Stopping to feel the feelings & other musings…

Not long ago I had a conversation with a dear friend who was sharing about how different her life was since she began taking the time to “feel her feelings,” especially the unpleasant ones: frustration, helplessness, sadness, grief, anger, hatred, disappointment, & the like. So, instead of ignoring her feelings, minimizing them, making herself so busy she’d ‘forget’ about them, &/or stuffing them in one of the seldom-visited compartments that exist in our minds, she (with the help of the healing of the Holy Spirit) began to feel them. To really experience, reflect upon, & invite God into the waterfall of her feelings & emotional responses to those feelings. Her verdict?

Feeling feelings is hard. A lot of the time it hurts. The feeling/reflecting/responding can lead to difficult & painful conclusions about the state of our lives & the relationships we’re in. They alert us that something needs to be worked through, acknowledged, addressed, &/or processed – activities that hold a promise of pain in the same way cleaning gravel out of a scraped knee does.

I know what she means. The first quarter century of my life I was “feelings challenged” – I didn’t know how to feel the negative feelings, let alone how to process through them. So they were ignored.

The problem is that the unresolved mess floated in my subconscious like a program running in the background of my brain, & whenever a situation would arise that remotely reminded me of any of those weak & negative feelings, I’d have a mini-meltdown. That looked like an outburst of anger, crying for “no reason,” depression, &/or the hopelessness of not knowing how to deal with myself or to make a change.

God provided an outlet of sorts… but it wasn’t like I asked Him to “search my heart” in order to heal & transform me. I prayed vague prayers, read my Bible, did church stuff. A lot of church stuff. Looking back, it was like keeping Him at arms length while asking for a miraculous work that would change my issues in a moment, when what was needed was a walk with Him through the difficulty, the darkness, the proverbial “valley of the shadow of death,” so that the underlying problems, areas of hurt & wounding, places of brokenness & pain could be healed.

The story of God’s work in this area of my life is a long one – & it’s not something I’m going to write about today. However, I do want to highlight one element that ended up playing a big role in this journey for me – reading through the Psalms.

For as long as I can remember, I have read the Psalms everyday – I’m a creature of habit, & my “habit” involved a plan that would take me through all 150 Psalms every month. (You take the day of the month – for example, today is the 6th, & you’d read Psalm 6, add 30 & read Psalm 36, add 30 & read Psalm 66 & so on.) The Psalms provided a back entrance into the conundrum of my feelings – because they are written RAW. The Psalmist (mostly David) pulls no punches in articulating to God EXACTLY what he’s feeling. And what ended up striking me as so odd was that God could HANDLE whatever David threw at Him. Nothing fazed God, even when David was angry, disappointed, frustrated, &/or feeling abandoned by Him. And as David processed through the Psalms, his own heart changed even if his circumstances didn’t. He started seeing himself & his life situations, as hard as they often were, as being firmly in the center of God’s hands. And by “feeling his feelings,” David got a perspective on those feelings that allowed him to keep moving forward as a “man after God’s own heart.” For some examples of David letting it all out, check out these PSALMS

David’s example has been a path for me over the last 15 years. And I’m thankful that God can “take” me when I’m at my very worst – He knows the depths of my heart – He loves me. And is healing me.