Confident Hope for When We Feel Too Much (Or Feel Nothing at All)
I'm a "feelings" kind of girl. When I'm sad, I feel it deeply. When I'm joyous, I'm over the moon. My emotions tend to run more like a far-reaching pendulum than the steady, tick-tock of a clock’s gears.
Emotions are a God-given gift. The range of emotions bestowed upon us is vast! The bible has many illustrations of people who were wired differently regarding their feelings.
When Lazarus died, Mary dropped at Jesus' feet and sobbed.
Martha had questions.
When Jesus was apprehended by soldiers, Peter drew his sword.
When Jesus was resurrected, Thomas was full of doubt.
And then there's David, one man who by himself represents virtually every emotional response you and I could imagine. Higher than high and lower than low, that was David.
Feelings add meaning to life. But sometimes we have to be careful what we DO with how we FEEL. Taking care of our emotional selves is possible through Scripture and common sense. Thank heaven God provides both. Proverbs 3:26 says,
"For the Lord will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught."
SNARED FEET HURT
I can't think of a better analogy than having one's foot caught when it comes to emotions that are out of balance.
A snared foot is a foot that hurts. Untempered emotions are guaranteed to injure the one that's feeling them, the ones around them, or both.
A snared foot also isn't going anywhere. There is no better way to get stuck in a relationship, stuck in a job, stuck in a destructive pattern of behavior than when we're living with emotions that are imbalanced and out of control.
It's a good thing that God is our confidence. Strong's concordance says that the Hebrew word for confidence is "loins."
Men wore tunics in the time that Proverbs was written. If they had to engage in any kind of vigorous, physical activity, they tucked their tunic in their belt, and it would hang at their loins. It's where we get the saying "to gird up our loins."
When Scripture says that God is our confidence; it's saying is that He is literally ready to go into action. He's rolling up sleeves and tucking in His tunic so He can go to work on our behalf.
When we're struggling with our emotions, we shouldn't despair. We're not in it alone. God will not abandon us to unhealthy or imbalanced emotions. Instead, we need to take our dilemma to Him and know that He's ready to go into action on our behalf.
SNARES LOOK DIFFERENT FOR EACH ONE OF US
There are different ways that we can become ensnared when it comes to emotions. One of the more sobering ways is when we get caught in a repetitive cycle. We default to a certain feeling or feelings for one reason or another.
There's the person who loves the feeling of excitement that accompanies risk-taking. That's OK until the emotion becomes addictive and risk-taking is pursued without regard to final outcomes.
There's the person who loves the feeling of peace that comes when their world is in order. Then one day, they realize their need for order is compulsive.
How about the person who can't stop worrying? The imaginations of everything that could go wrong become so rehearsed that worry and its bedfellow anxiety become constant.
It's been said, “Addiction is present when we've lost the ability to abstain.” (The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday)
I don't usually categorize my emotions as addictive, yet it certainly could apply when I read this definition.
What do we do if we sense we've become or are becoming addicted to a particular emotion?
The first three steps in a 12-step recovery are this:
1. The person is powerless over _____________.
2. There is a greater power that can restore
3. The person must turn their will and lives over to that power
You and I would call this surrendering to God. Our Scripture from Proverbs reminds us that the one we surrender to wears a tunic and is chomping at the bit to go into action on our behalf.
SOMETIMES WE DON’T FEEL A THING
It's essential to keep our emotions in check, but what do we do when we don't feel anything?
We want to reciprocate love, but we don't feel it.
We want to be joyful, but we're flat.
We should be sad, but we're all cried out.
We know we have much to be grateful for, yet gratitude feels forced.
Sometimes, emotions aren't what we're feeling but what we're not. Those are the times that we need our feelings restored.
King David gives us a glimpse into what he did when he struggled with a lack of emotion.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psalm 51:10-12
David was known as "a man after God's own heart," and he knew that there were some things he just could not manufacture. And so, he took it to his God.
And then––we wait. The hardest part about reaching a point in which we know we cannot do it on our own is that we may have to wait.
I want the bolt of lightning. I want the Paul-like revelation when I literally hear Jesus speak, and instantly, my life is changed. That has happened exactly zero times for me.
God HAS created, renewed, and restored my feelings in many areas. Still, the change is often imperceptible as it's happening. It's like a thermometer that rises slow. It isn't until I walk away and return that I detect an increase in temperature.
So what do we do?
We ask like David.
When David knew he couldn't find joy on his own; He went with childlike faith to His heavenly Father and asked for help.
We trust like Moses.
When Moses stood before a wall of water that was impossible to pass; He called on God and trusted Him to be the Waymaker.
We wait like Hannah.
Like Hannah, we place our profound need before the throne, and then we carry on. We then discover that in the manner and time frame that God deems best, our thermometer has risen a degree… or maybe even two.
Would you pray with me?