What do we do with our emotions? Christie Love encourages us to feel them … and bring them to God.
By Christie Love
If you are honest, then chances are at some point in your life you have felt as though your emotions were TOO much, TOO big, TOO heavy, or TOO complicated. Perhaps, like many, you did your best to hide them, downplay them, or keep yourself from feeling or worse showing your emotions.
When you felt happiness as a child - you were told you needed to calm down because you were being too loud.
When you felt anxiety as a teen - you were told you needed to be braver because you were overthinking too much.
When you felt angry about the condition of the world around you as a young adult - you were told to relax because you were being too radical or political.
When you felt sadness as a newlywed because your experiences did not match your expectations - you were told that you were too demanding.
When you felt overwhelmed as a young, sleep-deprived parent - you were told to be grateful and enjoy this season because it would go by quickly and you were too focused on yourself.
A lifetime of this pattern leads us to develop protective instincts that we use as reflexes.
You run into an old friend in a store while you are in your hometown to attend a funeral for a loved one. They ask how you are doing and out of reflex you nod, smile, and answer “I am great” because you don’t want to risk getting too emotional in public.
A friend from your small group calls you as you are breaking down in the privacy of your closet about the pressure that you feel to be perfect all the time. They sense the emotion in your voice when you answer the phone and ask if you are alright and out of reflex you reach up to wipe away tears, stand up from the floor, and offer an explanation about a moving movie that you were caught up in because you don’t want to risk being seen as too weak.
I grew up in the church, attending from infancy through adulthood, and I do not recall a single sermon or Sunday School lesson on the divine design of our emotions. The fact that an emotional, relational God gifted us with the capacity to feel a wide range of feelings is not theology that gets any attention in teaching. How to use those emotions to draw you closer to God rather than push you away from him is an aspect of our discipleship that is often overlooked or side-stepped.
Years ago, my world fell apart and I entered into what I came to call “the gap” - the in-between time between my problem and God’s solution. During that time, I could not escape my emotions, hide them, or cover them up. I felt raw and unprotected, but it also forced me to have conversations about my emotions with God that I never thought I could have before because I always felt that I was too much for him. However, in that place I learned that nothing is too much for God and he wanted nothing more than for me to come to him unfiltered and unprotected.
I started to process my emotions in journal entries that over time God prompted me to share with others. What I have learned is that emotions are magnets, each one having the connective power to pull me into the heart of God. When I feel scared, I connect to him for assurance. When I feel angry, I connect to him for perspective. When I am confused, I connect to him for answers. Each emotion I experience can be a conversation, a question, or a moment of worship with God.
If we are determined to push away from God during any hardship or struggle we face, then we will go through the gaps full of resentment, determined to solve all our own problems as we wrestle with the wide range of emotions the gap brings. For many people who are resisting God, they seek to escape their overwhelming through substance abuse, cutting, … or other forms of coping which attempt to numb or distract them from the feelings they have.
In contrast, when we allow the emotional highs and lows of our gaps to draw us into God, we experience the peace of knowing we have a safe place to take our emotions. We can find rest because we find that our emotions are not burdens for us to bear; rather, they are opportunities to connect with our Creator.
Christie Love is the Founding Pastor of The Connecting Grounds Church in Springfield, Missouri and is the author of the newly released God of the Gaps. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Ministry and Church Leadership from Grace Christian University and a Master's degree in Practical Theology from Regent University. She has a deep passion for closing the gap between churches and social issues in the world. She advocates for issues related to poverty, homelessness, affordable housing, and racial justice and the fact that the church should be at the forefront of these fights for equality and justice. In 2016 she was named to John Maxwell's Top 100 leaders list for her work with the international organization LeadHer that she founded and led from 2011-2018. Christie and her husband Bob blended families and are blessed to share life with four children.