How Emotions Can Be A Sign of Strength

“Don’t let them see you sweat.” “Fake it till you make it.” “Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let it show.” On the surface, these quotes seem to be harmless, motivational even. After all, we can’t go around unloading our feelings on everyone who passes by. However, I think there is a real danger in pretending we don’t have feelings. Instead of seeking to repress our emotions, I think it is healthy to express them.

This past week, North and South Carolina have been hit by Hurricane Florence. With her, Flo brought record rainfall, damaging winds, and frightening storm surges. Residents of the Carolinas have wrestled with feelings of confusion, fear, uncertainty, and overwhelm. There is nothing that can prepare you for such devastation. During this kind of devastation, well-meaning friends may tell us to “have faith” or “remember how God is with us”. While these words may be true, they are not often helpful. This advice may lead us to wonder if our emotions are valid. Additionally, we may think that our emotions are a sign of weakness.

Here are a few thoughts I’ve been processing about emotions:

Emotions do not point to a lack of faith.

Often, the expression of strong emotions immediately elicits the judgment of a lack of faith. Strong emotions do not point to a weak faith. We can all breathe a sigh of relief. In the Gospels, we read the story of how Jesus calmed a storm. After a long day of ministering to the masses, the disciples went out on a boat with Jesus to “go across to the other side of the lake” (Luke 8:22). Jesus, given his humanity, was tired and took a nap. All at once, a severe storm came upon the boat so the boat “was being swamped by the waves” (Matthew 8:24). Rightfully, the disciples were in fear of the raging sea. They woke Jesus saying, “We are perishing” (Luke 8:24). Jesus responded by asking, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25) In asking this, Jesus was not condemning the disciples for fearing the storm, but rebuking them for not trusting what He had previously promised. In responding to fear with the belief that “we” (including Jesus) were going to die in route, the disciples were not putting their faith in the promise keeper. Much like the disciples, we can let our emotions drown out the promises God has already spoken. Our lack of faith exists when we let our emotions blur the words of truth God has spoken over us. We must both experience strong emotions and remind ourselves who is Lord of the storm.

Strong emotions remind us that we cannot do it alone.

The desire to withhold strong emotions is the desire to control things on our own. We think if we can mask our deepest feelings, we are independent and strong. We were never meant to do this life on our own. Consider the story of the Sea of Galilee; the Gospel of Luke clearly states those in the boat “were in danger” (8:23). Jesus teaches us a valuable lesson by inviting the disciples on a trip lined with danger. He put them in a situation that He knew would evoke fear to show them that He is there in our strongest emotions. God does not just want us to be His children when we “have it all together”. Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds”. Our Father does not reject us in our strongest emotions but desires to be invited in. As Jesus was asleep on the boat during the storm, the story seems to be reminding us that God never leaves or forsakes us. During the storms of life, we can trust that God is still there. When we get to the end of ourselves, we see that God has been there all along.

Faith is not void of fear. Often, our greatest expression of faith will be accompanied by a healthy dose of fear. Jesus’ closest disciples, the ones being mentored by Him, experienced uncertainty. Jesus Christ, flesh and blood was pouring into them daily and they felt unsure. Should they or we be faulted for responding to life in our humanity? Should it be called “weakness” when our feelings surface? From what I’ve experienced these past few days, I can say that strength is found in allowing God access to the broken spaces in your heart. It is strength to come to the end of your abilities and cry out to God. “God, this is too much for me. Please come and do what only You can do”. May that be the prayer of our hearts.

3 Things That Happen When We Surrender

Surrender. Let go and let God. Often we are given that advice when our desire is not coming to fruition in a timely manner. The white flag of surrender more often feels like a declaration of weakness. A release of control stands in stark contrast to white-knuckled holds to hopes and dreams.

God put it on my heart to write about surrender after an almost three-month hiatus from blogging. I said, “really God? Couldn’t we warm back up with an inspired post about the importance of reading the Bible or prayer?” If I’m honest with myself, surrender is something I’ve always struggled with. Ever time I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of surrendering my plans to God, He throws me a curveball to my well-thought-out plans; I’m left on my knees asking for more help. This is the place that God wants you and I. It is in this place of relinquishing control that we learn more about God. So here I am, ready to share what I’ve learned and am learning about surrender.

Surrender invites the power of God’s name in our lives.

