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Jesus Wept: 3 Reasons Why Expressing Your Emotions Is a Christian Thing To Do (and doesn’t show a lack of faith)

By Regan Cunningham


emojis on a phone

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“Just have to give it up to God.” 

“God has a plan for this.” 


Have you ever been splattered with toxic positivity that it felt invalidating or discouraging to trust in your emotions? Better yet, let me ask– have you ever shrugged off your own emotions because you believed you had to remain positive for the sake of keeping your faith?


The “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality is often encompassed with the belief that you are able to control your emotions despite your circumstances. Whenever you are faced with a diagnosis, debt, a broken relationship, heartache, grief, or any other strong emotion, you are to be able to push yourself past the emotions to be able to endure for the “sake of Christ."


However, as a Christian and a licensed therapist, I am here to tell you that you do not have to hold back your grievances in order to have a stronger faith. You don't have to think positively to remain strong in hard times.


I often tell my clients “we do not want to think positively, we want to think neutrally.” Neutral thinking gets us to see the evidence presented to us in such a way that we can problem solve, think critically, and even remain hopeful (not the same as positive thinking that dismisses feelings and sometimes, can come off delusional).


To better support this idea, here are three reasons God gave us emotions, and I hope they can be ways that you can begin to believe that God wants all of your heart, soul, and mind presented to Him in prayer and understanding that we are blessed to be able to have them, as well.


1. God gave us emotions to match every circumstances.


Imagine a world without laughter. Wouldn’t that be kind of, well, boring? Or a world without sadness? That actually may be wonderful when we consider in heaven our tears will be wiped away (Revelations 21:4). When you think of the fallen world we live in today, it is mixed with intense and wonderful things compared to the joy to be had in heaven. 


Seeing the beauty of the mountain landscape can take your breath away and make you feel calm and content. Watching wars on the news can make you feel on edge, angry, or sad. Having a friend come to visit you from out of town can make you feel excited and happy. There are so many ways we may see our emotions fluctuate in a day, week, month, and year.


It is a God given ability to feel in this world. As often as we feel pain, we may be able to feel delight from simple pleasures such as good food, sights, smells, hobbies, animals, friendships– whatever floats your boat. When we talk about emotions, we cannot neglect the fact that emotions are often tied to how we react to do the next thing in our lives. Maybe seeing the beautiful mountain makes you want to take a photo. Or hearing about war makes you want to pray, vote for a different politician, or donate money for refugees. However you may react because of your emotions, it is important to note that when we are walking with God, He can help us in our most difficult emotions.


Perhaps when you feel offended or hurt by a friend, you ask God for the right words to say to them the next time you see them. Or you can read Scripture to mend the aching feeling you have been experiencing all week. The Bible encourages us to cast our burdens upon the Lord (Psalm 55:22) because He will support us in those times. Despite not always having to respond according to our feelings like we may initially may want to, it is a gift to also try to work on becoming attuned with our emotions even more and explore why we may feel them in the first place.


Right now, I suggest Googling "Emotions Wheel," and pick one to focus for later questions. I promise it is worth your time.


2. Emotions show when we feel pain, injustice, or invalidated. 


There is a way you know you have stepped on a Lego. Your foot instantly shoots up with dull or sharp pain (depending on the side you stepped on) that you hop up and yelp, scream, curse, or cry in reaction. Unless you are a super Christian and respond in a polite “God knows what He is doing. Hallelujah!”


But if you are like me, you probably are not that super Christian.


You’re human - pain is a way that shows you that something is wrong and that you need to fix it. It’s when you step on the Lego that is in the middle of the living room floor that you bend over and pick it up (or chuck it) before someone else steps on it. Or it is going up to the customer service counter to tell them there is a spill in aisle 4 so no one slips on the spilled pickle juice. It is even sharing our vulnerable stories of pain that allows others to start to open up and heal from their own experiences that are similar to ours. This is just why we have emotions.


Emotions let us express passion and relief at the same time. It allows us to laugh at a good joke because it’s just too funny to hold back a reaction. It’s crying when you lose a friend because it is upsetting. It's becoming enraged for injustice and wanting to make a change. It’s also believing that we are not weak by expressing our emotions.


There is sometimes shame associated with expressing emotions because some have grown up to believe emotions should not overrule anyone. So how do you know if emotions are overruling you?


It might be good to ask…


  • Do my emotions hinder me from living out a functional life or do they take away part of my day?

  • Is my reaction appropriate regarding the situation? 

  • Is it me or someone else who is not wanting me to react to my emotions?

  • Am I allowing my emotions to move me forward towards healing? 


One other thing to keep in mind is there are differences with our emotions versus actions. Feeling depressed and having self-harmful thoughts are different from actually acting out. Seek help from a doctor or therapist if you think that your emotions are often controlling your life or feel too complex to manage them or name them.

          

3. Stifling our emotions leads to health issues. 


There is a rare condition called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain and Anhydrosis (CIPA) that is extremely dangerous. This causes people who have the condition not be able to register pain in their mind. Therefore, it is most likely these individuals can suffer serious injuries or other illnesses without even knowing due to their lack of pain.


This is why emotions are a gift regardless how strong they may become. Whenever we feel a sense of strong emotions, it is a time to ask ourselves what is bothering us. Perhaps we feel overwhelmed because of a packed schedule, and we need to cut things out. Or maybe we even feel numb or disassociated because we are so stressed that our mind and body have decided to disconnect as a way to keep us safe from other stress.


One of the leading causes for heart disease and cancer is stress due to its ability to break down our immune system and keep us from fighting off illnesses. This fact should be our warning sign to take our uncomfortable emotions seriously and let them be a guide to where we ought to let go of things or face our fears to understand why we are having them. 


Emotions are complex, but God invites us to even seek Him at all times (Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). The Psalms are made up of moments of lamenting and grieving. Think of when David lamented the loss of a friend from betrayal (Psalm 41:9) or when he felt extreme remorse for his affair with Bethsheba (Psalm 51). 


Allow your emotions to be a path to what is happening in your life. We may not always trust our feelings, but adding some sense as to why we may be experiencing them is important, as well. God invites us in solitude to open up in prayer and share what we are feeling. Think of Jesus and his numerous moments with the Father. Even agonizing over his coming death with Him.


Now remember that emotions wheel I had you Google? Take a look at it, and ask yourself:


  • What am I feeling?

  • What body sensations am I experiencing? 

  • Is there anything that my mind keeps going back to that may show where I am emotionally? 


Bring your observations to God. This is a good step towards processing our emotions. 


 

About the author: Regan Cunningham is a Midwestern redhead native. Besides writing, Regan enjoys her full time job as a therapist and getting people to think outside the box of church culture. She uses writing as a way to spark ideas and share personal experiences of how God has worked in her life. Her hope is to one day be a superhero, but helping to get her small dog on the couch every night will do.


Looking for a church in Champaign-Urbana? We would love for you to come visit Anchor Church this Sunday. You can plan your visit now by clicking the button below.


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