If this continued, I’d have to ask my husband to take me to the hospital. My heart was racing, my blood pressure was probably through the roof and I was almost doubled over from stomach pain. In the midst of a full blown panic attack, my feelings were so frightening, overwhelming my heart to the point of desperation and misery.
I kept telling myself my feelings were a prison of my own making trapping me within my past experiences, trauma and poor decisions. My skin felt like a thousand ants were crawling all over it as I sat on my bed, stroking my dog, trying to remind myself that feelings can also be amazing, rejuvenating and liberating. That’s what they had been when I walked down the aisle to marry Richard, my beloved husband.
So what do we do with our negative emotions? They move around us like a wind, sometimes at hurricane speed threatening to topple the foundation of who we are.
Frustration, pain and disappointment rob us of our joy and continually haunt us. They become a nightmare when they overtake your soul, heart and mind. This internal emptiness can steal your attention from God, negate God’s good plan for your life or make you feel like you will never be enough. Most importantly, they stifle our God-given desire to live boldly.
When negative emotions play havoc with us, when they show up on our doorstep, we don’t have to answer the door and invite them in forever. You are never obligated to say, “Come on in and make yourself at home.” You don’t have to be ambushed by a broken heart, nor do you have bury your dreams. Our tendency is to avoid pain, yet when we do that, we also stall the opportunity for growth and renewal.
So just what are we to do with these negative feelings? The key to keep challenging, draining thoughts in check is not to deny them, but to lavish them with compassion and guide them from your spirit-led self.
What if Jesus wanted you to extend compassion not just to your neighbors, but also to the damaging thoughts harbored in your heart that get in the way of you becoming all God wants for you? The idea of befriending negative emotions sounds counter-intuitive, but has criticizing or rejecting parts of yourself ever made you better? Take time to ask, “God, what do you think this is? What does your Word say about making a friend of this negative feeling?”
We can discern the answer by asking ourselves a few questions.
- Is what I am feeling causing me to dwell on what is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy” (Phil 4:8) or lesser things? Are my emotions leading me to life or death?
- Are they reinforcing God’s truth? Or are they backed by Satan’s lies?
- Are they helping me to love God (and others) with all my heart? Or are they causing me to pull away from the love of God?
God has graciously called us to do all things in love. Anything contending against that love should be heart-checked. That’s because sadness can quickly turn into isolation. Rejection becomes depression. Anger leads us to division. Loneliness keeps us bottled up.
Let God’s grace wash over your negative feelings and create space for internal transformation. With God’s word as your guide, you extend hospitality to those demanding feelings deep inside, eliminating the derision; instead creating space for internal transformation.