Can I Learn To Deal With How I Feel? With Dr. James Merritt [Episode 235]

Learn Deal How Feel Dr. James Merritt

In today’s climate of turmoil and uncertainty, complicated feelings run rampant. Yet the God who created your emotions has also given you everything you need to navigate them.

Today’s guest, Dr. James Merritt, is going to help you understand and apply the Bible’s practical guidance for handling difficult emotions, including jealousy, anxiety, rage, and loneliness.

As we talk about his book, How to Deal with How You Feel: Managing the Emotions That Make Life Unmanageable, James shares simple strategies and effective tools to process even your most chaotic emotions in a spiritually beneficial way.

He explains that you can rely on God and His promises, and that means you can trust Him with your feelings, your fears, and your whole self.

Isn’t that good news?

Your emotions are not the boss of you, sister, and you can learn how to deal with how you feel!

If you’ve already listened to the podcast and want to jot down the C.A.L.M. acronym and three R’s about God, I’ve got you covered. Here they are:

C.A.L.M. Acronym

Celebrate the person of the Lord.
Appreciate the presence of the Lord.
Liberate the power of the Lord.
Meditate on the peace of the Lord.

Three R’s About God

God is Rational.
God is Real.
God is Reliable.

Meet James

Dr. James Merritt is a bestselling author, Bible teacher, and host of the Touching Lives television program, which broadcasts hope and encouragement nationwide and in 122 countries. He is the senior pastor of Cross Pointe Church in north metro Atlanta and has been married to his wife, Teresa, for nearly 40 years. So, sit back and receive some good counsel from Dr. James Merritt and Jennifer.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Learn To Deal With How I Feel? With Dr. James Merritt [Episode 235]

Dr. James Merritt: Our emotions are God given. And one of the ways that God wants to minister to us and through us is by using our emotions in productive ways that are not only healthy for us, but so we can give help to other people.

Jennifer Rothschild: In today's climate of turmoil and uncertainty, complicated feelings, they just run rampant. But the God who created your emotions has given you everything you need to navigate them. So today's guest, Dr. James Merritt, is going to help you understand and apply the Bible's practical guidance for handling difficult emotions, including jealousy, anxiety, rage, loneliness. Oh, my friend, you can learn how to deal with how you feel. So let's get started.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast. We're so glad you're here. This is where practical encouragement and Biblical wisdom set you and I up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, welcome your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Welcome. We're happy you're here. That was K.C. Wright, my seeing eye guy. And it's just two friends, and it's one topic, and it's zero stress.

K.C. Wright: Zero stress.

Jennifer Rothschild: And that's what you're looking for today. I'm Jennifer. If we're new friends, I'm here to help you be and do all that you are called to do and be. And it's not through your own strength, it's through God's strength in you, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you that power that you need.

And listen, y'all, when it comes to feelings, we need the power of God in us because sometimes they go crazy. I got to tell you -- well, let me tell you this. So tonight I am speaking in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for an Extraordinary Women, and one of my favorite things about being in Tulsa is going to Trader Joe's.

K.C. Wright: Oh, come on.

Jennifer Rothschild: I mean, I'm excited about the conference, but can I just say, I love Trader Joe's. And one of the things I always buy from Trader Joe's is these lavender -- I guess they're called sachets. You put them in the dryer. Oh, K.C., they make my laundry smell so good. Okay. Which leads me to this, needing to learn how to deal with how you feel. Okay. So I don't know why, but I love to do laundry. It's, like, this one thing in my life that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, right? Closure, closed loops, it just really --I like it.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: And I like things to smell good. So I had bought this laundry soap, and it is actually called Narcissist. Wouldn't you like to smell like a narcissist?

K.C. Wright: No.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's from Buff City Soap. And technically, y'all, let's all be -- here. It is named after the flower narcissus -- okay? -- but I like to call it narcissist. Yes, I smell like a narcissist.

K.C. Wright: Oh, you're cracking me up today.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right. So anyway, it's this powder.

