At any given second of the day, I hear a plethora of emotions. Angry yells of “mine!” “Stop” or “I had it first!”; tears from falling off a bike, chair, or just tripping on the floor; or giggles at playing with dolls, building a magnet tile house together, or watching a silly show. Our day is filled with ebbs and flows, peaceful moments and chaotic ones. My stay-at-home mom life with my four-year-old and two-year-old is anything but boring.
I love the giggles and times of joy in the day, but I feel pain and heartache when I hear my children cry, argue, or writhe in frustration. As a parent, it is so hard to let them experience discomfort in any way. Do not get me wrong, I am not just sad for them, but sometimes I am also angry, frustrated, and annoyed when their complaints, cries, and arguing destroys my feelings of peace. Like many of you, I am definitely selfish in that way.
In fact, most times, I wish I could avoid ALL negative emotions-pain, sadness, discomfort-all of it. Do you ever wish to escape these hard things, too? Do you dream of staying in a peaceful bliss without a worry in the world? This escapism reminds me of when a doctor told us to “picture we were on a beach” during contractions. This is quite funny when I look back. Overcoming the difficult pain and emotions by thinking of a relaxing situation could work, but eventually, you’re gonna have to push out the baby; and it’s not gonna be a walk on the beach.
Maybe you are a teacher, a barista, or work in an office building. Regardless of where you find yourself, you are not only surrounded by emotions and emotional responses, but working through your rushing rivers of internal emotions as well.
For many years, I’ve tried to suppress my negative emotions. I thought, oh, I’ll move past it. It’s not a big problem. I distracted myself with people or fun in order to not worry about any pain or frustration I might be feeling. I did not seek to understand them or what was driving them outside of the most obvious thing in front of me- whether that be traffic, waiting in line, someone who was rude to me, and so on. I did not want to stop to wonder, Why is this bothering me so much?
I wish I could say that I now “hold every thought captive” (2 Corin. 10:5) and that I check my heart with each passing emotion, especially the negative ones, but I do not. What has changed is my desire to dig deeper. I know that God has made us in His image (Gen. 1:27) and He created us with a wide-range of emotions so that we would come closer to Him, not pull away. God is not scared of our feelings because as the psalmist says in Psalm 139, verses 2-4,
“…you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”
Don’t believe everything you think.
Understanding that our emotions come from God and are not bad in and of themselves, I desire to better understand them instead of avoiding them and distracting myself. Our emotions are a gift from God, but they also drive us to bad places when we let the waves of our fleeting emotions drive our lives instead of God’s truth.
Lately, I have noticed my irritability and complaining and, with God’s help, want to work on examining these feelings instead of indulging. I often think, “ughh.. The kitchen is a mess. I’m the only one who ever cleans. These kids are not even thankful for the work I do…”. With God’s reminders and grace, I can stop the slope of frustrated thoughts and take inventory of what I’m believing.
In “Get Out of Your Head”, Jennie Allen provides a way to help examine our thoughts such as drawing a “mental story map”. In this map, you write the primary emotion you are experiencing, good or bad, and the contributing factors around it. Then, you go to God in prayer and ask Him to show you what you are falsely believing about Him and yourself. When I’ve done this, it helps me set my mind on Christ by interrupting my negative thought patterns and exchanging some misconceptions about myself and God for the truth in the Bible.
“When we’re spiraling in self-importance, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through humility.
When we are spiraling into victimhood, we have the choice to shift our minds back to God through gratitude.
When we’re spiraling into complacency, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through serving Him and others.”Get Out of Your Head, Jennie Allen
Praise God that we have emotions! I am never more thankful for the mountaintop than when I’ve just been through tribulation in a valley. God’s grace rains down on us and He is with us in these emotions, knowing we have no anchor but Him. We may need counseling, and most definitely community and prayer, to point us back to Jesus and His love for us. When our minds are on our real and understandable worries, God’s grace shows us that He is right there “near the brokenhearted”. He listens, hears, and cares. Jesus desires that we live in the freedom that he died for, in our emotions and entire lives.