How Can We Handle Our Negative Emotions in a Godly Way?
Have you ever felt bad for feeling bad? Aren’t Christians supposed to be happy? But what if you’re feeling depressed and sad? If you trust God, shouldn’t you feel calm and secure, not anxious and fearful?
Sometimes we’re not sure what to do with our negative emotions. And we often choose extremes when it comes to handling them.
On one extreme, we deny our negative emotions. We stuff them inside, put them in a box, and slam the lid shut on that mess! (As an Enneagram 9, I’m an expert at this!) Other ways we avoid dealing with negative emotions might be eating/drinking too much or getting so busy we avoid those hard feelings. Or maybe you’ve gotten good at saying, “I’m fine,” when you’re anything but.
The other extreme—we vent every negative emotion we feel. Outbursts of anger; venting of criticism and complaints; lashing out at others.
So how can we handle our negative emotions in a godly, healthy way?
One of my recent favorite books, Peter Scazzero’s book, Emotionally Healthy Sprituality, has had a tremendous impact on me when it comes to emotions. (I feel like I underlined the whole book!) He writes,
“To feel is to be human. To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of God. To the degree that we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others, and ourselves well.”
Being made in God’s image means we are emotional beings so we can embrace all our emotions.
Here’s a list of some negative emotions that are sometimes hard for us:
Hurt, anger, irritation, discouragement, fear, anxiety, depression, humiliation, sadness, grief.
How do you feel reading that list? In the past that list was hard for me to read. But as I’ve learned healthy and godly ways of processing my emotions, I am feeling more comfortable with dealing with these.
Here’s some healthy habits I’ve adopted:
If you’ve been following me, you know I’m a big journaler. It’s a way for me to process. Sometimes just the act of writing loosens my thoughts, and then my emotions. If that’s not your thing, that’s okay!
Does anyone else feel bad for feeling bad? I’ve learned not to feel bad about my negative feelings, and so can you. A journal is a safe place to get all that negative stuff out.
Share with Jesus
God can handle all of us, including our negative feelings.
In Psalm 62:8, we read, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (NASB).
The Hebrew word for “pour out” means to spill forth; to gush out.
Have you gushed out your feelings in prayer with Jesus? That’s exactly what He invites us to do.
Share with a loved one/friend
There is nothing like a trusted friend to share with. A good way to find a trusted friend is to be a trusted friend.
Reread Peter Scazzero’s statement above. To sum up, if we don’t embrace emotions, we will fail at loving God, others, and ourselves! Wow.
The practices above will help us avoid the two extremes of denying vs. venting our emotions.
Any other suggestions for handling our emotions?
I’d love to know!
Take good care,
Mel – this is an incredible reflection and I can relate on so many levels. I really love the part about expressing emotions and how it’s a part of being a image bearer of Christ. So good!
Thank you, Whitney. I think we’ve both grown in this area in the years we’ve known each other!
Such a great post and so relatable. It is in my natural to avoid negative emotions and feelings as well. What I have come to realize is how much this effects my health, mentally, emotionally, but also physically. I am a verbal processor, so it has been really important and helpful to me to have people in my life that I can trust and process with. Getting those negative feelings and emotions out has given them less power over me. Thank you for sharing this!
Yes, we Enneagram 7s – you – and 9s – me- we’d like to ignore those negative emotions.
You process with people and I process with my journal – plus friends. Both healthy practices!
So glad you’re one of my trusted friends.
Mel, thanks for this post. It is well written and the three reminders/practices/habits of sharing with Jesus, journaling, or sharing with a trusted friend are so good! Emotions are so complex and often catch us off guard. Psalm 62:8 is a good verse to
to use to re-center ourselves.
Thank you, Catherine, for your feedback! I like that word “re-center.” and how
true about catching us off guard. Thank you for being here!