K.C. Wright: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: All that is your backstory for this. I am in my office, and I'm typing away working on stuff. And, of course, I had laundry going because that's what I do. So sitting on top of my washing machine are my dryer sheets, my laundry soap, my fabric softener, including this brand-new container of Narcissist. Which is like $20. Okay? Which is expensive. And so I'm hearing things rattle around in there, and I'm like -- you know, not thinking much about it, because the spin cycle was just a little fervent, and so -- but everything's rattling and I hear it. And then I hear this crash.

K.C. Wright: Oh, no.

Jennifer Rothschild: And I'm like, what in the world could have crashed, you know? But I'm not worried about it because I'm finishing my work. I wait till the cycle ends. I walk into my laundry room and there is the most pungent, disgusting smell. And then I step on it.

K.C. Wright: Oh, no.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's like this pasty, nasty thing. Okay. Well, here's what happened.

K.C. Wright: Oh, no.

Jennifer Rothschild: I did not have the lid secure on my Narcissist.

K.C. Wright: Oh, no.

Jennifer Rothschild: So it flies off of the top of the washing machine. Did it just spill on the floor so that I could sweep it up and put it back into the container? Oh, no.

K.C. Wright: Oh, no.

Jennifer Rothschild: It flew into the dog bowls.

K.C. Wright: Of course it did.

Jennifer Rothschild: So it is now mixed with water and dog food, and it's created this nasty dog food Narcissist paste all over my laundry room floor. I mean, it was disgusting.

K.C. Wright: Oh, no.

Jennifer Rothschild: And I was so mad. And I was like, $20 for this laundry soap? And I'm like, this is what happens when you don't keep a lid on your narcissism. Okay? It just makes everything stink. There you go. That is a life lesson for somebody out there. Okay. But I did, I got a little too upset about something so small. But I swept up all the dog food -- which is not cheap either -- I swept up all the Narcissist, I put it in the garbage, and I was like, okay, I just need to learn the lesson. If I'm going to buy Narcissist, I need to keep the lid on it so that it doesn't fly everywhere and -- anyway, I got over my feelings quickly. But I wish I had had Dr. James Merritt's book --

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- it probably would have helped me.

K.C. Wright: Good thing he's here today.

Jennifer Rothschild: Good thing he's here today.

K.C. Wright: James Merritt is a best-selling author, Bible teacher, and host of the Touching Lives television program, which broadcasts hope and encouragement nationwide and in 122 countries. He is the senior pastor of Cross Pointe Church in North Metro Atlanta and has been married to his beautiful wife, Teresa, for nearly 40 years.

So sit back and get ready just to receive some good counsel from Pastor and Dr. James Merritt and, of course, Jennifer.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, James. You have a book called "How To Deal With How You Feel." And that's interesting to me because you have seen so much over so many years in ministry. So I'm curious, why now? Like, what led you to write about feelings and emotions during this season?

Dr. James Merritt: You know, Jennifer, I'm going to throw out a word that I'm sure a lot of your listeners are familiar with, and it's used quite a bit today, and that word is "angst," a-n-g-s-t. It seems like angst has just been ramped up across our society. It's just like our emotions are on steroids.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Dr. James Merritt: You know, just pick up your newspaper. Everywhere you look, there's road rage, there's unbelievable political discourse that's just way beyond the pale. Suicide is at an all-time high among millennials. Depression, teenagers are experiencing record levels of being depressed. And it just seems like that our emotions have just gone. Frankly, I think they've been accelerated now by everything from COVID; to the culture; to the economic uncertainty that we're facing; to the political upheaval that we're going through; to, you know, let's be honest, a worldwide situation that has some thunder clouds out there that we can see clearly. So I just think there's just a lot of emotional anxiety out there.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, it is. And I think the way you described it, it's spiraling. It's like it's out of control. Feelings that are legit feelings, but they're just on steroids.

