Big Feelings and the Truth that Will Set You Free

Emotions in children are obvious. They do little to mask their feelings. They are unaccustomed to reigning in their emotions. Watch a tired, hungry toddler try to cope with a change in plans, and you won’t be guessing what he/she is feeling.

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Somewhere along the lines some of us were left alone in those big feelings and then those feelings began to loom over us like giants. It began to feel like if we let the emotions be fully experienced we may get stuck in them, therefore those feelings became scary.

In learning about and healing from anxiety, I was faced with my own fear of feelings. I literally had no idea this was a problem. I was fully aware of my fear of heights, small spaces, and impromptu public speaking. But, a fear of feelings?

I first noticed some patterns in my daughters. One was beginning to “act tough” in certain emotional situations. The other was “freezing” in other emotional situations. Getting curious, I had to look at my own tendency to deny certain feelings when they came up, even if my family asked me, “Are you okay?” This denial of my feelings sent the message, “certain feelings are scary and should be avoided”.   I noticed my tendency to harden when people around me began to experience big emotions.

During this period of reflection, I was listening to a podcast (Anatomy of Marriage) in which a woman kept repeating the phrase, “A feeling is not truth. Just because I am feeling it, doesn’t mean it’s true”.

Something about that resonated with me and I wanted to apply it to my life.

Here’s what I found:

  • Just because I am feeling afraid, doesn’t mean I am weak.
  • Just because I am feeling overwhelmed, doesn’t mean I am alone.
  • Just because I am feeling dumb, doesn’t mean I can’t learn.
  • Just because I am feeling sad, doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.
  • Just because I am feeling embarrassed, doesn’t mean I am unworthy.

In my search, I am drawn to the Psalms in the Bible. David did not run from his big feelings. I can read an entire Psalm of David in less than a minute and read about feelings of despair, fear, hopelessness, joy, hope, peace, and strength all within one Psalm. David doesn’t deny his feelings. He doesn’t shame himself for his feelings. He doesn’t cast blame.  I notice a lot labeling of his feelings, vulnerably speaking his feelings to God, and seeking God for help.

I have to imagine there were times when David feared being stuck in an emotion such as sadness or fear. But, he kept the process going of taking his emotions to the Lord. He moved through the big feelings because he brought them to the light…to the Lord.

Friend, are you hurting today? Are you facing a scary situation? Are you feeling stuck? Might I encourage you, that they are just feelings. It may feel really scary and dark, but there is Truth that is real. There is Truth that heals. There is Truth that will set you free. And that’s the truth.

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Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Passing Up True Blessing

It’s an outlandish story. Two brothers, the eldest holding the birthright. A special honor given to the first-born son. A double portion of the family’s inheritance along with the honor of one day becoming the family’s leader.

Esau held this honor given to him simply because of when he was born and who he was born to.

But in Genesis 25 we read about a pressing need for Esau. This need became more important to him than his birthright.

Esau was hungry. The Bible describes him as being famished. He was so hungry that when his brother offered him a meal that sprawled out right there before him, he was willing to sell his birthright in order to satisfy his hunger.

Oh, funny Esau. So impulsive, so hungry. So foolish.
Funny until I recognize myself in him. The thought came to me, how often do I toss away God’s beautiful blessing for some immediate satisfaction?
The list flowed…

Each time I want the last word.

Each time I spend money impulsively.

Each time I attempt to prove myself right.

Each time I look to my needs before another.

Each time I turn my head away from a neighbor’s need.

Each time I allow my mind to wander during a time devoted to God.

Each time I attack rather than affirm.

 

Each of these times, I have made the impulsive decision to forgo a blessing from God in order to meet my immediate need.

What if I just paused? What if I just held off? What if I asked for the Lord’s strength and power rather than forging ahead with my own plan?

What blessings have I missed with my impulsive pressing “needs”? 

Reading about Esau made me chuckle. But, somehow when I see the same behavior in myself, there is no laugh. Rather than a laugh, it’s time to take it to the Father.

Father, forgive me for bypassing your blessing for my immediate satisfaction. Help me to love you and love your way above all else. You are good and your way is right. I seek you.  Amen.

 

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Fix Up My Heart and Use Me O God

The Lord has been relentlessly laying Psalm 51 on my heart each day for weeks. First, He was guiding me to read it each day. Then, He brought other people to me sharing wisdom from the beautiful Psalm. And, then finally I began meditating on it and thinking about it in my own words…something I love to do with Psalms. I love the simplicity and rawness of this Psalm. David is so honest and vulnerable about his sin and  his need for God. I also love how the Lord takes our confessions, cleans us up, and then uses us to love and teach others.

