” or emotion is a symptom, and the root issue involves our thoughts and beliefs.

Our emotions express what we functionally believe. In fact, “every emotion is a theological statement” because it reflects our beliefs about God, ourselves, the world, etc. (Dan Allender & Tremper Longman, The Cry of the Soul).

A Puritan pastor from the 1700s named Jonathan Edwards wrote a series of resolutions for his life, one of which states: “Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination.”

What if we did this? What if, whenever we noticed something “the least out of order” or slightly amiss about our emotions, we took time to reflect and to figure out what was going on inside of us? How healthy is that?! I encourage you to do this, for I have found it to be extremely helpful in my own life.

When you feel strong emotion, identify what the emotion is and why you feel that way. Ask how your emotions are speaking for you. Consider what thoughts and beliefs are prompting that emotion, and analyze whether your emotions and the thoughts behind them are moving you towards God or away from Him.

So don’t avoid your emotions or try to stuff them down. They’re helpful messengers, and we need to figure out the message they’re communicating. While we shouldn’t be ruled by our emotions, we ought to listen to them and understand them, so we can respond appropriately.

In my cooking adventure, I knew there wasn’t a fire, but I still had to attend to the smoke in my apartment. With your emotions, you may not realize there’s an internal “fire” until you take some time to reflect.

(On a side note, I do recommend the Hawaiian chicken recipe; it was quite good. Here’s the link in case you’re interested - just be prepared for some smoke!)