Dr. James Merritt: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so I know you have dealt with your own feelings. You've learned to manage them in a way that's very healthy, because a lot of that shows up in this book. And as a pastor, it's interesting that you found yourself in therapy. And you talk about how you felt a little awkward because you're usually the one on the other side of the desk doing the counseling. So tell us about that and what kind of stigmas or misconceptions come with going to therapy, because therapy is a smart way to help manage our feelings.

Dr. James Merritt: It is. And, you know, though I use the word "therapy," I actually really prefer the term "Biblical counseling." I like that better, frankly, for a lot of reasons.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Dr. James Merritt: And that's kind of what I -- my wife and I, the way this all came about -- there's a wonderful place out in Colorado and they counsel with a lot of religious leaders and so forth, and they do a lot of marital counseling. Well, we've been married almost 47 years this coming March. We have a great marriage. Always had a great marriage.

But one of my sons went out there for a week and he said, "Dad, you and mom would really benefit by going out there." And we never really benefited -- you know, they didn't have the kind of marital counseling that's available today when we got married. And so I told Teresa, I said, "Why don't we go out there and let's just -- let's do a tune-up." So we went out there for a week. And what I found out was not only were they counseling us together, they were counseling us individually. And there were some things that, frankly, were uncovered, and things that I don't think I'd really ever totally faced up to, and it was really good to kind of -- I guess you might say almost have a detox, if you will, an emotional detox from a Biblical point of view. I realized there were some things that I needed to get victory over and some things I needed to repent of, and it was really great. And so that's a long answer.

The short answer to your question is God is concerned just as much about our emotions as he is our will. God is an emotional being. Jesus was emotional. Jesus wept. Jesus got angry. And so our emotions are God given. And one of the ways that God wants to minister to us and through us is by using our emotions in productive ways that are not only healthy for us, but so we can give help to other people. So I think there's been a stigma that's been attached to that that's not only unfortunate, I think it's really unbiblical.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's interesting. Because I do think you're right, there's a lot of believers who I've heard say, "I shouldn't feel that way," or they begin to get emotional and they say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," as if crying is something to apologize for. So I do think there are some misconceptions. And I love that you use the word "detox" is what you experience. Because sometimes we don't like to feel things we can't fix. But obviously you were faced with a lot of things. And, in fact, you write about in your book that your dad told you, "Big boys don't cry." And then you talk about how you actually kind of perpetuated that same phrase when you became a dad.

Dr. James Merritt: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: So I'm curious how that impacted you, and how do you feel about that phrase now?

Dr. James Merritt: Yeah. Well, obviously I don't agree with it, because the biggest boy that ever lived -- I don't mean that sacrilegiously -- was Jesus, and he cried.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, right.

Dr. James Merritt: You know, I think that -- I'll be honest. I think there's something wrong when we don't cry over certain things. I think we ought to cry over prodigal children, I think we ought to cry over abused women, I think we ought to cry over the abortion of unborn children. I think we ought to cry over poverty and over homelessness, and I think we ought to cry over people who struggle with mental health. So I do believe that when you really come to grips with the fact that emotions are God given and are to be used in a God-given way, emotions can actually bring some of the -- really and truly, some of the most meaningful events of your life, Jennifer, have to do with your emotions. And we all go through those highs, and we all go through those lows, and they're all a part of life. And they're a natural, normal part of life and should not be either discouraged or disparaged.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, when we're going through, like, one of those hard seasons or situations that you mentioned -- and it tends to be emotional, of course -- it can be hard, though, Dr. Merritt -- or James, to manage those feelings. Okay? So how can we know -- let me think of how to ask this. How can we know how to balance them? Okay? Because we don't want to ignore them, but we don't want to be totally indulgent or idolize those emotions. So how do we know how to manage them in a healthy way?

Dr. James Merritt: That is an outstanding question. And that really, frankly, Jennifer, goes right to the very heart of my book. And this is something I hope your listeners will hear clearly. I'm not a trained psychologist, and I don't claim to be. And I do believe there's a place for those wonderful people out there that do great work. But I also -- being a pastor, I do believe there's not a human problem that the Word of God does not speak to. And so my prescription, if you will, my Rx, is when you're dealing with an emotion, once you identify what that emotion is, whether it be fear or anxiety or stress or anger or bitterness or jealousy, or whatever it may be, one thing you can know, God's already ahead of you. He knows that you're experiencing those emotions because he gave them to you, number one.

