Driving home from Castle Rock, finally alone in my car, my vision becomes just slightly blurred and I feel hot tears well up in my eyes and finally spill down my cheeks. They’ve been building for awhile, and I at last gave them permission to go free. The odd thing is, today wasn’t a bad day. It was a good day, a great day even. Nothing is wrong. I have no valid reason in today to be crying, and yet here I am.
Some would probably read this and write it off as hormones or over-exhaustion. I won’t say that didn’t play a part, but I know that isn’t the main reason behind these tears. I think the main reason is simply that I was overdue to feel. And most of us probably are.
This story is common knowledge to any who follow my feed by now, but allow me to give some background anyways. A year ago I moved home from Denver and my community at CCU to save money and attend the Disney College Program the following spring. I’d heard about this program from multiple friends and heard of how much they loved it; it’s basically where you work at/live/go to school at Disney-World for a semester and can write it as an internship on your resume. I’d heard about the application process and had good grades and recommendations, so I didn’t think about the possibility of not getting in. Well, I applied and was rejected directly after the online interview.
A semester later, I applied again for the next fall. This time I didn’t even make it past the initial application before being rejected. So I started trying to move back to Denver, back to my friends at CCU and the city that has become another home to me. It looked as though all of those pieces would fall together, and at the last minute they all fell through too. Exactly one day after it was evident I wouldn’t be moving back after all, three of my best friends looked at and signed a lease on an apartment in Denver- and now I would be in Colorado Springs without some of my closest friends and my dreams have been shattered three different times. Three days later we had to put my dog of 16 years (aka most of my life) down.
This isn’t about a pity party; far from it. I just say all of this to say that my heart had built up a lot of emotion and held it in. Life usually stays busy regardless of what else is going on, so I didn’t really have time to process or deal with any of this on top of school and work and church responsibilities and family responsibilities and trying to stay social. I pushed it down. My heart had been dealt several blows of thick disappointment, and instead of letting it out and giving myself permission to feel hurt and confused, I pushed it down. The script of my heart had become “God has a plan, God is good… STOP feeling hurt! Stop being confused! You should really trust God more after having walked with Him for so long. Have more faith! What’s wrong with you?” And while it IS true that God is good and He has a plan, thinking that I have to immediately be joyful and at peace after a hard disappointment is a lie from the pit of hell.
Why are we so afraid to feel?
I know I was. I didn’t let myself cry when the impulse came; on the contrary, I suppressed it and only let it come out when it felt like I would burst. This was usually only for a few minutes at a time when I was by myself because I would then start telling myself, “God is good. Stop crying. Trust Him more!” The ‘God is good’ and ‘trust Him more’ lines are good; the ‘stop crying’ line is poison.
I first realized this when I listened to a sermon my friend Sarah shared on Facebook titled “Engaging Hope in Seasons of Disappointment.” Melissa Helser from Bethel church tells some of her story and drops truth bomb after truth bomb from the word about the importance of protecting our hearts by being honest with them and with God. GO LISTEN TO IT RIGHT NOW. It’s only 30 minutes. And it will be totally worth your time, I promise. She can explain this so much better than I can, but the Holy Spirit’s message went straight through her to the center of my heart, and it’s starting to set me free (the link is at bottom of this post!).
To feel disappointed, to feel confused, to even feel hurt or betrayed, isn’t sinful. It’s a natural response to hard things. It’s a necessary response if we are to protect our hearts. Otherwise, we bottle it up and our hearts begin to harbor bitterness and distrust and anger. If we just let it out, just cry or yell or wail or fully feel, God can release us from the power it holds over us. He can begin to heal us and grow us from it. But we have to feel the fullness of each emotion first. We have to be honest with Him and ourselves about what we’re actually feeling, not just immediately mask it over and tell ourselves we really should have more faith than that.
We tear ourselves up because we think we aren’t having the “proper response” to a situation that a “true Christian” would have. The shame we usher upon ourselves because of what we’re feeling does infinitely more damage to our hearts than the emotions themselves. Why don’t we realize that sometimes the proper response actually is to grieve? Or feel the weight of disappointment? Or to mourn? That’s not sinful. That’s actually the example given to us by Christ.
Before entering the hardest day of his life, Jesus wept with anguish in Gethsemane. And He knew how it ended! He knew it was His true purpose. AND Jesus was intimately connected to Abba. If he knew all of this and still wept, still felt anguish, still asked God if there was any other way, doesn’t that give us permission to do the same? Do you think God looked at Him and gave him a pep talk? Told him to buck up and trust Him more? As Melissa points out in her sermon, I think Abba wept and grieved with His beloved son. And He knows we’re human. He knows we feel. I think His desire is to be so close with us that we feel safe to be that honest with Him. The problem isn’t the emotions themselves. It’s when we hang onto them so long that they become our new reality, and they become what controls us instead of the Spirit of God. Mourning and grieving when we feel sadness and pain are a means of humbling ourselves before the Lord and resisting however the enemy would want to use those emotions against us. Don’t you see this is so very necessary??
So, driving home, I finally let the weight of it out. I cried. For thirty minutes. I mourned my broken dreams, my newfound loneliness, my confusion at why God wouldn’t just bring something together for me. I was honest with myself and Him and finally stopped trying to control myself. Because I realized that in my trying to keep control, I was clutching a little idol and withholding myself from the freedom God wanted to give me. So I let the weight go. And it felt good. Really good. And after that drive home, though I wasn’t immediately at peace, I felt a bit more. I felt a bit more trust, a bit more joy. That has only grown, by the way, in the weeks since I let myself wholly feel.
This isn’t a one time thing either. It’s a daily decision to be fully open before the Lord. Just this week, I felt a whole wide range of emotions. A hard conversation was had, and the enemy used it to bring to life many of the lies I used to wrestle with daily but thought I had overcome. I hadn’t. They came back with vengeance, and I have to feel the weight of the old (or even new) hurt and even some of the feelings of betrayal or fear or confusion that came from it. And that’s not bad. It keeps my heart from becoming hard and a relationship from becoming bitter- it keeps me fully alive before my Father and able to grow through it and see the truth faster. And this applies to joyous things too!! Quick update, the reason God didn’t bring Denver or any of my other plans for this semester together is because He actually wanted to send me to Disney this upcoming spring (a year later than I expected but with a new opportunity that wasn’t there when I applied before!). On a whim, I applied and was accepted within a matter of two weeks. I felt joy, so I rejoiced with my Father. I praised Him.
Friend, feel the freedom to wholly FEEL. Bleed out, cry, feel pain. We think to bleed out is what will kill us, but it’s actually how the Father will resurrect us to HIS fullness of life. Don’t shame yourself for having emotions; embrace them and keep your heart raw before your Father, so He can take you where He wants you to go and grow you how He wants you to grow. It is so. Important. To feel.
Oh. And listen to this sermon while you’re thinking about it 😉 (S/O to Sarah for sharing this!)
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” -James 4: 7-10