Often, we associate surrender with defeat. We think that if we surrender our desire to God, we are giving up on our dreams. A declaration of surrender, we say, is a death to our desire. However, a loss of control is an invitation for God to bear our burden and do what only He can do. Psalm 9:10 says, “And those who know your name put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” An act of surrender is an acknowledgment of the name of God as love, mediator, and almighty. It is a step of obedience, based on trust. Surrender of our desire could mean that God takes the desire away for a time. In regards to my own singleness, God has shown love by lessening my desire for a husband so I can experience abundance in this season. On the other hand, surrender of a desire could mean that God's strengthens the desire in His time and equips us for it. Our God of love, power, might is already fighting for us and is wanting us to experience it. 

Surrender allows us to act on trust, rather than fear.

The act of laying down our burdens at the cross leaves us feeling relieved. Yet later, that old familiar voice of fear returns to our heads. The voice of fear may return, but the action of picking up the burden again doesn’t have to. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (ESV). We can’t trust both God and ourselves. We may have this idea that “Jesus is my co-pilot”, made popular by bumper stickers. Jesus can’t be our co-pilot or we will crash. Jesus should be the pilot. We are not even in the captain’s quarters with Him because He is sovereign. We either trust God and let Him lead our ways or we rely on ourselves.

Surrender removes the distraction from our relationship with God.

Like a little kid who wants a cookie before dinner, we often want things we shouldn’t have. We beg and plead our Father to give us the cookie of our desire. He refuses because He has something better in store for us. We moan and whine because we are hungry. We miss that He may want to give it to us at a different time (after supper); we could also miss the chocolate cake He has in store for us. Our relationship with our Father is often stifled, due to the passion of our distracted cry. Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” The pride of our hearts tells us that we know better than our Creator. We cannot be molded into the person God wants us to be if we are too busy telling the potter how to shape us. As we give our desires to Him, we begin to develop trust in His character.

Surrender is not the end and death of a dream, but the beginning of a deeper relationship with our Father. This relationship will lead to greater joy, hope, and direction. What may feel like a declaration of weakness is a call for God to be strength and joy in your life. Even if our desire is not brought to completion, we can trust that our God is molding us into the people of God He desires us be.

3 Ways to Keep Your Cool During Chaos

Back slumped, tired eyes, robotic movements. Physical signs. Mind frazzled, limited focus, mood highs and lows. Emotional signs. The desire to withdraw, lashing out, limited communication with God. Relational signs. If you are reading this and have/are experiencing a number of these symptoms of a trying season, I feel your pain. Due to circumstances out of our control or unsurpassable responsibilities, we can feel as if life is spiraling out of control.

The reason I haven’t written in three months is that these past few months have been exhausting. My daily journey includes managing Type 1 Diabetes. Out of nowhere, a new set of unrelated symptoms welcomed themselves. I felt like God was remaining quiet. I couldn’t understand where God was, as my life seemed to be falling apart. Despite the way I felt, I knew that my God was in control.

My thoughts about how to retain rational during crazy, stressful, tiring times are based on scripture from 1 Peter:

Keep a cool head.
Stay alert.
The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping.
Keep your guard up.
You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times.
It’s the same with Christians all over the world.
So keep a firm grip on the faith.
1 Peter 5:8-9 MSG

1.     Live by the Word of God.

The Word of God is life. Whatever we listen to becomes who we are. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (ESV). What you listen to becomes what you think about, talk about, and act on. My natural response to fear is to cower, rather than to create space for God to speak truth through His Word. I am well versed in the language of doubt and worry. In continuing to meditate on the Word of God, I was training myself to replace the language of self-reliance with God-reliance. If what we choose to listen to determines the trajectory of our lives, then we have to hold tight to the words that we know are true, hope-filled, and life-giving.

2.     Welcome Biblical community.

“Okay”, you say. But what about when you are having trouble believing the Word that God is speaking in your life? Friends, your people, #tribe. Whatever vernacular you choose, you need people in your life who love the Lord and love you. If they love Him and love you, these friends will point you back to Him, even when you are shortsighted. It’s those people who love you enough to remind you how much your Heavenly Father loves you that are absolutely critical to helping you keep your head on straight when life is wonky. I can think of several people in the last three months that have reminded me of basic Sunday School principles during times when my heart wanted to reject them. It’s easy to curl up in a ball like a roly-poly when fear knocks on the door. Resist the urge to abandon people who are on your team, ready to point you back to the only hope that lasts.