I am so sorry for turning away from you, God.

Please forgive me by your great mercy and love.

Clear away all my sin and ugliness.

Wash away my wickedness.

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For I know my sin is evident, and the worst is that I have sinned against you, Lord, and gone against your commands.

I was sinful from my first breath, born of sinful parents.

Certainly you want faithfulness for me — deep down in my heart.

You enable me to understand what is truly wise.

Grant me a supernatural cleansing from the inside out so that I am as pure as new fresh snow.

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Let my heart receive your joy,

Let the weight of my sin give way to your forgiveness.

Turn your face from my sins and look on me in your grace and mercy.

Out of nothing, make my heart pure, O God, and renew a faithful spirit in me.

Do not separate me from you or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Revive me with the joy of your salvation and give me a humble spirit to carry me.

Then I will be able to help teach other sinners about you and they will turn back to you.

Save me from my punishment, O God, the God who saves me.

I will sing of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my mouth and your praise will flow out.

You do not desire for me to bring you an earthly, material sacrifice.

The sacrifices you desire from me are a broken, humble spirit and a remorseful heart.

O God, You will delight.

In spite of my failures, have mercy on my family and bless them.

Provide a hedge of protection around my family, keeping evil out.

We will let you in to humble hearts and offer you endless praise.

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The Cross Bears All

cross in prayer closet

One of my daughters painted this cross for my prayer closet years ago. At first it was a sweet addition amongst the other pictures and prayers on my wall. But as time has gone on, my faith has developed, and God has made so much sense of things in my prayer closet, this cross has become a focal point for me.

Each morning I spend time just gazing upon this cross. A 10-year-old’s representation of the forgiveness of the Savior. Many times I’ve stared in wonder as I thought about Jesus on the cross. The sins that must have flashed through His mind as He hung on the cross. Not just any sins, but mine. My sins hung up there on that cross holding Him down, punishing Him, bearing my burden.

After sorrowfully and then joyfully looking at that cross and receiving His forgiveness day after day, why did I still carry a burden? Why did I still carry shame?
Not all of what I carried was my fault. Not all of what felt like a burden on my shoulders was mine to seek forgiveness for. Not all of what Jesus sacrificed for me was my own doing. But, yet, I carried it. 

Some of the sin and shame I continued to carry around were iniquities done to me. Why is it that as children we tend to think everything is about us and everything is our fault? When that becomes a pattern for a child, as it did for me, the load becomes unbearable. It feels impossible to get rid of.

You see, when I sin, I can take responsibility for it. I can confess, seek forgiveness, turn away from my sin and seek a different way. But, when I am sinned against, it feels harder to let go of. It feels more out of my control. It feels like I need to wait on the sinner to confess, seek forgiveness and turn from their ways. But even if those things don’t happen, there is an answer. I don’t have to carry the burden myself. The answer is the cross.

Not only does Jesus want to carry the burden of the sin I have committed but He wants to carry the burden of the sins committed against me.

I no longer have to carry the offenses committed against me. I no longer have to figure them out. I no longer have to walk in shame. I no longer have to own it as my own.

So although the burdens I was carrying and allowing to weigh me down were not mine to carry, they were mine to let go of and trust Jesus to carry. It was my responsibility to trust Jesus to heal me, fill in the gaping holes left from the offenses committed against me, and walk in the freedom He hung on the cross to give me.

Dear One, His freedom is for you. His forgiveness is for you. His love is for you. Yes, you! Can you let go today? Can you allow Him to fill in the wounds left by another? I am praying for you. Jesus longs to intercede for you. May it be so!

1 Peter 2:24-25, He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

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Suffering Obedience and Freedom

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Have you ever waited all week for results to come back to tell you whether or not you have cancer again? The doctor who removed the troublesome skin humbly admitted that she had never been in that position.
I’ve never once walked into a week hoping for suffering, hoping to have to wait on more lab results. Never once.
Jesus didn’t hope for suffering. He didn’t delight in the great agony He faced as he awaited probable pain and death. He cried out to God. He asked to be delivered. He asked if there was any other way.
But then He chose obedience. Perfect obedience which led to suffering. Suffering which led to freedom.
As I walk this road of suffering, complete with twists and turns which seem to lead away from what I desire, I am being trained in obedience. My ways are being stripped away. My flesh pierced. My mind and will transformed.
This week the transformation came in allowing Jesus to partner with me. The enemy loves to tell me I am alone. He loves to feed me lies about no one else understanding my pain. And, I seem to have a sick way of clinging to those lies.
But my suffering is bringing about transformation, when I obey. When I listen to that prompting to stop the Facebook scrolling and instead read the Word, I read the promises of Jesus. I read about His faithful love for me. I read about His pain and suffering. I read about the anguish He expressed during His most intense trial.

