How well do you react when you are confronted with difficult problems and trying personal circumstances?
By David Albert
The Good News, January 1985
Emotional immaturity is a hidden enemy in many homes! It robs personal relationships of harmony and joy, and is a root cause of conflicts, selfishness and anxieties.
Why is emotional immaturity such a great problem for so many? Because Satan the devil, the unseen “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), constantly broadcasts his way of life of vanity, jealousy, greed and fear to all of us, not in words or pictures, but in moods and attitudes — negative, destructive attitudes such as discouragement, anger, hostility and competition.
Wrong attitudes can and do turn people away from God’s truth and can prevent people from entering God’s Kingdom! See Revelation 21:8, which shows that the “cowardly” or fearful will be excluded from God’s Kingdom and Family.
How can we grow in emotional maturity and function as God would have us function?
Why we lose emotional battles
While traveling in the United Kingdom recently, my family and I, as travelers often do, experienced a wide range of constantly changing circumstances and moods. I came to recognize a particular combination of circumstances that is especially difficult to handle, and that often results in our losing the battle with Satan, our unseen spiritual foe.
These circumstances can be described in a four-celled chart (see illustration).
The scheme here is easy to follow. You’ve no doubt seen it in operation many times in your own family, especially during stressful periods such as travel or family crises. Let’s look at the key features of each circumstance.
Quadrant 1: High energy and good circumstances. This is the good situation, the easy one to handle. No problem here. Picture a beautiful day after a good night’s rest, tranquil surroundings, ample contact with God through Bible study and prayer and a favorite activity with close friends. Most of us do not encounter big attitude problems in Quadrant 1. Satan has a hard time getting to us here.
Quadrant 2: High energy and bad circumstances. It’s challenging, but we can usually handle this situation. We’re in fine spirits but have some difficulty — maybe a flat tire on the way to work. Still no problem — change the tire and off we go. Problems don’t loom large when we’re feeling up to handling them.
Quadrant 3: Low energy and good circumstances. We may be tired from a day’s travel or activities, but we’re glad to be wherever we’re at, perhaps home having dinner with the family. All will be well after a good night’s rest. Even Solomon knew that “the sun also rises” (Ecclesiastes 1:5), something we must keep in mind when our spirits are low.
Quadrant 4: Low energy and bad circumstances. This is the danger zone! When we’re at a low energy level mentally and physically and bad circumstances arise, something goes wrong. The same flat tire at 11 p.m. after a long day’s drive and a short night’s sleep spells trouble. A sick child, a hassle with the boss, getting stuck in traffic, a bad meal or a misunderstanding with a mate becomes a far more difficult matter to deal with when the situation is complicated by fatigue.
Now you have the makings for a real trial or even a spiritual disaster, if Satan has his way. How can you negotiate your way through this danger zone? Here are some tips:
1) Recognize when you’re in Quadrant 4. Knowing what you’re up against is a precaution itself. Forewarned is forearmed.
3) Contain the problem — don’t let it escalate. In the danger zone of Quadrant 4, little problems can become big problems, like a spark causing a forest fire. Don’t start blaming others, using profanity, criticizing people and leaping to broad, sweeping, fatalistic, negative conclusions. Don’t get paranoid or assume the worst — you’ll blow up into a catastrophe what may be only a minor inconvenience. Contain the problem. Concentrate on the immediate issues at hand. Carefully and prayerfully work through them.
In such cases, the God-given wisdom of James is good to bear in mind: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).
Keep a cool head. Remember, this, too, will pass. What you don’t say or do may prove even more important in the long run than what you do say or do.
4) Be alert for Satan’s ‘fiery darts” (Ephesians 6:16). It’s in Quadrant 4 that Satan finds the best openings for his fiery darts of negative emotions, gloom and despair. Keep your guard up. Be strong. Fight back with prayer and recourse to God’s Word to steady you.
Sometimes I simply pray, “Father, steady me,” and, thankfully, He does. You need to keep steady in such circumstances.
Uncontrolled emotions, which are evidence of spiritual and emotional immaturity, will prove disastrous here.
Master the problems
It would be nice, of course, if all our challenges would come when we’re rested and ready for them in every way, but life simply isn’t that way. Often we have to face sore trials under difficult personal circumstances. Those times are the real test of your emotional maturity.