Archive for the ‘Feelings’ Category

If we think getting a physical examination is a smart thing to do, we will have little fear of getting one. However, if we view it as a means to discover something seriously wrong and suspect there may be, we can become terrified. The same situation can generate peace or fear depending on how we think about it.

However, to be focused on our thinking without paying attention to our feelings is to risk having a distorted view of reality. God uses both to communicate with us. Ignoring either one can get us into trouble because our thoughts influence our feelings and vi-se-versa.

In decision-making, both should be used. I use rational thinking to help determine the right way, but I also use my emotions to discern God’s path. “All his paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17), meaning I will feel peace as I head in God’s direction.

We may choose to ignore our feelings because they are sometimes unreliable in telling us the truth about life. But they do tell us about ourselves and what we truly believe in our hearts. We miss knowing our hearts when we ignore our feelings and then fail to “watch over our hearts with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

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Knowing Scripture is a good first step in living in the reality of God’s peace and strength. However, we don’t always believe the Scripture we know. Our feelings often reflect this. We can use our feelings to exam what we are believing in our hearts and work with God in changing them if they need it.

Our fears often show we don’t trust God is the Good Shepherd in guiding, comforting, and protecting us. We can be terrified as we face the day. We think we are alone with many challenges and potentials to be hurt.

Yet, God is always there. He is quietly watching to give us strength to get through each day. But our feelings sometimes drag down our beliefs about God because we let our fears dictate our thinking this is a dangerous world without help.

Some of the thoughts in our hearts have been put there by Satan. As Jesus used memorized Scripture to beat Satan, we must do the same in fighting back against the lies within us (Matthew 4:1-10).

I spent many years ignoring my feelings. In my childhood home, I was afraid to experience them because I could lose control and risk physical and emotional abuse. In engineering school, I was also taught to ignore feelings because they could cloud my objectivity.

Only in recent years have I realized feelings are important. They reveal my heart which is necessary to draw closer to God. We need to acknowledge feelings so they can be processed which reduces their intensity. To ignore them can create physical and emotional damage.

May we learn feeling at peace requires positive thinking. “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise… Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9, NLT).

Feelings are important. They are a gift from God. May we learn to experience God through them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Be Still

I felt stressed experiencing the ravages of a bad cold and the discomfort of an eye affliction. My heart was not still. I wanted to get out of my suffering as quickly as possible, but wasn’t sure it would happen soon. This upset me.

Then, God spoke to me through Psalm 37:7. He said, “Stop stressing about your health. Rest in Me. I am healing you, but it will take some time. Meanwhile, I want you to wait patiently for Me.”

I then realized how unstill I was, being anxious and worried about so much. God reminded me I wasn’t alone in seeking deliverance. He was also involved working a healing.

He made good on his promise by healing my cold within two days. I can’t recall ever healing that fast from a bad cold. My eye has gotten better but am still waiting patiently for further healing. His healing may be total, partial, or strengthening me to endure it better.

I typically don’t stay in touch with my emotions. I can be upset and feeling despair and ignore it. However, the other night alarming thoughts lodged in my mind and heart. At the first chance, I tried to identify what thoughts had caused me not to be still. As I tuned into my self-talk, this is what I heard,” Your eye affliction is never going to go away and it will make your life miserable”.

I then challenged the thoughts by countering with the truth. My self-talk included, “This discomfort is not going to kill me. I have had chronic pain many times before and God has always delivered. Why wouldn’t he this time? “I (God) am with you and will help and strengthen you.” I (God) will sustain you and make you a stronger Christian through this trial.” After a few minutes of this kind of self-talk my soul returned to a state of stillness. It helped me to accept the reality of God’s presence and protection and helped clear away unbelief that blocked relying on him.

Being still is a matter of rising above circumstances. Jesus challenged the disciples to be still when the storm screamed at them they were going to die. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm.  Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:24-25, NLT).

Jesus also tells his disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT). We don’t overcome by having controllable circumstances, but through Jesus’ powerful interventions as we trust in his presence and help.

