My daughter was running around the living room with her arms stretched out in front of her while playing superheroes. She was grinning from ear to ear, excited to save mama from the “snake” she made out of buttons lined up on the floor. I would screech and yell, “Help!” and she would echo a similar screech and yell back, “I scared! I help you, mama!” I couldn’t help but laugh and correct her and reply, “What?! Superheroes aren’t supposed to be scared!” And that, my friends, is the interaction that led me through a rabbit trail of thoughts in my mind.
From the time that we are young, we’re subconsciously taught that in order to be brave, confident, and steady, any other emotion that shows “weakness” must be put aside or suppressed in order to maintain the image of strength. When we grow up, how we look to others becomes important. I can only speak from my own experience, but as a mom, being “Supermom” is one of the most sought after titles to strive toward. Even if the Supermom title is just to prove to myself that I’m worthy of it, and not for status or approval from other people, I still subconsciously prioritize the same thing: that in order to maintain the image of bravery, confidence and steadfast strength, I must set aside any emotion that shows weakness or gets in the way. Oh, and somehow keep the house spotless and keep everyone clean (with organic everything) and fed (with homemade, organic everything).
I’m not sure what makes humans so hardwired to push ourselves so hard. We set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and then constantly beat ourselves up when those expectations aren’t met. When unwanted emotions come up from our past, or life gets difficult while we’re on our pursuit of these unrealistic goals, our feelings become emotional obstacles that we strive to avoid at all cost. We suppress our emotions as a means of survival. When in reality, that’s never how the Lord intended for our emotions to be handled.
We serve an emotional God. Throughout scripture, the Lord demonstrates emotions of compassion (2 Kings 13:23), love (Romans 8:38-39), jealousy (Exodus 20:4-6), sadness and grief (John 11:33-36), anger (Matthew 21:18-19) and Jesus even experienced fear (Luke 22:42). The Creator of the universe has deep emotions, and He chose to make us like Him in that same way (Genesis 1:27). It was an active choice that the Lord made to make us emotional, and He will never view our emotions as a burden.
“You keep record of all my sorrows. You have collected my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” – Psalm 56:8.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” – 1 Peter 5:7
“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18
So often we refuse to give ourselves the same grace that we extend to others. If a close friend were to share their personal feelings with you, the majority of us would listen, sympathize and validate that friend’s feelings. In that moment, extending compassion and grace is second nature. But why do we not extend that same grace to ourselves when we are hurting? Why is it that when we look at the golden rule to “love others as you love yourself” in that context, it’s easy to “love others” by never condemning, minimizing, or shaming other’s feelings, but when it comes to “loving ourselves” in that same way, offering that same understanding and compassion toward our own feelings seems impossible? Dear reader, I gently ask you to respect the intensity of your experience. From the depths of my being, I am so sorry if anyone has ever made you feel that your feelings were too much, unimportant, or a burden. Your feelings are real. They are valid. They are good, and nothing, not even your emotions, can separate you from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 8:39). In fact, it’s our emotions that cause us to draw near to the Lord in trouble.
Dear reader, I encourage you to rest and respect the complexity of what you are feeling in times of stress, anxiety and chaos. Please don’t push yourself too hard, my friend. In our times of rest we can experience the Lord and His peace in a way we cannot experience when we are pushing ourselves to, or even past, our limit. My prayer is that you take time to acknowledge and learn about your very real emotions. Do not be afraid of them. Listen to them, and offer your feelings to the Lord. They are never too much for Him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Written by Charissa Wines