Do you ever get to a point where you are just so tired of drowning in emotion?
I am there.
I am so frustrated with myself for feeling. I am so irritated that I get so irritated.
Nothing majorly wrong is going on in my life, but it appears the small, day-to-day actions continually leave me in a ball of rage, or a ball on the floor. And it makes me frustrated. And irritated. Ugh.
And the worst part is, I don’t know how to handle them. Its really the same issues that consistently cause turmoil within my soul. I find myself getting so hurt by actions people aren’t even aware they are doing. Its simple things really.
- When someone knows I need a little extra kindness, and they ignore me instead.
- When someone brushes me off with “well, you know better.”
- When no one thinks to initiate a relationship or conversation with me.
- When I’m left out, forgotten, not given as much attention as someone else.
- When people I thought were supposed to care, don’t even take the time to get to know me.
It all hurts. And I could sit here and go on and on but this is the list that I am currently, sitting here writing in the midst of, and the emotions suck. Nobody likes feeling so uncared for, so unloved by people. And they don’t even know, at least I think they are unaware, that they are doing this. Which then spirals me into a self-defeating tunnel: I’m being over dramatic, I need to not expect things from people, maybe I did something (or are doing something) that makes them want to ignore and forget about me, etc.…
So I do what I am supposed to do: give it to God. I realize that I have expectations I should give up. I realize I have strong emotions. I want the love of God to flow through me and onto these people, even though their actions spark emotional turmoil within me. But what startles me is how easily the actions of others, intentional or not, affect me.
Anyway, I wrote out a prayer the other night, finally breaking my pride and admitting that even though I am not in the “wrong” here, I am called to forgive. Even though I will never receive apology, or at least acknowledgement of actions, I must forgive. I’m doing it simply for the fact that it is stated in the bible, and that it will (hopefully) help me move past these frustrating emotions. But, there’s a catch here. You see, as many of you are aware, I have had some pretty terrible things done to me. And once I came to know Jesus, I realized that in order to receive healing in my soul, I must forgive these people for what they did to me. I am only twenty, but that process took me years to finally submit to. I can honestly say that I have forgiven those who have abused and hurt me. Praise God. But, the catch is, I didn’t have to keep them in my life. I didn’t have to actively love them or even be around them. It was simpler(ish) to forgive because I was allowed to remove them from my life; gone forever (hopefully). But forgiving these people now…I can’t remove them from my life. I have to forgive and actively love them. And that is where I am having a rough time.
I was praying and journaling and God directed me to write out Colossians 3:1-17. If you haven’t read it, it basically explains the differences in expected behavior between the “new self” and the “old self.” I was convicted.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
It was good to be reminded of this, but it also hurt. I have been carrying this bitterness in my heart and I knew I needed to let it go and replace it with all the wonderful attributes listed above.
And then I realized.
I actually am so human… I can’t (and kind of don’t want) to do that.
So now, I am back to feeling frustrated with myself. And then I’m frustrated at the fact that I’m frustrated with myself. I think, “Well, they have no idea (probably) that what they are doing is hurting me so much. So you are probably just being over dramatic, which means you really just need to get over yourself. The problem is you because apparently you aren’t loving Jesus enough.” WHOA WHOA WHOA
Unfortunately, this is my actual thought process. And now I am just sitting there, contemplating my entire relationship with the Lord, because some people didn’t reach out to talk to me. Man, the enemy is good. It’s annoying. I write how disappointed I am, that I so easily fall back into the ways of the “old self”, that the people of this world can influence me in such negative ways. And then, feeling discouraged and defeated, I go to pick up my book and continue reading.
THIS is why I feel as though I am drowning in my emotions. At the beginning, I explained how these certain actions done by people who are supposed to care about me hurt my feelings. Then I move onto the “maybe I’m the problem” mindset. I go to God and try to forgive so I can release expectation and no longer be trapped by the reactions I have to others. And this for some reason leaves me doubting I even have the love of Christ in my life. This is a very common thought pattern in my life.