I read about freedom. Freedom the believers received as they opened their hearts to His Spirit and were then released from past bondage.

Just as Jesus didn’t desire the suffering that was coming to Him, I do not desire more suffering. But nowadays, I can walk into it with much less fear and much more peace, knowing suffering, coupled with obedience, always results in freedom. Thank you, Jesus!

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Walking with Jesus Through Suffering

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Studying Hebrews this morning, thinking about the significance and greatness of Jesus. Jesus, greater than the angels. Jesus, worthy of my praise. Jesus, the one who sympathizes with my weakness.

My mind flashes to the ache in my foot where the doctor skillfully and so carefully used the scalpel to remove the worrisome skin. My foot, pierced. My flesh, wounded. My blood, exposed.

I walk with the reminder of my suffering. Each step sends an ache through my pierced foot.

My Jesus takes each painful step with me. Tempted, tried, suffered. His own feet pierced through. His hands nailed to the cross. His side pierced through allowing the blood to drain out.

My Jesus, pierced.

His pain, His suffering, His sacrifice, so that I can read the words, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” and know that He walks with me in all of my suffering.

I walk with confidence in His love for me. I walk with confidence in His purpose for my pain. I walk with confidence in knowing that I do not walk alone.

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Remembering Marital Advice 15 Years Later

I was wrong. I was so wrong and I had no idea.

The selfishness. The complete self-centeredness. Who did he think he was anyway? Putting himself first. Me, just an afterthought. Our family, just an afterthought.

In one little conversation that belief was shattered.

“Oh, just a minute, I want to sit there,” he gestured to the seat my bottom half was hovering over.

Here we go again. “What? I was just about to sit there. Did you ever think that I might want to sit there?”

“I know, but I’d like to sit there.”

Wow, just, wow, I am thinking to myself. But, being the more mature one, I will be the one to sacrifice the desired seat at the restaurant. I will put my self aside and move to the other side.

But, I couldn’t just let it go.

“Can I just ask you, why you want to sit there?”

“I just want to be able to see out,” he says.

“Did it ever occur to you, that I also want to be able to see out?” I snark out.

“Yes, but I want to be able to see what’s going on,” he says so nonchalantly.

“Yes, and I ALSO want to be able to see out,” I retort.

“But, I want to make sure you are safe,” he says while opening the menu.

My ears heard the words but my brain was stunned.

“What?”

“I want to see what’s coming, so I can keep you safe.”

Scanning the restaurant, as my brain processes the words I am hearing, I ask, “You mean, like safe from a bad guy or something?”

“Yes,” he shyly replies.

My mind races as I begin to entertain the thought that I was wrong. He wasn’t being selfish? He wasn’t trying to steal the seat I wanted? He wasn’t thinking of himself first? All the times we sat down in restaurants and I had to move from my seat so he could have the seat he wanted, he was actually doing it for my benefit. While I was feeling wronged and unjustly treated, I was actually being cherished and protected by my husband denying himself and putting me first.

It may seem like a small thing. I resisted writing about this for weeks. But it just kept creeping back into my mind. Almost 15 years of marriage and I was so wrong about my husband’s motives, about his heart in just this one situation.

But, wait a minute. If I was wrong in this one situation, in which it repeated itself over and over again, could…there…be…other…situations…in…which…I…was…*gulp*…wrong?

When we are walking in Seattle and he walks 5 feet in front of us rather than my desired place of side by side with the girls and I, could he be looking out for us? Once, again, sacrificing himself to ensure the safety of his family.

When walking through crowds, pushing himself in front of us….Yes, you guessed it…again protecting, keeping watch.

Always assume the best.

The piece of advice our pastor gave us during our premarital counseling ran through my mind taking stock of all the wrong thinking I had held onto over the years.

“When in doubt, always assume the best,” the pastor had said to us during our engagement.

I remember hearing it, taking note of it, and thinking to myself, “that will probably come in handy”. But, in the thick of things, that wise piece of simple advice got pushed so far down as my…my…my…selfishness reared its ugly head.

Thank you, Lord, for revealing my wrong thinking. Please continue to open my heart and my mind to see others the way you see them. Help me to be quicker at assuming the best and seeing the heart of others.

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“…the LORD said to Samuel, Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7, NLT