I am a deep feeler––of happiness, as well as loneliness, regret, and fear. My effectiveness in dealing with the negative emotions has been mixed over the years, but I’ve recently gained some clarity about this area that I would like to pass on.
This list is by no means exhaustive. But I hope it may be helpful to some who find yourselves weighed down by negative emotions or may in the future.
1. Give yourself permission to feel your negative emotions.
A mistake I have often made as a good Christian girl is to suppress my negative feelings, because I deem them unacceptable. This anger/sadness/confusion is not okay, I tell myself. And I make everything so much worse.
Negative emotions are not ideal, but the first step to healing is acceptance. I’m learning to not only acknowledge that I feel negatively, but to accept that that is where I am right now.
Sometimes bad moods need to be rebuked. Sometimes we need to simply change our attitude, and as mature adults, we have that power. But some heartaches go deeper, and it takes a process to heal, to uncover the deep hurts, to learn to think in a new ways. God doesn’t condemn us amidst the process, He wants to love us through it. There is space for us to be not okay.
2. Introspection reaches a point of diminishing returns.
Introspection is valuable and necessary, especially in modern society, where it can be difficult to find space for silence and undistracted reflection. However, introspection has its limits.
Some problems can be solved by thinking, and some difficult situations can greatly benefit from our reflection. But other problems can’t. They are either too big, too complicated, or too far off. And focusing on them will actually drain you of the energy you could be putting toward better things.
Introspection has its limits.
I am the kind of person who likes to analyze a situation from every angle so I can understand it fully. But I’m learning that sometimes I need to let go of needing to understand. Sometimes it’s not my job to fix it. God has got it.
Jesus never said to spend all your time worrying about the world’s problems. In fact, he said the very opposite – “Who by worrying can add a single day to your life? Cast all your cares on Me.” We can feel all noble and holy (and righteously burdened) for doing things God sees as very foolish.
Rather than over-thinking it, lift the burden up to the Lord. Even if it’s simply, “Help me change, Lord.” He loves answering those kind of prayers.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but… present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
3. Sometimes you need to just make a decision.
A decision to get up. A choice to follow the best course you can see at this time.
Emotions are not rational, and they make poor masters.
One of the most serious dangers of negative emotions is their paralyzing nature. Confusion, fear, depression, and regret can weigh you down and make you feel stuck. But the truth is, they are just emotions. They will pass. They often aren’t even based on either fact or reality.
It’s difficult to reason with emotions, so I’m learning to not waste my time trying. Instead, I make a choice. I go for a run. I open up my Bible. I go out and eat with friends. I apologize to the person I feel I wronged. I make a plan. I turn my eyes up and outward once again. Emotions are not rational, and they make poor masters. Don’t let yours master you.
4. Turn toward God.
Even if all you can manage is a cry for help.
He will show you the way out.
He has taught me to praise in the midst of the storm, to stand on His promises, to dance on disappointment, and to soak in His love. And these things sound pithy and simple written out, but to me, they have been hard-won battles.
When we choose to turn toward Him amidst negative emotions, things start to change. Not only do our hearts shift, but our act of faith shakes the invisible spiritual realm in ways we can only faintly understand.
Praising in the midst of the storm. Standing on His promises. Dancing on disappointment. Soaking in His love.
These are the most powerful keys I have learned thus far that I can offer to you.
When you can’t see His hand in your circumstances, remember what He has said. Remember that He is God – big enough, strong enough, and good enough to fulfill every word He has spoken, while your emotions are merely temporary reactions to your limited perceptions. Remember every promise He has made, and make them your rock.Turn toward God, even if all you can manage is a cry for help. Click To Tweet
Amidst disappointment, allow Him to speak His unchanging delight over you. Let Him remind you that no matter what happens in this life, no matter how difficult it may be, He is preparing a place for you in heaven that no one can steal. He will lead you home. Let yourself even dance and sing at the goodness of what is to come, a goodness you can’t imagine, a brightness that will eclipse every disappointment in an instant.
And when you feel broken and lost, like a failure, like you are unlovable, bring all of your need to Him. Be vulnerable with Him and ask, Do you still love me? Cast aside your pride and cry out His name. And when He comes running and scoops you up in His arms, you will know the worth of the treasure that is yours.
It’s not a right answer or an emotion. It’s a relationship, it’s a love that will never let you go.