Posted: November 20, 2023
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Have you ever struggled with fear? Worry? Embarrassment? Guilt? These powerful emotions can be heavy, debilitating even. Perhaps they have taken up much of your world for quite some time now, leaving you feeling stuck in a valley of negative emotions. If so, have you ever wondered what it could like to face these emotions head on in order to find freedom from them?
We find the answer in studying the life and practices of Jesus, looking to Him as an example of what it looks like to no longer drown in those emotions, but to face them and overcome them.
In this article, Sydney explores some challenging emotions and walks through how Jesus handled them in such a way that offers hope to those of us still in the “valley.”
In This Article
Most people would say if there is a danger, you should avoid said danger. Our bodies are designed to protect us. Just like our fingers flinching back to avoid a perceived eminent smash from a cabinet door or open flame, our brain reflexively shrinks back from emotional pain. Our mind looks for the nearest emotional escape button. Here are some common examples of why we might want to avoid our emotion.
It can feel overwhelming or difficult to slow down and explore exactly what we are feeling and why.
We might think, ‘If I feel this distressed right now, I can only imagine what sitting down with that emotion would be like. What if I just drown?’ It can be almost petrifying to slow down to identify and acknowledge the truth of our emotion.
It can be disturbing or distressing when we realize what we are feeling.
It can be difficult to admit when we are experiencing negative emotions. Indeed, just noticing anger and jealousy can feel wrong and make us want to avoid the presence of that emotion. There may be shame or guilt for even having a negative emotion at all.
However, it’s what we do after we are able to identify the emotion that matters. For example, we are scrolling social media and feel the sting of jealousy. In that moment, it’s a choice to embrace jealousy and fan the flames of those emotion. Or, we can identify the jealousy and address it with truth. Essentially, we lean into or make space for that jealousy and figure out why its there, what it’s trying to say to us, and remind it of the truth.
It’s important to recognize we can experience emotions like fear or anger and not sin. In fact, when we are mindful, these emotions are helpful indicators of the state of our heart and the focus of our mind. We can begin to see emotions as helpful signals telling us how we are responding to situations and experiences.
There might be times when you find yourself feeling silly or even stupid for having certain emotions.
For instance, we tell ourselves things like, ‘You shouldn’t feel that way.’ ‘You are being dramatic for being hurt in that way.’ ‘It’s so weak to have that feeling, it’s completely illogical.’ Here we are telling ourselves to “Stop it!” However, before we can experience a change in our emotion, we must first acknowledge the true state of where we are in the first place.
Perhaps your heart is in need of repentance in regards to sin harbored in your heart.
God calls us to repent when we have sinned. Repentance is recognizing sin, turning, and going the other direction. For those who call upon God and trust in His forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, there is now no condemnation (Romans 8:1). We are assured that when we come before the throne of God and that we will receive mercy and help in our times of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Avoiding, minimizing, and denying emotion is not an effective way to cultivate a healthy and whole heart. It might have made sense to push our emotions away or stuff them deep down in hopes that they would go away. And maybe that has helped you in the past. However, it’s no longer working for you anymore because God did not create emotions this way. Emotion tells an important story about what we are experiencing. There is an actual movement to emotion- the very word contains the latin root “motus,” meaning movement of the mind and soul. Counterintuitively, emotions are meant to be identified, expressed, and then they can be released. Furthermore, noticing our emotion gives us the opportunity to care for ourselves with truth, intention, and effectiveness.
Most importantly, honestly acknowledging our emotions allows us to enjoy the healing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as He teaches us what is true about ourselves and our circumstance.
Jesus perfectly modeled what it looks to lean into our emotion in the Garden of Gethsemane, while simultaneously being anchored in the truth. He was fully God and fully man. Jesus Christ came to earth to ransom mankind back to God from their sin. He knew why He came and what would be required. Jesus would die on the cross and take on our sin and put on us His righteousness. He came to die so that we might have know Him intimately, live abundantly, and have life eternal with Him.
Jesus is and will always be the only sinless man, He was perfect. He knew the requirements before Him. Jesus knew there was no other way to accomplish what He had been sent to do. He knew that He must die for the sins of the world.
Yet, Jesus came to the Garden of Gethsemane in anguish the night before his Crucifixion with His closest friends. His soul was troubled and full of sorrow. In Matthew 26:38, Jesus tells his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” In Luke 22:44 it says He was in agony and that “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
He knew what must happen, but the truth of His emotion was that He was afraid and He wanted a different way. Accordingly, He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Matthew 26:39 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Luke 22:42.
This was the night before His crucifixion and death, yet Jesus took the time to get away and address His emotion. For us this looks like slowing down, taking the time, and creating the space so that we can identify what emotions are present for us. Mindfully, we must ask our self, ‘What emotions am I experiencing?’
Part of managing our emotion is giving ourself the permission to be curious around what we are feeling. We cannot rightly apply truth to emotions that are vague or unspecified. If we notice difficulty naming our emotion or feel the need to block emotion from coming, we may need to take the time to understand why that may be and see if there’s room to grow in this area.
Additionally, Jesus did not ignore, dismiss, or avoid His emotion. Instead, He accepted the reality of what He was feeling. That is our goal as well. Likewise, it is important to understand that accepting our emotion does not mean we are embracing the emotion as the truth and allowing them to guide us. It simply means that we accept the reality of what emotions are present. Once we identify what emotions are present then we can do the hard work of addressing them with truth, repentance, and other strategies for change.
Jesus took His disciples to the garden and then He took His three closest companions into a quiet place. Then, a few feet away from there, He knelt down to pray. Jesus made it a priority to go before the Father with His needs. He leaned into His agony and poured it out to God through prayer.
For us this looks like letting our heart feel what we are experiencing and identifying what emotions are present. Not every emotion should be expressed in any given situation, but, it is appropriate to pour out any raw emotion before God. To experience comfort, strengthening, and change we must acknowledge and express our need.
Here, we see principles of Jesus leaning into his support system, his closest friends, and his Heavenly Father.
“Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42.
Finally, emotion gives us an indication of what needs we may have. God is not offended by our limitations and needs because He created us. “For he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14
So, on your path to emotional health and healing, slow down and take the time to identify and name your emotion, accept the reality of what you are experiencing, learn strategies of how to express your emotions in a healthy and helpful way, and experience the release, freedom, and calm that will come.Back to top