Number two, God is the one that knows how to help you deal with them. And that's why I always -- my first go-to is God's Word. And as you'll find, as those who read this book will find, there is a Biblical answer, there is a Biblical prescription, there is a Biblical path that you can take where you make sure that your emotions do not control you, but you are indeed in control of your emotions.

Here's a good example. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, probably faced the greatest -- not only emotional battle of his life, probably faced the greatest emotional battle anybody could ever face, except nobody would have faced it without -- except him. And here was the battle: I can be who I've always been, God's son, never separated from him, never knowing what sin is, but if I do that, the whole world will be lost forever; or I can pay a debt that I don't owe, I can die a death I don't deserve so that others might be saved. And so his emotions, everything in him said don't do this. But when he came to grips with what God's Word said -- which is the will of God is all that matters -- he could bring himself to pray the one prayer that settled it for him, "But not my will, but yours be done." And what Jesus did in that moment of his emotional crisis, we can do as well if we'll go to the Word of God.

Jennifer Rothschild: Good. Because he really was lining up his will with the will of the Father. And when we go to Scripture and line up our feelings with the truth of God's Word, we are acting according to the will of the Father, which he gave us for our joy and his glory. That's such a good word, James.

Well, and I know you also get very practical in your book by using an acronym, CALM, C-A-L-M. So can you tell us about those four steps. Because my understanding is this is how we can respond right away when we're overwhelmed with emotion.

Dr. James Merritt: Yeah. You know, that actually is in my chapter on anxiety. And it is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, which is Philippians 4:4-7. And Paul -- here's a great example, Jennifer. A classic example. I appreciate you coming to this chapter. So there are people out there listing right now, they suffer what's called anxiety attacks. I have a son -- my middle son will tell you he deals with anxiety attacks. Well, lo and behold, what does Philippians 4 say? "Be anxious for nothing."

Jennifer Rothschild: Nothing.

Dr. James Merritt: God is dealing with the specific emotion of anxiety.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Dr. James Merritt: And so he says -- and, you know, it's easy to say, well, don't be anxious. Well, that's easy to say, but how do you not be anxious? Well, he gives us this recipe. Number one, you celebrate the person of the Lord. He says, "Don't be anxious about anything. Rejoice in the Lord." First of all, take your eyes off whatever is making you anxious and turn to the One who can handle your anxiety, the Lord. Celebrate the person of the Lord.

And then he says, number two, appreciate the presence of the Lord. He says, "The Lord is near." In other words, whatever you're going through, there's one thing you can rest assured of: you are not going through it by yourself. God is not sitting somewhere in a closet with the door shut saying, "Good luck, hope you work this out." He is right there beside you going through it with you.

Number three, you liberate the power of the Lord. He said, "By prayer and petition, present your requests to God." You say, James, you don't know what I'm going through. I cannot handle what I'm going through, that's why I'm anxious. You are exactly right. I know it, I know you can't. God never said that you could. When you know that you are facing something you cannot handle, that is God's signal to you to say, Hey, you're right. Put it in my hands, let me handle it. Turn it over to me. And you've got to do that. You've got to turn it loose; you've got to cut it loose.

And then when you do that, then guess what? You can meditate on the peace of the Lord. Peace, God's peace, replaces the devil's anxiety, and that peace which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your mind in the only one who can give you peace, which is the Prince of Peace.

Jennifer Rothschild: Ooh, that's good. Because sometimes when we feel the anxiety, we try to go straight to peace. And what you're saying is, no, you got to celebrate the authority and the goodness of God. You got to appreciate that he's right there with you, you got to liberate, unleash that power, and then the peace comes.

Dr. James Merritt: Amen.

