How come Christians don’t handle negative emotions well? I mean, we handle some emotions well: we sing upbeat worship songs about the joy of the Lord, the victory we have in Christ, the song we have in our heart. Yet so often, Christians tend to shy away from the more painful areas of the emotional spectrum.
God also taught me these things about emotions.
1. As broken humans, Christians still want to be in control and to be strong.
When a person is experiencing intense emotions like pain, anger, or depression, so often it makes him or her feel insecure, weak, and totally not in control. To feel deeply is to experience something that so often takes us beyond ourselves.
In Christian circles, experiencing “negative” emotions must mean that a person is somehow not in control of oneself, therefore not trusting in God. “You want to cry? You’re afraid? You’re angry? You’re not trusting God enough. You’re not a good Christian.” If we are strong in our faith, if we were strong Christians, we wouldn’t ever feel such negative emotions.
2. Christianity is truly a journey through the vast and unknown land of life.
On such a journey, a person will experience moments of joy, beauty, and happiness. A person will also walk along seemingly dangerous portions full of fear, sadness, and pain.
If we believe that God is with us in every moment, if we believe that He never fails us or forsakes us (Deut. 31:6), then why do Christians so often feel uncomfortable with the negative parts of the journey? God walks alongside us and holds our hands during every season of life.
3. Authentic Christians will be honest in their emotions and suffering with God and with others.
Think of Paul: he was a “strong” Christian by many people’s standards. Then in 2 Corinthians, he says about his travels, “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.” (2 Cor. 1:8) Ever thought about the emotions that would accompany such a description?
He went on to say, “We had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope.” (2 Cor. 1:9-10) In fact, later on Paul declared, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)
Is it possible, then, that God wants us to feel negative emotions so that in our weakness, He can shine forth with strength?
If we don’t let ourselves to feel the anguish of weakness and brokenness, how will we ever truly know the strength and love that lives in God?
When we wrestle through negative emotions in a healthy manner, we are offering our weaknesses to a God who is completely capable of handling our emotions and healing our brokenness. Yet we must confess these things to God and let Him in on the process. If Christians won’t meet Him there, I wonder if they really know Him at all.