It is with great sadness that I’m writing this post. Myra, my beloved wife, passed away May 27th from a sudden heart attack. Services will be held at Saddleback in Lake Forest CA on Monday June 17th at 1pm and at Willow Creek in South Barrington IL on Sunday July 14th at 5pm. She was a loving, caring person that loved living life to the fullest. She viewed struggles as lessons to be learned and sought to help others turn heart aches into blessings. Send an email to email@example.com if you would like to know when her book, When Darkness Falls Joy Rises is published.
My husband and I traveled to San Diego to visit our friend, Brad, who was in basic training at the Marine Corps Training Depot. Unfortunately, he had injured himself, was taken out of his unit and put into a specialized one just for injured recruits. We checked in with the guard at the entrance, getting directions on where to park and how to get from the parking lot to the unit. We thought we had all the instructions we needed, but once we parked our car, nothing looked like where the guard told us to go.
We wandered around for a while. Most of the time, we were yelled at by Drill Instructors because we were in an area civilians were not authorized to be. We asked several times for directions, but got even more confused and turned around. Finally I found a sign for the hospital, figuring the unit had to be near the hospital so the recruits could be shuttled there easily.
When we entered the hospital we were met by a sergeant, who wasn’t much interested in our plight. However, standing behind him was an officer – a commander – who took pity on us. He ordered the sergeant to find an enlisted man to accompany us to the unit. It was “Yes, sir! Right away, sir! On it, sir.”
All of a sudden, we were treated with dignity. Then it hit me. I was somebody because I knew the man in charge. When we were lost, we were treated like nobodies. Our self-worth was challenged because we weren’t marines or recruits. We didn’t feel respected, honored or even welcomed, but knowing someone who was in charge suddenly raised our significance.
Our relationship with God is similar. We don’t have to judge ourselves by what we do for a living, our successes or even our failures. Even before any of us took our first breath, God wanted, loved and planned us. More importantly, he also created a plan for our lives.
I’m sure many of you, like myself, have times when we question our value and worth. Life pushes us down and we wander along unfamiliar path thinking, “I will never be good enough.” Yet, the good news is we don’t have to be. Our worth, our value is tethered to God. We are loved by God Himself. We find our identity through Him.
During this Easter season, we will be reminded of the story of our Lord who died so our sins will be forgiven. We will soak in the narrative of how God loved us so much, he sent his son to make sure we wouldn’t wander aimlessly through our lives. In his story, we discover our restoration. We find our way through the confusing maze of life and form an intimate relationship with God. God rebuilds our lives when we ask him to be our compass. His inspirational words in the Bible lay a foundation for us to stand firm against our confusion and find truth in the Father who cares for us. And through his love, we defy the chaos of life.
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.