May we learn to be still and rest in his care and protection. May God increase our faith as we are “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and … taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NAS). May we tune into our self-talk and capture the lies that upset us so much and replace them with God’s peace-generating truths.

Be still my friend. You are safe.

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Recently, I was going to the doctor’s office to get the results of my annual scan of how well a stent that was put in three years ago was doing. It was for an aneurysm. I expected good results as I had had in prior years. But the report was not good. I had another fast- growing aneurysm. I felt devastated.

The doctor said that we needed to operate soon. I felt fear as I faced a sea of scary thoughts and questions. I felt unsafe. I asked God what was I to do?

First, I decided to quiet my shaky heart. So, I turned to praying Scripture. As I prayed, God used the Bible verses to guide and lift me up. For example, the verse, “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, thy consolations delight my soul” (Psalm 34:4) led me to ask God for his joy and comfort.

I also quieted myself so that I could feel my emotions and what they were saying to me. One thing they said was that I didn’t trust his help enough to keep me safe. So, I prayed that I would trust at a deeper level the verse, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will help strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Then, the next day I had a time of prayer with Jesus where I poured out my worries and fears silently and asked for his help. Through my thoughts, Jesus responded to my fears and offered his love and safety. I sensed that I had talked to Jesus at a deep level. I felt a little safer talking and listening to Jesus through this time.

I don’t expect to ever get over my tendency to fear bad news. And that’s OK. God still loves, accepts and respects me the same. Instead, what I do expect is that by praying, meditating on God’s Word, focusing on my deep emotions, and his help I will grow to feel safer in this unsafe world.

Relying on God’s help is the only way we can feel safe at a deep level. The safety we feel from other ways is false. Things such as good circumstances, immortality, success, and being respected can’t be trusted. But God can.

He says, “Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you” (Psalm 91:7). He guarantees our safety until we have lived out the days he has planned for us.

Two other ways we can feel safer in this unsafe world is to praise and thank God several times a day for who he is and what he has done for us.   Praise will help us grasp that he is powerful. Giving thanks will help us give him the credit for the good things he gives. May you take one step today to grow in feeling safe in an unsafe world.

 

 

 

 

 

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Grieving Our Losses

We all have losses in our life. Some really affect us and some don’t. But it can be surprising how much our losses can hurt us.

Because losses sometimes hurt badly, I have often ignored how they make me feel and try to get busy and forget them as fast I can. But is this the best way to deal with losses?

What Our Losses Are

The following are common losses we experience:

  • The loss of a girl or boyfriend
  • The loss of a job
  • The loss of a friend
  • The loss of a loving childhood home
  • The death of a parent
  • The loss of youthfulness
  • The loss of a dream

These are just a few examples of the losses we can have. They can make us sad, distressed, sorrowful, and embarrassed. We tend to run from the pain of these losses. However, it’s important that we face them head-on.

Why Face Them?

We face the pain of our losses in order to experience reality. We deceive ourselves when we pretend that our losses don’t hurt, grieve or make us sad when they do. This unexperienced pain can lead to addictions, chasing idols, psychosomatic pain, and a lack of self-awareness.

We are not weak or defective for feeling grief, sadness, and fear when we lose something. God has planned that our lives have periods in which we suffer. There will be “times to weep and times to laugh, times to mourn and times to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, paraphrased).  Stuffing the pain of our losses instead of experiencing them can hinder God’s purposes in allowing losses in our lives. He could, for example, be wanting to develop compassion for others through experiencing the pain.

Facing the pain of losses can throw us upon God’s tender mercies as it did David. “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also” (Psalm 31:9). This dependency increases our faith.

Facing our sorrows enables us to experience God’s comfort. We then grow in our capacity to comfort others as they face the pain of their losses (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). When we repress the hurt of our losses, we forfeit the opportunity to receive comfort and growth.

Experiencing the pain of our lost job, relationship, or a dream does not doom us to depression for the rest of our lives. God says to us “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). We can dare to experience the pain knowing that he won’t give us more than we can endure and will deliver us when he has accomplished his work.

