I was lightning before the thunder.

    Thunder, by Imagine Dragons

    After writing “What Stephen Curry Can Teach Leaders About Change,” I asked myself, “What one change could I make in my life that has the potential to change all other aspects of my life?”

    In order to find the answer to this question, I did three things. First, I prayed to see the truth. Then I studied the scriptures to find the truth. Finally, I sought input from spiritual people to confirm these truths were accurate. What I discovered was an increased need for internal strength or becoming “emotionally strong”.

    While in pursuit of this truth, I heard the song “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons and made a spiritual connection to the lyrics. This connection was that increasing my emotional strength meant no longer being satisfied with the emotional lightning of my dreams. For those dreams to come true, I would need to “Be The Thunder”, becoming emotionally strong enough to do what is necessary to make the dreams God has laid on my heart a reality.

    If you are like me, then you will enjoy reflecting on and practicing this simple process.

    Step 1: Understand the Source of Our Emotions

    23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 24 Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

    Proverbs 4:23–27 (NIV)

    Proverbs 4:23 teaches us that the heart is the source from which our emotions flow. Left unguarded, those emotions will control everything in our lives, something Proverbs 4:23-24 warns against.

    Unguarded or undisciplined emotions, where we trust everything we feel, will produce emotional weakness and steal our capacity to “Be the Thunder.”

    Step 2: Understand the Source of Emotional Weakness

    9 “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. 10 But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

    Jeremiah 17:9–10 (The Message)

    Emotions are a vital and good part of our life. Who would want to live life without experiencing emotion? They add color to what would otherwise be bland living.

    The problem is that emotions can be dark and deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 teaches us that, when our emotions dominate, life becomes “a puzzle that no one can figure out.” In short, we become emotionally weak, confused, indecisive, and even unstable.

    Fortunately, Jeremiah 17:10 says God can “get to the heart of the human…get to the root of things.” Instead of giving free reign to our dark and deceitful emotions, we need to place our trust in God, who can help us understand and righteously manage our emotions.

    Step 3: Understand the Source of Emotional Strength

    16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love…

    Ephesians 3:16–17 (NIV84)

    One of the reasons I go back to old notes I have taken is that there are often nuggets of forgotten insight I can revive to help me grow. This point comes from a past memory.

    During a difficult and stressful period of my life decades ago, a good friend asked me what he could pray for on my behalf. I had just read Ephesians 3:16-17, so I asked him to pray that God would strengthen me “with power through his Spirit” in my inner being.

    We cannot overcome our emotional weakness and become emotionally strong without God’s help. There is no human wisdom, strategy, or level of effort we can apply to master the dark and deceitful emotions that sabotage our lives. We need God.

    For us to “Be The Thunder,” turning the lightning of our dreams into daily reality, we must pursue God and pray to have his Spirit working inside our hearts to become emotionally strong. When we become strong in this way, we become capable of making the emotionally difficult commitments and decisions necessary to make our dreams possible (Psalm 37:1-6).

    Step 4: Identify and Disentangle from Emotional Entanglements

    1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..

    Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

    One of the most significant signs we have become emotionally strong is our capacity to disentangle ourselves from emotional entanglements. These include the emotional baggage of past memories, emotional co-dependencies of unhealthy or unspiritual relationships, as well as emotional attachments to unproductive or even destructive life habits.

    Identifying and disentangling from these unhelpful or dysfunctional burdens and blind spots allow our heart to break free from emotional darkness and deceit, so we can “Be the Thunder.”

    Step 5: Embrace and Practice Emotional Discipline

    24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

    1 Corinthians 9:24–27 (NLT)

    The reason I need to embrace and practice emotional discipline is because, for too many years, I have placed too much trust in my emotions. My overemphasis on my emotions has been because, when I have experienced spiritual emotions (God’s Spirit guiding the flow of my emotions), my life has greatly benefited. My problem, however, is that I have begun to treat all of my emotions as though they were spiritual. This has led me to become emotionally entangled with things that are unhealthy and unhelpful, especially as it pertains to seeing the dreams God has laid on my heart coming true.

    What I have come to realize is that there remains a great deal of lightning left in my life, but those dreams will not come true unless I embrace emotional discipline, so I can “Be the Thunder.”

    I am looking forward to the next 100 days of working to develop my emotional strength and discipline, to “Be the Thunder.” Reflect on the following six questions to determine whether you should join me.

    1. Read “What Stephen Curry Can Teach Leaders About Change,” then ask yourself what emotional tweak you must make to unleash your thunder?
    2. How do your emotions darken your life or deceive you into thinking something false is true?
    3. How much do you pray through your emotions and rely on God to help you manage them?
    4. What emotional entanglements or unhealthy commitments do you need to disentangle from?
    5. What area of emotional discipline would be easiest for you to start practicing today? Which area of emotional discipline would be most difficult?
    6. How do you think changing your level of emotional strength and discipline could help you “Be the Thunder,” so God can work to make the dreams he has in mind for you come true?

    As the Editor-in-Chief for Deep Spirituality, Russ Ewell writes, teaches, and innovates with his eyes on the future. His teaching is rooted in providing hope for those turned off by tradition, and infused with vision for building the transformative church for which the 21st century hungers. His passion to inspire even the most skeptical to view God through fresh eyes can be found in his book “When God Isn’t Attractive”.

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