“I shouldn’t be feeling this way!
What’s wrong with me?! I’m a Christian! I have victory!
I’m supposed to have joy and peace! Why do I feel these things?!
I’m such a terrible Christian!”
Through your internal monologue, you berate and scold yourself as you struggle with negative thoughts. Rather than being guilted into action, however, you find that the guilt drives you deeper and deeper into an endless, downward spiral of negativity, guilt, self-deprecation, and hatred. Depressed because you feel depressed; anxious because you feel anxious – unable to pull yourself out, heaping guilt upon guilt.
There’s one thing that those of us who struggle with this need to take to heart: Our feelings are not sinful.
Our thoughts and feelings only become a problem when we let them take over our minds and control us. God gave us emotion for a reason – He gave us both the highs and the lows to help our souls be shaped in the way that He wants them to be. The lows we experience are not pleasant – but they play an integral part in our soul-shaping because they force us to admit our weakness and draw closer to God.
“My strength is made perfect in your times of weakness – trust in My grace. Draw nearer to Me in these times and I will draw nearer to you,” He pleads and promises (2 Corinthians 12:9; James 4:8).
And while we may think that we should be strong enough to never have times of extreme sadness and doubt – when we think this we are forgetting that God made us human and failing to see the part that these feelings play in the grand scheme of things. He is helping us to draw nearer to and trust more deeply in Him.
We can know that our struggles with emotions are not a sin because there are many Biblical examples of human emotions in their very rawest forms.
The Psalmists struggled with their emotions. God paints a picture of human emotion in the Psalms. These aren’t just a fluffy bunch of songs the Jews sang to make themselves feel good and passed down to us so we can read Psalm 23 and say, “Ah, that’s nice.” They show raw emotion: anger, frustration, doubt, fear, anxiety, and depression. God does not condemn emotion. He knows that He made us with emotion and that as humans we will struggle to keep them under control. So, God doesn’t condemn negative feelings – He shows us how to deal with them.
Jesus Himself struggled with His emotions. Sometimes we get this mental image that He somehow breezed and glided through life with a calm look on His face and never had to battle with temptation in the same way we do. But if that were the case, He would not be our perfect example.
Instead, we see a man wracked with grief and even, in the end, feeling like He was forsaken by God (Mark 15:34). This is not a passage to turn into some complex theological debate – but mentioned instead to show us that He knows how we feel when we feel completely alone. He was not actually forsaken; He was identifying with the Psalmist’s feelings (Psalm 22:1).
The man we see crying to God in earnest for the pain He was going to endure to be taken away was not a man who had no feeling. He poured out His heart with “loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). He showed us how to struggle with emotions but yet to always emerge victorious.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
“And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch” (Mark 14:33, 34).
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7).
…and on and on. There are so many examples, which tells us that they are something that God understands and allows. He has not only represented the whole scope of human emotion within the Bible’s framework – but He has also given us strategies so that we can know how to deal with them effectively.
Doesn’t that make sense, seeing as though He created us?
We need to realise that feelings aren’t something to be ashamed of or cast aside. They are to be analyzed, taken to God, talked about with others, and dealt with in a God-approved way. In fact, it’s dangerous to simply ignore them. By ignoring our feelings we are missing out on some serious growth opportunities – and probably pushing ourselves to feeling worse and thinking darker thoughts.
Emotions have been given to us to reveal to us our weaknesses and cause us seek God, draw nearer to Him for strength, and learn self-control. There is a good use for every emotion we have been given. Our task is not to ignore and suppress our emotions, but to identify them, acknowledge them, bend them in the right direction, and take them captive – daily.
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Our feelings are not sinful, neither do they have to lead us to sin. If we let them, they can make us stronger.
God has shown you (through countless examples) how you can work through your thoughts and feelings and rise above, victorious – even if sometimes for some of you that means you have to strive for that victory on a daily basis.
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