Yesterday I had the privilege of posting a devotion on Proverbs 31 about honesty with God. I shared about the time I hollered at Him after an ectopic pregnancy. Hundreds of comments poured in, and I read every one. Today as I responded to one of them, I realized something.
I thought of some of my dysfunctional relationships where I was simply not allowed to express or even have a negative emotion. I was conditionally loved for my yes, but disliked (and sometimes even unloved) for my no. Everything was hunky dory as long as I stayed happy or content, even when I was deeply disappointed or even angry at the other person. This caused me to do two things: internalize my anger (which led to bouts of depression and anxiety) and gather a false belief to myself that negative emotions were wrong.
I’m learning to express my anger in a helpful way (both for me and the hearer). And I’m finding such freedom in doing so. Stuffing, I’ve learned, doesn’t work. It hurts me. My friend Marc’s book about emotions was instructive for me, and I know you’ll be blessed by it:
But the second problem (negative emotions are wrong) has been a lifelong struggle. When I hollered at God in the car in my twenties, I saw the first pinprick of light in changing my belief. God was so gracious. He didn’t respond like some of my dysfunctional past relationships. He didn’t shame me for feeling sad. He didn’t belittle me, call me a drama queen, or turn His back. No, He brought peace.
All that to say, my best earthly relationships allow for my negative emotions. My husband receives them, helps me process them, and gives me new perspectives. My dear friends validate my feelings, telling me I’m not alone. And Jesus, of course, has walked the path of earth with all sorts of broken relationships and broken promises. He understands negative emotions, and even expressed his anger without sinning. He gets it.
So why have I projected my false beliefs about expressing negative emotions on God? My hunch is that whenever we have foundational relationships that embrace ONLY the happy-clappy side of ourselves, we begin to believe the entire world, and even God, operate that way. It’s a shame-based system. It’s the opposite of dignifying. It shrinks us into ourselves, minimizing our personalities and making us live small.
My heart for you is to live big. That doesn’t mean we run over people with our emotions or constantly yell at God. But it does mean we learn the art of honesty, and we overcome our deep-seated fears about being honest.
When we are honest with our friends (in a loving way) and they react negatively, we’ve received a gift. We now know the nature of our friendship. But when the other person responds with compassion, our relationship deepens. Either good intel or deeper relationship–both important things.
And when we stop projecting our own false beliefs about negative emotions on God and simply surrender to Him, anger-disappointments-frustrations and all, we find He is not dysfunctional. He welcomes all of us. Our yeses and our nos, our elations and our brokenness. That is the beautiful God we serve.
That is why I wrote the book Jesus Every Day. I wanted to share my heart honest on the page like that–to model to you what it’s like to have authentic conversations with Him. And I wanted to do that deeply tethered to Scripture. So I walk you through the whole counsel of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. You don’t have to start on January 1 (It’s not too late) because it’s listed as Day One, Day Two, Day Three.
The beauty of it all is this: God made you. He already knows what is in your heart (He sees not as other sees, looking at the surface of you; He sees your heart). He loves you. He welcomes you, broken parts and all. He is not taken by surprise when you express your anger. His shoulders are strong. Today, dear friend, oh today, His arms are wide open, waiting for your honest surrender.
Will you take that leap?
Super interesting that this is exactly what I’m working on in therapy … that negative emotions are okay, and that God gets we’re human. For me I think it’s because of a lifetime of being taught to be the “good girl”, and that if we have negative emotions/feelings it means we’re bad Christians. Good girls, good Christians, don’t get angry, frustrated, jealous, or get their feelings hurt. (Of course, we ALL do those things, even “good Christians,” so pretending we don’t or beating ourselves up about it doesn’t help anything.) So, I am nowhere near being able to fully accept this yet, but I’m trying. I’m practicing self-compassion and reminding myself that Jesus gets my humanity and doesn’t condemn me for it.
I love that you’re practicing self-compassion, Stacy. This is a hard thing to learn, but oh how your heavenly Father loves you.
I had my own yelling at God moment a couple of years ago over a riding lawn mower. I couldn’t get the mower started, and it was the catalyst where I broke over my broken marriage, broken kids, and broken life. After cussing and beating the steering wheel, I turned to God and started screaming at him. “I DID EVERYTHING RIGHT! WHY HAS ALL THIS HAPPENED?!?” (Of course, I didn’t do everything right.) I finally collapsed on my knees in the bad yard sobbing, and one of the dogs (Sir Barks-a-Lot) came over an sat quietly in front of my while I sobbed. I could feel the presence of the enemy, and that shook me a little, but I think Buster sitting so calmly and quiet (which he NEVER did) was my reminder that Jesus has already defeated Satan. It also helped that I realized God didn’t strike me dead when I wailed at him. 🙂 Once I calmed down, I rebuked the evil presence and said that no matter what happened, I will still follow Jesus. Which I haven’t done that well either. But regardless, I am so grateful that it’s the faithfulness of Jesus that keeps hold of me!
What a great, honest story. And hooray for a peaceful dog in the midst! (And a peaceful GOD in the midst!)