Book Review: Runaway Emotions

Runaway Emotions

Is Jeff Schreve’s sermon series book, Runaway Emotions, a helpful resource for the believer struggling with the sinful manifestations of their emotions?

Runaway EmotionsAfter reading Runaway Emotions by Jeff Schreve, I question whether or not a sermon series belongs in a book. Each chapter is a finished, standalone sermon that puts the spotlight on a specific so-called “runaway emotion”. And it concerns me to think that some very important Scripture teaching is missing throughout.

Now hold on if you think I’m about to rip this book apart; I actually think it’s decent, even “good” in certain regards. Ultimately, you ought to be careful with how much you take to heart. That said, if you struggle with embarrassment, loneliness, frustration, worry, anger, guilty, discontentment, or depression, then Runaway Emotions has helpful things to say. Just make sure your Bible is handy while you read.

For starters, though I understand it to not be heretical (despite the claim of many), you should know that Schreve often references the translation of the Bible known as The Message. I encourage you to be careful with any pre-conceived notions or opinions that you might have about it. Reason being: it can be a little strange to read passages of Scripture in paraphrased format. At least it was for me. In general, it may have been wise for Schreve to be more considerate of The Message’s sketchy reputation, but I also can’t fault him for quoting a translation that doesn’t actually do anything wrong.

What concerns me more are the statements that Schreve includes near the beginning of each chapter, which describe the “Warning” he believes the specific emotion is intended to produce in us. I’m not an expert about emotions, let alone how the Scriptures discuss/handle them, but it makes me uneasy to encounter a statement like “Your God-given desire for self-worth is on fire.” as far as an emotion such as embarrassment goes. Do I have a God-given desire for self-worth? I don’t think so; I don’t have “self-worth”. I’m a rotten, sinning scoundrel that deserves every ounce of wrath that God would have directed at me, but ultimately poured into Jesus Christ on my behalf. There is nothing “worthy” about me. Yes, that’s not exactly the point when considering the concept of embarrassment, but I don’t believe all manifestations of embarrassment are bad. Above anything, I would need to submit those that are to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of which, what bothered me most was never finishing a chapter believing that Schreve was teaching me to submit the specific emotion to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Why not? Is that not what we are to do as believers, submit every area (including emotions) under the lordship of Christ? Instead, most of the time I walked away with the impression that Schreve wanted me to learn how to turn the emotion into a “positive experience”. Yes, Schreve discusses God’s character and offers Scripture that seems to connect to how we should handle these emotions, but I found fundamental application lacking. He seemed more interested in using personal anecdotes to emphasize his points. That’s not to say true stories are unhelpful, but only the Bible is authoritative.

In spite of these criticisms, I don’t think Runaway Emotions is a loss; far from it. Each chapter had good things to say. Those especially about worry and anger really got me thinking; guilt as well. Despite all of what bothered me, there’s value in Schreve’s biblical illustrations and the flashbacks he shares of past struggles with the emotion being discussed. I just wanted more, and would have left a bit disappointed if I happened to be in his audience when the sermons contained in this book were presented. No matter your subject matter, the main focus should squarely be on Scripture, and what Jesus Christ rightfully expects and commands. This is why I wish that Runaway Emotions simply stunk, as it would have made sharing these reactions a whole lot easier.

Do I recommend Runaway Emotions? Yes, but on the condition that you bear in mind all the concerns that I’ve tried to clearly explain. Other, more effective books that discuss emotions might exist; I do not know of any. (Except God’s Word of course!) Regardless, I’m thankful for the Runaway Emotions material that did get me thinking, but I squirm when thinking about all the aspects which didn’t sit well in my mind.

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How do you struggle with your emotions? Are you working on submitting any of them under the lordship of Christ? How has His grace helped you?

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Justin Joseph

Automation Developer at Innovis
Justin, test automation developer by day, self-training web developer by night, is a millennial disciple of Jesus Christ who seeks to challenge and encourage other millennial Christians through writing. Justin is also husband to Christine, and a member of Westerville Bible Church where he serves in the music and Sunday School ministries. You can learn more about Justin, the blog, and community, on the Millennials for Jesus Christ "About" page.
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