I go to pick up my book and I read:
“Again, we have to stop being our own worst enemies. Our sins – past, present, and future – are forgiven. We aren’t Christians because we live like Christians; we are Christians because we have accepted the gift of salvation. We have come to know God on an experiential, authentic level. Yes, following Jesus produces genuine changes in our lives. That’s inevitable. But our outward behavior and internal emotions might not always measure up to who we are on the inside. We are all in a process and we are all on a journey. At times, we won’t live like new people or feel like new people. But that doesn’t change the reality that we are new people” (Judah Smith, How’s Your Soul?).
The entry in my journal follows:
“This brought tears to my eyes. I have certainly been my own worst enemy. Just a few hours ago, you opened my eyes to your word in Colossians 3 and I see the disconnect between the new creation I am in Christ, and where I am currently living. But this, this is grace. My actions and thoughts may not be fully aligned but that is not an end all be all. There is forgiveness because Jesus has saved my soul. It’s all a process. Not just for me, but for everyone.”
Once I was able to accept the grace and forgiveness from the Lord, I was able to better clear my mind. I was able to find grace for myself, from myself and I felt a longing in my heart to fill up with the love of Christ, so that I could still love these people that have been hurting my feelings.
I think I have fallen into the trap that most people do. We so often convince ourselves that whatever we are feeling is bad, that feelings are always wrong, and a heightened emotion is a sign that we don’t trust in Jesus as much as we think we do. “We worry that our fluctuating emotions mean that we are not trusting God or that we must be sinning in some way. Even those of us who aren’t very emotional can wonder if something is wrong with us. We can’t figure out why we feel (or don’t feel) the way we do or what God wants us to do with our feelings – and so confusion leads to condemnation” (Mahaney & Whitacre). Yes, these feelings may have been caused by the actions or words of others, but they are OURS to deal with. We feel things for a reason, and it is actually quite okay.
“Emotions tell us what’s going on inside. They tell us the truth about who we really are. So emotions that seem unreasonable or irrational are in fact true expressions of an irrational belief or an unreasonable value. We may feel like our emotions are making us crazy, but the real culprits are the beliefs and values from which the emotions spring. According to philosopher Robert Solomon, “Emotions are not irrational; people are irrational.’” (Mahaney & Whitacre).
I am drowning in emotion. I hold onto so many irrational beliefs and values, of which the majority has stemmed from traumatic experiences. Do I need to have everything together all the time? No, that’s impossible. Do I need to beat myself up because my feelings got hurt? No, that just means I care about something (whether it is irrational or not). Should I allow myself grace? Absolutely. Have I been doing that? Not in the slightest. I know forgiving is still a big part of this, but doing it to escape emotions that aren’t even wrong in the first place? Probably not the correct way to do that.
What I feel, does not define who I am.
My emotions are not bad.
I can accept the grace offered by Jesus.
These are concepts I need to grasp. These are areas of my life that will actively shape my life, which means they are important.
So, in this mess of a post, I want you to know that whatever emotions are drowning you right now, it is okay to be feeling them. You are not unique in your struggle with fluctuating emotions. You are not alone. “Understanding what our emotions are telling us clears up a lot of confusion. Seldom do we have to wonder why we feel the way we do. Instead of asking ourselves, Where did this emotion come from? and getting no answer, we can ask, What does this emotion tell me that I believe and value? and then trace the emotion back to it’s source. This leads us to biblical emotional intelligence. When we locate the beliefs and values that fuel our emotions, we can examine them in light of Scripture and consider whether or not they are pleasing to God” (Mahaney & Whitacre). This approach is filled with grace and understanding; knowing we are emotional beings and were created to be so for a reason.
I will most likely bring up this topic again, as I have just dived into a new book titled “True Feelings: God’s Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our Emotions” by Mahaney and Whitacre. I know this will bring good insight, more than it already has, and help me along this journey of how to best handle my emotions. I plan to share that with you all.
Thanks for reading.
NOTE: Book review on “How’s Your Soul?” by Judah Smith will be up soon so stay tuned. Thank you for the prayers.