Another reason to face our grief is to obey God. He wants us to be real with him. He wants us to pour out our hearts to him and honestly tell him how bad it hurts. “You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6). We become wiser as we face the pain of our losses.

So, let us not be so quick to brush over our losses. When we suffer the loss of our looks, or miss a promotion, or a friend moves away, may we slow down and allow ourselves to experience the pain. May we cooperate with God in grieving our losses.

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I never paid much attention to whether or not I was emotionally mature. So what if I was afraid, or discontent, or had difficulty accepting my limits? As long as I was godly and accomplishing things for him I was successful.

Little did I realize that I couldn’t become godly if I were stuck in impulsiveness, anger, and competitiveness. Or did I realize that my emotional maturity reflected my spiritual maturity.

Emotional maturity includes

  • Experiencing our feelings
  • Sharing our feelings responsibly with others
  • Experiencing and processing our anger responsibly
  • Not needing the approval of others to feel good about ourselves

What emotional maturity can do for us is

  • Avoid being overly sensitive to being hurt or offended
  • Accept responsibility and not blame others
  • Know and accept our limits
  • Be open to constructive criticism

Why Emotional Maturity Is Important

Emotional maturity is necessary to love others well, which is the goal of the Christian life (1 Timothy 1:7). People can be gifted speakers, know the Scriptures well, and lead competently elder boards and still fail as Christians because of being unloving spouses or unteachable, insecure, and defensive people.

It is who we are deep within that counts. We can look like an adult on the outside but still be an emotional child below the surface. When we are driven by a fear of failure, passively resist others, run from loneliness, and ignore our feelings we are often exhibiting signs of emotional immaturity. This immaturity affects our capacity to focus on others and to love them well. 

How to Become Emotionally Mature

Emotional maturity involves experiencing and processing our emotions wisely. Since our feelings are driven by our beliefs, relying on the truths about ourselves, God and others is vital to becoming emotionally mature. We can’t believe a pack of lies about life and still be godly.

Living God’s truth will set us free from our emotional immaturity (John 8:32). For example, knowing that what people think of us does not define who we are, frees us from our fears and helps us to love them. Also, knowing that we are always acceptable to God even when we fail, keeps us from beating ourselves up or blaming others when things don’t go well.

May we grow in emotional maturity by becoming aware of things we do and feel that reveal emotional immaturity. For example, we may seem to be extremely self-centered or experience considerable anxiety much of the time. We can then ask God to help us discern what we are depending upon that is driving this behavior or emotions.

In his time, he will show us what beliefs or habits need to be transformed. For example, I have had considerable anxiety about my health stemming from major surgery I had three years ago. So I asked, “God, what am I not believing that makes me feel so scared?” What he eventually revealed was that I did not believe I had a trusted shepherd who was watching out for me physically. This was not true! But this belief was driving my emotions. Now, as I ask God to help me believe the truth, I will be growing more emotionally mature as well as godly.

So, are you emotionally mature? Do your emotions and your behavior reflect a heart that is spiritually mature? May we all continue to seek to grow into emotionally mature and godly adults.

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Are Feelings Important?

Feelings have often been a mystery to me. What to do with them? How to manage them?

They can brighten my day or make me miserable, and everything in between.

I seemed to have learned at a young age to run away from feelings that didn’t feel good. But the feelings were often still deep inside, along with the thoughts that triggered them.

I later learned in engineering to ignore them because they often got in the way of objective decision-making.

However, I think most of us would agree that our feelings are important, but what are we supposed to do when they don’t feel good?

Why Feelings Are Important

I was taught as a young Christian that feelings were not that important. What was important was what God said in the Bible. It was dangerous to let our feelings guide us through life.

But in recent years I have learned that feelings are very important–for they can tell us the truth about our self, not necessarily the truth about life. For example, if we are afraid of what people think of us, that fear may be lying to us. The fear may be saying to us that what people think of us is who we are.

