Embracing feelings to live in Freedom

I originally wrote this last weekend yet for some reason never posted it.  So here goes: Blog #2

There are so many thoughts swirling in my mind, I’m not sure where and how to begin to put them on paper. But I think I will start with feelings. Much of the focus of counseling with my clients is to help them uncover, identify, and process a vast amount of feelings.

I feel a multitude of feelings today, love, admiration, fear, irritability, anger, and excitement. Yep, they all are dancing together the last several days, each alternately taking the lead. We are in the process of a major transition, one that I am both embracing and grieving simultaneously so that accounts for some of the array of emotions.

But the truth is we are all normally experiencing a wide variety of feelings, and they are ever changing and evolving.

I mentioned last week “embracing the pain” to allow God to redeem it and walk towards freedom, so naturally it can be said that feelings must be embraced to allow God to work through them. I grew up in a place and time where feelings were not only not addressed but they were actually inadvertently suppressed.

I grew up in the church world where the focus was always on what we consider to be the “positive” emotions; love, joy, peace, happiness. After all if you have Jesus with you, you will not be fearful, angry, discouraged, irritated etc. My family openly expressed love and affirmation and I am so thankful for that.  However, my family never really “discussed” feelings, and inadvertently it was often communicated that my feelings were not acceptable. There were so many things in our churched culture that were unacceptable and feelings such as anger and sadness were some of them.  So we pretended like we didn’t have them. And yet, they were always there. Since we pretended like we didn’t have them we would either implode (hold them inside creating anxiety and guilt) or explode (be expressed in an unhealthy way that is damaging to others). They were rarely expressed in a healthy way.

This is the reality for many of our families and cultures.

Expressing difficult feelings in a healthy way requires us surrendering to a process of self-awareness and security in Christ. This allows us to express what we feel and need, and allow others to express what they feel and need without attacking and becoming defensive.

A combination of church dynamics, family dynamics, cultural dynamics, and the human desire to not be uncomfortable lead us to ignore or deny what we consider to be negative feelings.

Here are just a few of those reasons.

1. We experience guilt if we are angry and so therefore we determine we cannot be angry

2. We are uncomfortable because these negative emotions require some sort of self-evaluation or change so therefore we run away from them to avoid responsibility.

3. We have been told these emotions are unacceptable so there must be something wrong with us or our relationship with God if we have them. (Think about it, if every time a child cries we attempt to stop the tears and tell them “your fine, it’s ok.”  Or if when a friend is hurting, we quickly tell them they should be filled with the joy of the Lord. We communicate that their tears are not necessary or valid).

4. It is much harder to experience and express your anger in a healthy way and not sin than it is to just “stuff it” or pretend you don’t have it.

5. We refuse to experience our emotions because after all people who are stoic and un-emotional appear in control and more mature.

6. If we experience these “negative” emotions they require us to acknowledge how someone may have hurt us and that is just too painful. So we avoid the emotions all together.

These are just a few of the reasons we avoid feelings. It is highly ironic that we avoid parts of ourselves considering Jesus created us entirely and in His image. I never understood how the very people who never acknowledged weaknesses and never owned feelings were often the ones acting out behind closed doors, in constant inner turmoil, or exploding everywhere.

Jesus created ALL my feelings. He created me to be a physical, spiritual, and emotional being and to separate any one of these things is to refuse to acknowledge an important part of his creation.

My feelings are necessary and empowering. They are key contributors to understanding myself and making decisions. Sure, parts of them have become corrupted due to the fall/sin and they cannot be our single governing force but it does not mean we throw them out completely. Again, how can you allow God to use, change, and redeem something you ignore?

Jesus expressed all kinds of feelings:

He shed tears (Luke 19:41)

He was filled with joy (Luke 10:21)

He grieved (Matthew 26:38)

He was angry (Mark 3:5)

Sadness came over him (Matthew 26;37)

He felt sorrow (Luke 7:13)

He showed astonishment and wonder (Luke 7:9, Mark 6:6)

He felt distress (Mark 3:5, Luke 12:50)

Every feeling is important. Anger,  perhaps one of the ones we avoid the most, is essential. It is the feeling that let’s us know we have been violated. It lets us know that a boundary needs to be set. It lets us know that we must self-evaluate and process with God areas that need to be considered or changed.

To the extent a feeling is ignored or suppressed is the extent it will govern the way you perceive the world and your behavior.

So ironically the very feeling we ignore or deny is the very one that controls us the most.

Carefully follow this with me:

When we ignore our painful experiences and difficult feelings then a piece of us is ignored and denied.

We then approach life with only parts of ourselves, and end up trying to fulfill the missing parts through relationships and things.

We find ourselves incapable of making healthy choices because we are not complete and whole. If you cannot make healthy choices then you are not FREE.

Jesus came to set us FREE.

This means He wants us to trust Him with all of our feelings. He wants to make us whole and complete but that requires that we trust Him with ALL of it. If we really trust Him then we can worship and cry out to Him with our anger, our discouragement, our frustration, our sadness. That my friends is what I believe He meant by “true worship.” It is honest, raw, and real.

See it in the bible for yourself. He called David a man after his own heart and David was brutally real with all of his feelings. He said that there was no one as righteous as Job, and Job was brutally real with all of His feelings.

In counseling, I tell my clients there are no “bad” feelings. They are all essential and beneficial. Many of us have learned through out our lives that are feelings were unacceptable and as a result we approach God in the same way.  We fear He will reject, not like, or find unacceptable what we feel.

But He is the God who sees.  Genesis 16:13 states that Hagar (having been rejected and lying half-dead in the wilderness) gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me.”

Mike Mason states, “Real faith is not so much seeing God, as knowing that one is seen.”

There is no part of me my Jesus does not want. He wants it all. Trust Him with it ALL.

 

 

 

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