Jennifer Rothschild: We take it backwards sometimes, Pastor. So that's such a good word. We will have this also for our listeners on the show notes, because I know some of you are driving right now and you can't write that down and you wish you could. So not only is it in James' book -- which we'll have a link to on the show notes -- but we will also have that CALM acronym on the show notes. And that was from the chapter you wrote on anxiety, you said.

And so, James, you also wrote a chapter on faith. And I think that is a really good place to end our conversation, with faith. So this will be our last question. You share some things to believe about God. And I believe they all start with the letter R. Gotta love a good alliteration. So tell us what they are and why they matter to our emotional health.

Dr. James Merritt: Well, it's such a stark statement, as you know, Jennifer, in Scripture, and it really -- if you really pause and think about it, it'll shake you to your core. The author of Hebrews said, "Without faith, it's impossible to please God." Now, think -- just let that settle there for a moment. "But, Pastor, I give a lot of money to my church." Well, if you don't have faith, you're not pleasing God. "Well, I'm a good husband, a good dad. I'm a good employee, I pay my taxes." That's all well and good. But if you are not trusting God completely and putting your faith in him, it is impossible to please God.

And we're living in a day and age where we're told that faith in God is -- first of all, we're being told that God's not even real, God doesn't exist. And if he does exist, he's not much of a God, he's not a good God. And yet, as I point out in this chapter, there's not only wonderful reasons to believe in God, but even more, there's wonderful reasons to believe in a great God.

So I say things in the book, I say, first of all, I believe in a God who is reasonable. This is a God who has put a world together that -- for example, just give you one quick example, where mathematics works. Why does mathematics -- why do they always work? Why does 2 + 2 always equal 4? Because God has put a world together that just, like him, is reasonable, it's rational, it fits together. So I believe in a God who is rational.

And then I believe in a God who is real. This God has left his footprints everywhere you look. When I look at a house, nobody has to tell me there was a builder that built that house, there was an architect that designed that house. When I look at this world, nobody has to tell me, you know what, there is a Divine Creator out there, much greater than this creation, that put all of this together. I believe in a God who is real. But then most importantly, I believe in a God who is reliable.

And so I would just leave with this Jennifer, this one thought. Jennifer, we've all made promises. You and I both have. Now, I can tell just talking to you, you're one of the sweetest ladies in the world. But I promise you, you've made promises you haven't kept.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Dr. James Merritt: I've made promises I haven't kept. From eternity past until eternity future and eternity now, God has a perfect record. God's never made a promise God has not, does not, and will not keep. And knowing that, knowing I can trust that God who always keeps his promises, I can always, without question, rely on Him.

K.C. Wright: I don't know about you, Jen, but I feel like we've just been to church.

Jennifer Rothschild: Amen.

K.C. Wright: I'm about to receive an offering. No. I feel like I've been to church and to counseling all at once.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know. Good stuff.

K.C. Wright: I really liked his three R's about God. God is reasonable, or rational; God is real, his footprints are everywhere; and he is for sure reliable. God has a perfect record. He keeps his promises. People will always let you down, but God will never let you down. He is faithful.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, he is for sure. And you can rely on him and you can rely on his promises. So trust him, our friends, with your feelings, your fears, your whole self.

K.C. Wright: And get James Merritt's book. We will connect you to it through the show notes right now. And here's the link: If I was you, I would just save to your favorites. That's And can I ask you to kindly leave us a review -- a good one, please -- if you haven't yet.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: It's a big deal and it helps us reach more. And that's what we pray at the beginning of every podcast off the mic, we say, "Father, use us. Use this podcast. May your Word go forth. It does not return void to touch one heart at a time." So your honest reviews help others find the 4:13 Podcast, and we want to do all we can to make sure everybody gets this practical "I Can" encouragement and biblically sound wisdom that's life changing. We all need it. I need it.

Jennifer Rothschild: I need it.

K.C. Wright: Okay, our people. We sure love you, and we mean it. And you can deal with how you feel because you can do all things through Christ who gives you supernatural strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

K.C. Wright: And --

Jennifer and K.C.: -- you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: You knew that was coming. Yes, you can.


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