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Making Your Emotions Work for You
Author: Harold Sala
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Pages: 236

Emotions may not have the best reputation. We don't want to base our lives on fluctuating feelings, but are all emotions bad? On the contrary, as Gary D. Chapman, the author of The Five Love Languages, writes in the foreword: "God made us with capacity for emotions. In God's design, emotions were meant to help us process life in a positive manner. . . . Emotions are not designed to control our lives, but to draw our attention to life. Positive emotions help us enjoy life, while negative emotions inform us that something needs attention."

Author Harold Sala maintains that our greatest struggles are fought within our hearts as we deal with "frustration, stress, lack of self-confidence, fear, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, and the inability to cope with circumstances that are not to our liking."

Choices can make us better or bitter. Sala walks us through relevant Biblical principles that we can choose to apply. We can thereby make our emotions work for us in the process of becoming more of what God wants us to be.  

The first two chapters, which deal with our uniqueness and God's acceptance of us in Christ, are worth the price of the book. It's not that this introductory section, or any of the material that follows; is anything new. I just like how clear, concise and complete these first two chapters present the importance of having an identity established in Christ. If like me you have struggled with esteem and acceptance issues, this material alone can be life-changing. Just reading it I felt a little like Pilgrim being relieved of his burden in The Pilgrim's Progress. Grasp these truths and feel the weight of negative emotions roll-off your person. 

On the matter of self-acceptance, Sala writes, "When you can accept yourself as a person of worth and value, you can then accept adverse circumstances in life and realize that God has not forsaken you nor is He punishing you, but rather He is still guiding in the affairs of your life and home no matter what happens. . . . You don't consider difficulty to be punishment because you know your sins have been dealt with and you are God's child." Sala doesn't discount the fact that at times God will discipline us. I just appreciate him highlighting that when things go wrong, it doesn't mean that God is not there or that He is necessarily against us. 

Another thing I like about Sala is his liberal use of stories to illustrate his points. This is not dry reading. Sala draws on many years of ministry experience, which includes a radio program heard on more than 1,000 stations around the world. Over the years he has collected numerous responses to his broadcasts, and he often judiciously shares correspondence and anecdotes for interest and emphasis. If sermon illustration is becoming a lost art, you would never know it from reading Sala. 

Even so, his writing is not cluttered with too much of a good thing. He knows how to be brief, which makes this a reference that one can turn to repeatedly for inspiration and help. It's written for lay people, but church leaders will also find that it's a good resource.

Sala is never heavy-handed, but his easy to follow applications gently challenge. For those who are hurting, this book offers a wealth of practical steps toward recovery. 

In addition to several chapters focusing on the intricacies of emotions, separate chapters are used to explore anger, fear, boredom, stress and burnout. 

Reading Sala is like having your own personal counselor who encourages making friends with your emotions. We must respond rather than react to them, and Sala is an expert at showing us how. His aim is that we become all that God wants us to be. 

Michael Dalton
September 14, 2009



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