Feelings can be fearsome and formidable things.
I wonder sometimes if we aren’t our own worst accusers, especially when it comes to embarking on guilt trips over our own emotions. Especially the darkest, most difficult ones.
When we feel down, we may wonder if we’re losing our joy in the Lord. When we’re furious, we tend to worry that we are harboring unforgiveness. When we are startled or afraid, we often browbeat ourselves, as if we are not trusting God enough. When we worry, we stress that we may be lacking in faith. When we grieve, we might think we are losing sight of God’s promise of eternity.
Faith is a choice. We decide to believe God, no matter what happens. We trust Him. That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to go through difficult emotions. Does feeling down or angry or sad or worried change the faith choice we have made?
Here are a few examples. (The names are changed to protect confidentiality.)
I have a dear friend who struggles with clinical depression. Cherie is a remarkable woman of faith. I’ve seen her trust God through circumstantial crises that could rock anyone’s world. She also faithfully prays for others, when they walk through difficult times. However, when depression drags her down, she is genuinely burdened. How can anyone question her faith, as she soldiers through such seasons?
Jerry (a family friend) stepped into his driveway last week and found the tires on his truck had been slashed. You can bet he was angry, as he reported the crime to local police. He’s not racing off to avenge the evil personally, but he is still steamed over it. I’m thinking that’s a pretty solid case of this Scripture: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26, KJV).
Doris fell off her horse a few months ago and broke her arm. He spooked when a rabbit ran onto the woodsy trail, where she was riding with a friend. Yesterday, she was riding him in the field behind the stables where she keeps him, and he scooted sideways suddenly. She yelped and grabbed the horn of her Western saddle to stay aboard. An hour after dismounting, she was still shaken up. Does that mean her faith is questionable? Of course not!
Karla just lost her job after more than a decade of dedicated responsibility. She showed up in the morning, only to discover the company was closing – effective immediately. Did I mention Karla is a single parent?
“I know God has a better plan,” she confessed. “But right now, I am scared to death.” Does anybody want to throw rocks at her faith? No way.
A friend from church lost her sister to a prolonged illness recently. Polly knows her sister loved the Lord. She is confident that her sister is in Heaven. But her grief is real. Who can deny that?
Sometimes our most difficult emotions feel like they are contrary to the truth on which our faith rests.
This life can be downright hard, and our souls are wired for eternity. So how does the believer reconcile biblical contrasts like “Rejoice always” (2 Thessalonians 5:16, NIV) and “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, NIV)?
Doesn’t rejoicing seem diametrically opposed to mourning? Or is it?
The Bible instructs us to guard our hearts (see Proverbs 4:23) and to rein in wayward or destructive thoughts (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). So we are responsible for our hearts and our thoughts. What about our feelings?
Perhaps emotions are another matter.
In the Old Testament, we read that there are appropriate times for all sorts of emotions (see Ecclesiastes 3:4-6).
Jesus even experienced real-life human emotions. We know He wept (see John 11:35). He flipped tables over in the Temple (see Mark 11:15). And I am certain He laughed.
It seems to me that the God who created us with intense feelings, both pleasant and difficult, gave us the freedom to feel them. Maybe it’s more about holding onto truth, even through flat or fiery or flailing feelings. Because we live in the light of His blood-bought, grace-filled redemption, we know that guilt trips are not of His making.
OK, I get that we are not supposed to wallow. But difficult emotions do take some time to process.
I love the Lord. I love that He fills us with His hope and joy and peace. But there are times when I just stop and sigh and love that there is even a book of the Bible titled “Lamentations.” Because sometimes we simply feel like lamenting for a while. And that’s not a bad thing, if it draws us closer to God in the middle of our pain.
Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. (Lamentations 2:19, NLT)
We can feel (all sorts of feelings) without failing in faith or letting go of what we know to be true. And in time, we trust Him to restore us again and again.
Adapted from public domain image/s