3.     Rely on the Holy Spirit.

When life is seemingly more than we can handle, we can become self-consumed. Our mind can become so consumed with what is happening to us that we forget that God may be trying to do something through us. God wastes nothing that happens in our lives. He allows things and then uses them for His glory and for our good. Romans 8:5 reminds us, “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (ESV). We often let things happen to us and grumble about it. The challenge is to look at what the Holy Spirit is trying to grow in us. The Great Counselor, the Holy Spirit, is trying to change us and make us look more like Him. Maybe this momentary season of grief and strain is producing in us humility, understanding, and hope.

 No man is an island. We weren’t meant to do this life, alone. Through the life breathing power of God’s Word, the encouragement of fellow believers, and the comfort and correction of the Holy Spirit, we can remain level-headed when life is falling apart. God doesn’t promise this life will not have trials, but He does give us the tools from Heavenly Places to help us “keep a cool head”, “keep your guard up”, and “keep a firm grip on the faith”.

Unqualified For This

I sat and stared at a blank Word document. I thought to myself, “what if I am not qualified to share my words with the world?” “What if there is someone else out there who is more skilled in writing?” I wondered. Doubts began to creep into my head as I watched the blinking cursor, the ever-present reminder that time was ticking away. I had a few choices: abandon my calling out of fear, muster up my own strength, or submit my feelings of inadequacy to God. Maybe you’ve been in a similar boat. In relationships, work, ministry, daily life, we may not feel qualified for the calling God has put on our life.

Here are three reasons you can step out even when you don’t feel qualified:

1.     Your calling is not based on your confidence in the assignment.

In our lives, it is normal to do and try things that you think you will be good at. No one signs up to try something new if they think they will fail. When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you are likely to align your life with things that utilize your strengths. It is human nature to fear the unknown and uncharted territories in our lives. When I first started wrestling with the desire to lead a lifegroup, I did not step fully into the assignment because I thought I would fail. I remember telling the lifegroup minister I would take a season to see what lifegroup was like before committing to lead one. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Yes, by your own strength, you will fail. If you keep your eyes all-sufficient power of God, He will equip you for the calling He has on your life.” Using the passage in Matthew 14: 22-33, he showed me how Peter was able to walk on the water with Jesus until the moment he started to doubt God’s presence:

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out,
“Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.
“You of little faith,” He said,
“Why did you doubt?”

The moment Peter looked at the strength of the wind and away from the strength of Jesus, he began to sink. Minister Henry T. Blackaby said, “The reality is that the Lord never calls the qualified; He qualifies the called.” As we relinquish the need to be confident in our calling, we release control to the God who qualifies the called.

2.     God will humble us deeply in order to use us greatly.

In our life, we are either walking in pride or in humility. When we walk in humility and have a proper view of ourselves in relation to God, we experience peace. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Almost the very moment we think we’ve got it all figured out, God will humble us to show us that we need Him. Consider the pattern of King Nebuchadnezzar: feel pride, experience consequence, repent to God, repeat. In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar is having a dream about a tree, which was a prophecy of upcoming pride, consequence, and repentance. Despite Daniel’s interpretation of the dream, Nebuchadnezzar did not repent of his pride. How often do we have to be brought to a place of humility and repentance, despite warning from the Word and fellow believers? How thankful we should be for God’s continual patience and the pursuit of us, in spite of our pride!

3.     Your calling shows how great God is.

God is in the business of not doing things the way the world expects Him to. Rather than looking for the strongest, most eloquent, wise beings to spread His message, He chooses to use the weak and feeble first. This is not to say that God does not use the educated or charismatic people to spread His message. However, I think that wherever God can choose a weak person to glorify His name, He is found to be strong. God does not follow the ways of the world. In fact, 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV says,

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
God chose what is low and despised in the world,
Even things that are not,
To bring to nothing things that are,
So that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

I’m finding God uses those uncomfortable areas (we might even call them weaknesses) to call us out of reliance on ourselves. If we were already qualified, we would get the glory; if in Him we are qualified, the Lord gets the glory.

Whether you are currently at a place of feeling unqualified or have ever felt this way, don’t lose hope. The God who calls us to something that seems impossible will equip us to follow His calling. As we become humble before the Lord, He will be the strength that we need. We need only to keep our eyes upon God, the One who empowers those He calls.

How Emotions Can Be A Sign of Strength

“Don’t let them see you sweat.” “Fake it till you make it.” “Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let it show.” On the surface, these quotes se...