But the truth is we are what God thinks of us, which is, “We are precious, honored and loved” (Isaiah 43:4, paraphrased). Our feelings are lying to us if we fear rejection; for what God thinks of us is what counts and he will never reject us (Hebrews 13:5).

Yet, our fear of what people think of us tells us a lot about our self. The fear shows that in our heart, we still cling to the lie that we are what people think we are. This awareness is a call from God to be transformed in rejecting the lie and embracing the truth that we will never be rejected. Sure people can reject us, but it means nothing to God, for he never will.

Feelings are also important to us because they can add so much pleasure or cause so much grief in our life. Wouldn’t you like your feelings today to be peaceful, joyous, loving, compassionate, and empathetic? It sure beats feeling hatred, rage, lusts, and dissatisfaction all day. These feelings can help us determine if we are living in God’s power.

Another reason feelings are important is that often God talks to us through our feelings.

He says about our feelings,

“Come to Me in prayer when you are feeling under the pile” (Matthew 11:28, paraphrased).

“Check what you are thinking about if you are full of fears” (Philippians 4:8-10, paraphrased).

“I always give you peace when you go My way” (Proverbs 3:17, paraphrased)

What We Should Do With Them

So, what are we to do about our feelings?

Certainly, we should not stuff them by getting busy, escaping through drugs or alcohol, or trying to ignore them some other way.

Psychologists tell us that not paying attention to painful feelings can cause us a lot of problems. For example, ignoring our anger could cause a root of bitterness to spring up causing us to hurt a lot of people (Ephesians 4:26-27; Hebrews 12:15).

We can also use our feelings for guidance as long as they don’t lead us to violate biblical principles and other forms of God’s guidance. My experience has been that if I genuinely want God’s will, my desires will line up with his direction (Psalm 37:4).

We need to always remember that our feelings flow from a heart that is tricky and impossible to understand (Jeremiah 17:9). Often, we are not experiencing the real feelings when we are feeling anxiety, anger, and confusion. These feelings are intended to “protect us” from our deeper feelings of hurt, grief, fear, and sadness.

So, we need to depend on the Holy Spirit to help us know what our true feelings are so that we can face the false beliefs and dependencies of our heart, and be transformed by God.

We can ask him, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

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I certainly have been. From my earliest days, I learned to avoid feelings that I did not want to feel. I escaped from feelings of depression and fear that way.

Later, when I studied engineering, my ability to ignore and repress my feelings helped me to be more objective. I commended myself for being able to make rational decisions untainted by emotions.

My ability to run from feelings also helped me as a young Christian. I was not as distracted as some in letting my feelings get in the way of depending on the truth.

So, what’s wrong with running from, repressing, and denying our feelings?

One big reason is that our feelings can be a window into our souls. They cannot always be trusted to tell us the truth about life, but they can be valuable in telling us the truth about ourselves.

For instance, David says in Psalm 27:13, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

He knew that if he felt despair, he may not be relying on the truth of God’s goodness. The feelings were a trigger to ask God to search his heart to see what was going on (Psalm 139:23-24). By ignoring his despair, he would also be ignoring putting off unbelief and putting on the truth (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Repressing our feelings can also hurt us physically and spiritually. I have personally suffered much physical pain that was the result of bottling up my emotions. I have had backaches, neck aches, hand aches, toothaches, and knee aches, largely caused by sitting on anger, hurt, or sadness.

We also give Satan an opportunity to create bitterness and hatred in our hearts when we repress our anger and fail to deal with it. “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

So, are you afraid of your feelings? Do you self-medicate with food, alcohol, and TV to dull your feelings? Do you keep busy all the time to escape from your feelings of guilt and emptiness?

I encourage you not to run from your feelings as much as possible. Face them in dependence on the Lord. Remember, “You can do all things through him who strengthens you” (Philippians 4:13).

May I suggest that you ask God to help you discern two or three strong feelings you have right now. Spend a minute experiencing each one. Then, talk to the Lord about what dependencies, beliefs, or other factors are triggering each of these strong feelings.

Finally, claim his promises to take away your fears, help you, and uphold you as you rely on him and his truth (Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 26:3).

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