January 28, 2022
The Solution for the Problem of Messy Emotions
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“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8 (NIV)
I didn’t like the assignment I was receiving. At. All.
Surely spiritual direction should come with a to-do list or a reading assignment, but instead my counselor asked me to “sit in my feelings.” When I protested, she gently said, “Amy, you don’t need an action step or a book to read. Your ‘doing’ muscle is very strong, but your ‘feeling’ muscles need some work.”
Although it was painful to hear, I knew she was right. I’ve gained much wisdom in my life over the years, but I’m still building greater emotional maturity.
My natural temperament runs toward positivity, which is a great gift. However, I’ve never pushed into the hard work of learning to process my negative emotions in healthy ways. Instead, I’ve glossed over them, pushed forward through life, steadfastly declaring, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Truthfully, those coping mechanisms can work fairly well for us until … well, until they don’t anymore. Then the resentment turns to rage. The hurt is debilitating. The grief is soul-crushing. The weariness spirals into utter exhaustion. The waves of disappointment start to take us under. We may attempt to bury our emotions, but they’ll only push out of those graves in forms more horrifying than before.
King David, the author of many psalms, understood that pushing past our emotions is a problem. Pouring them out to God is the solution. David says, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). David knew that the secret we’d need when dealing with all of our feelings — the good, the bad and the ugly — is taking them to our trustworthy God.
He alone holds the key to healthy emotions. God is our refuge, our protector and the safe place for all we feel.
The beautiful thing is that King David put this truth into practice. As I tried to put my counselor’s wisdom to work, I asked God for guidance. The Lord sent me to Psalm, and I’ve been reading and recording all the emotions included there. The variety and nuances are astounding. In just the first seven chapters of Psalm, I found: anger, agony, shame, blessedness, delight, distress, deception, dismay, disgrace, disillusionment, expectation, fear, guilt, hate, joy, love, mistrust, need, peace, reverence, shame, sorrow, security, trust, wrath and weakness.
David’s vivid use of language shows us that he processed the full gamut of his emotions, and those of others, with God. As I read, my list grows, and before I finish the book, I expect to have at least one emotion for every letter of the alphabet! David didn’t hold anything back, and he encourages us, too — modern readers who need his ancient wisdom — to pour out our hearts to God.
I’m stepping into the gift God offers, a safe space to process everything from joy to sorrow, and I invite you to come with me. There is no emotion God can’t handle, and there is no hurt beyond His healing. It’s only by sharing our feelings with God that we can step into a healthy emotional life. There our soul holds hands with our spirit and walks toward the kind of whole-person growth that brings God glory.
Lord, I’ve tried to grapple with my own emotions for far too long. I’ve struggled and stuffed, but now I want to pour them all out to you. Teach me to live an emotionally healthy life led by Your Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
The Proverbs 31 Ministries Podcast often features episodes about emotions. Listen to “Therapy and Theology: The Signs, Symptoms and Cures of Emotional Immaturity” to hear Lysa TerKeurst; her personal, licensed, professional counselor, Jim Cress; and Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Director of Theological Research, Joel Muddamalle, talk about biblical principles of emotional maturity.
Visit Amy’s blog today for “Five Biblical Ways to Handle Your Negative Emotions.”
Sometimes, overcoming our emotional struggles may require seeking help from a licensed professional therapist. Focus on the Family offers one free hour of counseling with one of their licensed counselors. They also have a local counselor referral service to vetted Christian counselors, which you can access HERE or by calling 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain Time). You can find other counseling resources on Proverbs 31 Ministries’ “Counseling Support” page.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
James 1:4, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)
Rate yourself on a scale of one to 10. How well do you deal with positive emotions? How well do you deal with negative emotions?
What are some of the emotions that you know you need to pour out to God? Write a prayer telling God how you feel today. Ask Him to be your refuge and help you deal with those emotions in healthy, mature and godly ways.
We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2022 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.