For the past year, I’ve found myself more aware of my emotions than I ever been.
I used to not be very open when it came to expressing exactly how I felt.
I used to be an emotion-stuffer.
I stuffed my emotions. I bottled them up. I never let anybody see how I was feeling. I never talked about what was on my mind out of fear that I would be misunderstood or judged or end up putting a burden on someone else.
But this past year at seminary, I’ve experienced God working on this fear of mine.
And one of the most helpful contributors has been my spiritual formation group. Being surrounded by women who want to share life together and grow in the Lord has been such a helpful thing for me and I’ve learned so much about myself.
Recently my SF leader, Misty, encouraged me this semester when I was struggling, saying that it’s okay to have emotions and it’s okay to feel things. And this has been so helpful for me. Especially since I’ve been feeling so many different emotions lately and so overwhelmed.
This past week I talked to another friend who gave me some great insight reminding me how the psalmists in the Bible were so open and honest with God about how they were feeling. And as they were, you can read how their hearts start to change in the middle of a psalm and sing out to God in praise as the Lord guides their emotions. The psalms have become my comfort. Along with encouragement from friends.
But in the midst of real life, emotions hit you and you can’t always help it.
We were made by God to laugh, cry, love, smile, hurt.
So how do we handle it all?
What if we feel overwhelmed by how we feel?
God is showing me that there is a lot I can learn from my emotions.
How I feel can be used for good as God grows me in areas that still need work and opens my eyes to beauty I had never seen before.
Recently God has been teaching me a lot about handling my emotions through an experience I had at work.
I don’t want to disclose everything because it’s not necessary and I have no bad feelings over it. But at the time, a situation happened with a table (I work at a restaurant) and my coworker blamed everything on me. And not only to me but to everyone else. I was very shocked honestly. I didn’t really know what to do and eventually I spoke up. But I felt so hurt. I would never have done that to her I thought.
But that was my problem.
I was making excuses in my mind for why it was okay to be mad at her.
I was making excuses for my emotions.
She hurt me, can’t I just be mad about it!? I said to the Lord over the next several days.
And God spoke to my heart reminding me that while it was okay to feel these emotions and speak it out to Him…it was not okay to stay that way.
It’s okay to feel shocked. It’s okay to feel confused. It’s okay to feel betrayed. It’s okay to feel hurt. It’s okay to feel anger. It’s okay to feel emotions.
But… I can’t stop at that point.
I need to move on and give grace.
And I need to recognize my own need of grace. I need to take responsibility for my role in what happened as well. I need to remember that I have hurt others in the past too and needed to be forgiven.
In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus spoke to the crowds saying,
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
I can’t use my emotions as an excuse to not do the right thing.
I have to let my emotions be steered by God so that He can show me how I should respond. And I pray that God will help me to do that.
It’s important that we go to God first with our emotions.
Before we go to others.
We need God to soften our hearts and change the way we see our situation before we address it, so that we will seek peace in the way that pleases Him.
And not all emotions are from bad experiences.
God can also teach us a lot from the emotions that come from really good things.
This past Friday while visiting family with my mom, we travelled to my cousin’s house in the mountains of North Carolina. We were going to get to meet her new baby. As we got to her house we got to chat a little bit and see her new place with yummy apple trees and grassy mountain scenery. Then we went inside.
The little baby was still sleeping but my cousin told me and my Mema we could hold her.
So as she gave me this sweet little newborn to hold for the first time I was overwhelmed with wonder at that little human.
I had never seen something so perfect.
And I’m not a baby person.
Never have been.
I used to dread babysitting when I was younger. Not that I don’t like kids. I do. I just used to be neutral I guess or unmoved by babies when everyone else was all giddy and talking in the baby voices.
But now I feel like I’ve changed so much in the past year and this was another evidence of that.
This time, holding this little baby girl I was truly touched.
And I began to tear up. I was so moved. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. I was trying not to let them fall on her little soft blanket. I gave her to my Mema and went to wipe my face and my nose now running.
I had never experienced such an emotion before.
And I don’t even know what to call it.
It was more than joy.
More than amazement.
More than awe.
I hope one day I get to experience that again and have kids of my own.
That day God opened my eyes to something so beautiful. Something I had never been so moved by before. And I love when God does that. When He changes my heart. And God truly is so kind to bless us with the gift of life and the witness of new life.
God is teaching me through all of this that emotions really are okay.
Happiness. Sadness. Joy. Pain. Love. Anger. Being overwhelmed.
It’s what makes us who we are.
Without these emotions we wouldn’t be real people.
It would be a fabricated, superficial existence without emotions bringing us to life.
We just have to place our emotions in the Lord’s hands and trust Him with our hearts.
Now I sense the Lord whispering to me that He enjoys it when I lean in and pour out my heart to Him. He’s not annoyed by it. He can handle it. And as I do, His Spirit starts to heal me and calm me. I know I am known. I know I am heard. And that makes all the difference.
Psalm 68:19 has stuck out to me recently as I’ve been thinking about all of this. It says,
“May the Lord be praised!
Day after day He bears our burdens;
God is our salvation.”
What a comfort.
I feel like my emotions are safe in the arms of the Lord.
And I feel like I can just be myself. I feel more human. Free. And this takes so much pressure off. Pressure that I had put on myself to try to be perfect. And now I feel relieved.
Don’t ever let anybody tell you that your emotions are not okay.
Just go to the Lord with all that you’re feeling. Speak it out to Him. Open your heart to Him. Open your heart to others. Don’t worry about what anyone may think. Because those who care about you really do want to know how you’re feeling.
Just be you.
I was talking to my dad a few weeks ago and he said something that stood out.
He said, you have to have thick skin and a soft heart.
Since then what he said has stuck with me.
Because sometimes it’s costly to be vulnerable. Sometimes it costly to bear your emotions. But it is well worth the cost.
At one chapel service this year Chuck Swindoll said this: “Intimacy at its best is vulnerability.”
Wow. I just love that.
If we want to grow, be known, and connect with others on a deep level, we have to be willing to be vulnerable. And that starts with us being aware of our own emotions, instead of stuffing them down inside like I used to do so often. This is something I’ve been learning over and over this past year. And I’m so thankful. Thankful for the process God has begun in my heart.
I pray for you that you would know that your emotions are okay. Being human is okay. Feeling things is okay. God knows you and cares so much about you…the real you. Let others see. And let others know. I pray this for you and I. And may Jesus Christ help us when we are overwhelmed with emotions of life, reminding us that He has good things to bring forth from it.
“Search me God and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the way everlasting.”
Questions for Today:
- Do I feel like it’s not okay to feel certain emotions?
- Why should I believe that God wants me to share my emotions with Him?
- How can I trust that my emotions have a purpose?
- How can I let God steer my emotions?
- What is it that God wants to teach me in my current situation and through the emotions I feel?
“If I Have You” by Vertical Church Worship