I grew up in the ’80s. When connecting with your feelings wasn’t a popular trend. Most of my interactions with emotion were dismissed as being whiny, complaining or overly sensitive. I can remember a time as a teenager where I could barely talk or breathe from an overwhelming sense of emotion. I was identified as being rebellious, but what I really needed was someone to help me walk through a deep sadness I was feeling. Instead, I was quieted and punished for having emotion. So, consequently, I stormed out of the house, muttered a smart remark and took a walk around the block. I remember ‘getting over it’ for the moment, but where did all of that pent up emotion go? It stayed inside of the head, in my heart and through the years I believed the lie that it was better for me to suppress and move on than to feel all of that pain again.
Thankfully, as an adult, I’ve learned how toxic that behavior really is. To dismiss emotion as weak or unnecessary. To cover up how we feel or respond to any particular interaction in our life. To suppress or bury these emotions we feel will only work for so long, at some point we must release them to be felt or we will die from the inside-out. I’ve come to know the power and greatest gift of feeling emotion. And because we are truly made in the image of God, and because he is the creator of every emotion we feel – be it sad, happy, worried or joyful – we ought not run and hide when the feelings arise, but press in to understand more about how we are made – just as he created us.
Jesus walked through many emotions during his time on earth. He was fully God, yet fully man. And we notice in several places throughout scripture where his emotion was manifest. One of the most common stories we read is in John 11 where Jesus goes to the home of Lazarus only to find that he has died. Lazarus’ sisters are grieving and full of sorrow when Jesus finally arrives on the scene. Look at the emotion Jesus displays in John 11:33-36:
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
“Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
Surely Jesus understood what was about to transpire, knowing that he would raise Lazarus from the dead, yet we see Jesus become deeply moved at the result of sin and the outcome of death. He wept as he watched fellow humans face the agony and pain associated with death itself.
I think the greatest emotion we see expressed by Jesus, is at the crucifixion, in pain and agony, Matthew 27:46 captures a display of emotion as none has experienced before:
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
His cries of deep anguish do not in any way take away from his diety. Yet, in the midst of the greatest suffering he has faced, we see him cry out with a deep agony, a suffering from unbearable stress. As all the sins of the world, and the hell they deserve for eternity, are laid upon him. And in the hour of his greatest need, we see the Son experience his Father’s abandonment. Praise be to God we know how the story unfolds – with Christ as our substitute, the wrath of God is satisfied and we receive justification because of our belief in him.
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
There are many moments throughout scripture where we see Jesus experience great emotion – yet he sinned not. How much more are we, who are sinful and broken, expected to also experience seasons of sadness, betrayal, loneliness, grief, joy, happiness, excitement, worry, and angst.
What if we thought of emotions like the pattern of weather. We can all attest to the fact that some days it rains, some days it’s cold, windy, sunny, gloomy, some days there is snow or a severe thunderstorm. If we think of emotion this way, we will learn to treat our emotions as passing through rather than here to stay. We can welcome them for their purpose in that season and be ok when it’s time for them to leave. Just as we can not expect the weather pattern to stay forever – neither can we expect emotion to hang around forever either.
Be willing to look inward and recognize what is rising up. Before you dismiss the feeling away or attempt to hide the emotion, remember that every emotion, just like the weather, serves a purpose. Perhaps your worry is teaching you to trust God deeper in this season. Maybe your anxious thoughts are beckoning you to be still before God and allow Him to orchestrate and guide your path. Maybe the sadness and loneliness you are experiencing are pushing you to connect with others and openly share your story. Don’t be so quick to walk away from the emotional storm you may be going through.
Finally, emotions are teaching us something. They serve a purpose and we do ourselves a great disservice when we slam the door when they come to visit. I know it can be uncomfortable and even painful to walk through emotion, but things that matter can be hard. Don’t buy into the lie that you are weak or overly sensitive if you show or experience emotion. We actually become strong and grounded when we can take the time to walk through the emotion. There is healing there. A release. An acknowledgment of being made in the image of our Creator. He is pruning us, rooting us deep and digging away at those things that we’ve buried for far too long.
It may take time and sustained attention to clear out what has been hidden in the habit of stuffing down, but the more you lean into the emotions that continue to rise, the more your life will open and expand. Let God come in and heal those places you’ve kept hidden for so long. Nothing is really hidden to Him anyhow and He desires for us to open our hearts to allow his amazing love and grace to wash over you and make you new.
This is how we feel our feelings, friends.