Have you ever had someone question- whether directly or indirectly- whether all this “feeling” stuff really matters that much? Sometimes I get this when I share about House of Hope. I talk about the power of feeling what we feel, tracing those feelings back to the beliefs that drive them, and then evaluating whether those beliefs are true. I emphasize how much healing and freedom comes from taking the time to go through this process- both through classes or therapy at House of Hope and personally in quiet moments alone. My listeners are always polite, but there are times when I can tell they are less than fully engaged. I hear things like…
“That’s great!” (in that same voice that could just as easily be used if I’d just shared about a pair of shoes I found on sale)
“Yeah, I should take a class someday… but right now I’m so busy!”
“Oh, I know someone who could really use that” (followed by a description of a life totally in crisis)
“Yeah… but sometimes I think we’re just being oversensitive and we need to lighten up.”
I can almost read their minds: That’s nice. And if we have some extra time, extra resources, it’s certainly good to do that “feelings” work. But, it’s not quite on par with dealing with big issues like hunger, homeless, and war–or with meeting the needs of my job and my family. It’s not exactly life and death.
What’s the message? Feelings- while they do matter on some level- aren’t that important. Feelings are secondary to the world’s “big” problems, those life and death issues. They are secondary to our responsibilities, to other people’s needs. We have permission to pay attention to feelings if we happen to have extra time- or if things get really bad. But, in the middle of normal life demands, dealing with our feelings, and the beliefs that drive them, is just a “would be nice” type of thing- not a must.
But that’s not the model we get from scripture or from the life of Jesus. The Bible is full of people pouring out their raw emotion. In the life of Jesus, we see Him demonstrating powerful feelings and honoring the feelings of others, weeping with those who weep. The other day, I was wrestling with self-doubt, questioning whether it was okay to be investing time in exploring my feelings. The answer I got from Jesus was strong: this isn’t just “okay”–it’s indispensable.
You see feelings are like a fire alarm. If we don’t let them ring out and don’t pay attention to what they’re telling us, the result could be disastrous. If we just try to “get over it” or we push the feelings away until we are less busy, the fire that triggered the alarm rages on. But, if we stop, listen to the alarm, find the fire, and put it out, we come away stronger, healthier, and better positioned to live the fruitful and loving life God has for us.
So I challenge you today to treat your feelings with the priority attention they deserve. First give yourself permission to feel exactly what you feel, without trying to judge it or change it. Listen to those feelings and ask yourself where they come from. What beliefs are driving them? Are those beliefs true? Only through this vital process will we identify the lies, the “fires,” that produce bondage and destruction in our lives.