Embracing Positive and Negative Emotions as Christians

Placeholder ImageChristians are no different from any other human being, in the fact they experience varying emotional states as a result of living lives here on this earth. God, who created us, saw that is was good for us to have various emotions in order for us to fully be expressive.

Yet, I hear many Christians who want to deny certain emotional states such as being down, feeling discouraged, rejected, disappointed, anger, and/or states such as anxiety, depression, worry, doubt.

I often hear many Christians who instruct others in telling them it is not Godly to be experiencing certain negative states and to rebuke these as if they are coming from some demon or outside force. Rebuking certain emotional responses to felt experiences in this life is not glorifying to God, nor does it show respect for our brothers and sisters in understanding the very emotional element God instilled in us as human beings.

This type of instruction lacks compassion and empathy, only failing to demonstrate how Christ embraces us in the midst of any suffering we endure, on an emotioanl level, with His pure unadulterated love, giving us strength to walk in it, thus paving the way for how we too, are to embrace others in the midst of their struggle.

I do not find this sort of teaching to be honoring God in dismissing, rejecting, or denying negative emotional states, for it is He who has gifted us in being able to fully express ourselves. Nor is it honoring of one another, when one denies, rejects, or dismisses others who are experiencing varying negative emotional states.

As a former trained and certified counselor, I have seen great damage done to persons who are told that certain emotions are not of God and that God does not desire them to feel or experience these negative states. When I hear such ridiculous verbiage, I often wonder if these persons living in such a way, realize they are denying and rejecting who God has created them in being fully expressive as humans, with both positive and negative emotions.

Accepting the positive and rejecting the negative does not offer a healthy, or balanced means to living out our Faith, for healing can only happen in integrating all sides of ourselves, including both the negative and positive emotional states, in becoming the men and women God created us to be, walking in authenticity and honesty before Him and before each other.

I do not find transparency or reality in those who promote such a view, for they are not above any struggle with emotions and they are dismissing how it is the activity of the spirit in us in the midst of all adversity, including how we respond to each other and how we respond to the numerous circumstances in our lives on an emotional level.

If we have no hardships, if we have no negative feelings, why would we need God to trust in, why would we need the empowerment of His spirit in us to help us, why would we need faith at all? Isn’t is in the midst of our difficulties where we learn to grow and mature in our Faith? Is it not in hardships and adversity we discover the Greatness of our God? Is it not in the midst of suffering we find Christ to be Compassionate?

Many emotional states become a process in moving through such as: childhood and or life partner abuse, family court, constant stress, trauma(s) (rape, military, violent relationships, kidnapping, physical attacks)  death of loved one, spiritual abuse, cumulative rejection, chronic illnesses (autoimmune conditions, cancer, mental health conditions, etc.).

Persons cannot be expected to be somewhere they have not had anyone to help them through this often difficult and lengthy process of healing, yet many Christians are promoting such a concept in having some sort of instant ‘fix’ to an often complex emotional journey.

It’s not as easy as rebuking, quoting scriptures, or stating some platitude in attempts to ‘fixing’ a negative emotional state. Everyone has their own personal journey when coming to Christ and when needing healing from various deep wounds as a result of experiences boarding on the traumatic spectrum.

Even if not having experienced any trauma or abuse, we need to offer a bit of Grace to ourselves and others when feeling negative states as a result of relational disturbances, or experiencing any challenges, realizing it is God who created us to have emotions, whether they are negative or positive.

Then there are medications which effect emotional states and taking this into consideration when relating to others, is a crucial piece of the puzzle in dealing with negative emotional states.

God gave us scriptures to read and meditate upon, in order to help in guiding, directing, and showing us that Faithful men and women, also experienced varying emotional states, often taking them beyond their own ability to endure, thus the reason our reliance must depend on God’s ability to provide Grace in order to weather these various states that come to us as a result of experiencing life challenges in this world.

The Psalms have been written and recorded to show the immensity of how human emotions affected Godly persons in those times. These include many hymns and prayers composed by individuals who were experiencing a wide variety of emotional states expressing agonizing events, often of a traumatic nature.

The dates of these compositions range from the time of Moses (15th century B.C.) to a time following the exile (sixth century B.C. or later). Some were composed after events took place describing life situations, where certain emotional responses were felt on a deep level, where the Psalmist described regrets, laments, fear, anxiety, doubts, depression, including life threatening events, etc.

Many of these Psalms include feelings of Thanksgiving, which were expressed after God answered prayers for deliverance. Among these 150 Psalms that recorded the responses of God’s people in worship, prayer, and events have been written for the purposes of showing and teaching us how to relate to God in the various situations we find ourselves dealing with in this life, along with describing the numerous emotional states experienced as a result of these circumstances.

God’s goodness and sovereignty is shown for His people throughout these Psalms, powerfully demonstrating how it is He who gives confidence to those people who put their Trust fully in Him to give Grace for life’s challenges and necessity of His empowerment to weather trials, difficulties and storms that come into our lives, regardless of any emotional state experienced.

A major theme in the book of Psalms is to help us in understanding that no matter what we are experiencing, God’s activity in our lives help to show He attributes in the midst of them, and that He embraces us regardless of any emotions we are feeling or expressing.

The very words written by the people of God in these often poetic versus were not written from those who had lost their faith in God, although they were sometimes in the darkest places of their lives in their souls, but were recorded to tell how God’s people wrestled and struggled in the midst of adverse real life experiences, along with describing how God was dealing with them as individuals and as a community.

I encourage anyone dealing with great emotional states such as regret, shame, depression, loss, anxiety, doubt, anger, rejection, to read and mediate on the Psalms as a daily habit. For in doing so, we can realize there is no emotional state that has not been felt or experienced by God’s people that is anathema to His activity in our lives among those of us who call ourselves Christians today.

 

Lorraine Taylor – Lay Minister