How are you?
It’s what we all say. People like me might be willing to give a longer answer, because sometimes you just want to spew it all out. But the reality is that most people aren’t interested in knowing more.
Someone once told me that if they are struggling they might reply with, “Oh, you know, there’s some clouds hanging around.” I’ve also said, “Not so great,” or replied with the shrug of a shoulder when the pain was heavy.
When I’m meant to be in a room full of people wearing masks which express a modicum of emotion, and I’ve had an especially pain filled day, I oblige with attempted fake smiles. They don’t hide me very well.
I’m odd though. I feel deeply and think a whole lot. Add to this, the level of freedom which continues to expand in my life. I could be a freight train for saying all the feeling things.
Y’all, I’m working on it. OK? If you ask me how I’m doing, I might spittle hurrahs or release a little sigh. Yet, I commit to restraining myself from unloading as if you’re the local depository.
Goodness, though. I see so many people walking around masking pain and masking their true selves.
Among those in genuinely happy seasons and knowing delightfully delirious days, I also see hurt people, wounded pasts, chains of self, and stories that would make us ache. I see people afraid to admit when life gets hard, or purposed to never entertain anything but the positive.
Praise God for all the good we can find. We need to see more good in this world. God is here and so is his goodness. I’m a firm believer in pursuing happiness as part of God’s holiness.
We also walk among people unaware of each others’ struggles and the brokenness inside our real selves.
My passion is fueled to see the power of God in hearts everywhere. To see his glory unfold and his people unleashed.
Maybe it is isn’t appropriate to share our inner feelings with those who casually intersect our lives. Yeah, probably not. Doing so is unwise, unsafe, and unnecessary.
But there has to be a place where it is safe, because eventually our masks slip and our true selves will be revealed. Where can we let this happen? Where can we let down in order to let it out?
Where can we find the disrobing of pretension in order to put on the possibility of God’s redemption?
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The best place to begin is with God and with ourselves.
Do we feel safe enough to choose honesty with the One who already knows?
How many Christ followers have doubts about whether or not God is as good as he says is, or if he’ll follow through on in his promises, or if he’s really still there and does he seriously care?
How many of us admit to having doubts, or to the wrestling of our faith? How many would be audacious enough to tell God we’re down right angry and we wish he’d just DO something, for the love of – himself?
That was me. Not admitting to the real feelings harbored deep.
I’ve loved God from a young age. I wanted to please Him and be pleasing to Him. In all my efforts, I missed really knowing Him in the intimate way my propped-up heart needed.
Those moments when all the walls of self came crashing in, and I was faced with admitting I couldn’t keep going like I was, those were also moments where I realized I didn’t trust God as much as I though I did. In fact, I was downright angry but too afraid to admit it.
A couple of years ago I sat down with my personal journal. Finally. I got honest. I put pen to paper and declared, “God, I’m angry with you!”
I’d freely tell others that God could take it and he already knew our hidden anger, hurts, and fears. I know he wants us to come into the light right where we are, where ever that may be.
I needed to know. I got out a whole host of pent up pain as I scribbled hard and wept.
The history of David, Job, and others show me how to pour out an honest complaint before God,
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” ~ Psalm 42:3
and in the end, in the midst of anguish, they find the strength to remind themselves of truth and proclaim it to be true.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and my are you at turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. ~ Psalm 42:11
Honesty opened the way to healing. The heaviness in my heart spilled out before a God who releases burdens.
Hide not from God and He will not hide His good for you. You may not see it today, but it is still there because it is a part of who He is and He never changes.
He will not turn away merely because you’re unable to see the good around you. Instead, he will help you walk through the paths of pain and bring newness to life within you.
For more choices you can make to live well, see the full series list here: https://joleneunderwood.com/31-choices-live-well/
If you're tired of trying to get the Christian life right and things keep not going right, it's time to cultivate a life well-lived. Not a perfect life, but a life that rests and relies on God's perfection. It's time to cultivate the things which bring life to the soul. Continue the journey by subscribing to the Culivated Life Newsletter.
The other day I posted a status update which wasn’t quite in line with my typical word sharing. It’s one I wondered about later. I wondered if it was wise or foolish, brave or stupid, and if I should have left alone the current hot topic of the day altogether. In the end, it wasn’t really a fit for my overall online presence but God used it to bring about something beautiful. For that I am truly grateful.
There are appropriate times for silence as well as times for a resounding voice. Knowing when to use which requires wisdom and discernment. The source of which is God.
My hope and prayer for all of us who call ourselves followers of Christ is that we will actually follow Christ. That we will learn to recognize His voice and faithfully run a race which honors Him.
I also recognize that how we do this varies, not because God varies but because our understanding is limited and rooted in so many factors, like personal experiences, strengths, weaknesses, spiritual growth, emotional growth, communication styles, fear, freedom and I could go on.
We all miss something about the way God works and who He is because we are finite and he is infinite. God is vast, beyond measure and no number of books, words, or video could ever explain Him fully.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been known.” ~ I Corinthians 13:12
Then, in our future home, we will know. Perhaps we will all realize how little we know now.
No matter what we think we know.
When I posted my status, I realized that it, in and of itself, it was unnecessary and not helpful for the overall vision I have with my presence on social media. In addition, I do not wish to engage in division among Christians. I do not wish to engage in verbal volleyball which becomes increasingly fierce and rarely concludes with any one winning.
I do, however, wish to write with passionate, bold humility about the things of Christ which I have come to know and which cause me to fall more in love with Him and experience greater freedom in Him.
Later, I posted a follow up status. Partially, I wrote to clarify why I stated what I did previously, but more importantly, I wrote a plea asking us all to remember that we are first and foremost called to love Christ. We are called to love others as we love Christ. In doing so, we must remember that we are all created in the image of Christ and we are all broken reflections of that image.
We need Christ’s work in our hearts. When we seek transformation personally we become a more beautiful reflection to the world collectively.
Pointing the fingers at each other and making snarky, snide, prideful comments in no way brings glory to Christ, no matter which side of an issue we stand on.
Some of us can and should speak our view points on hot topic issues. Some of us should refrain.
All of us can, and should, explore hard conversations lovingly in relationship with others. Not because we need to pursue the acceptance of our points, but because we pursue God who has accepted us. Therefore, we also pursue others.
We do so while recognizing we don’t have all the answers and neither do they. There is one source of truth – God.
We need the powerful love of the Father, the crazy redemptive sacrifice of the Son and the unbelievable powerful empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Daily. Minute by minute.
With this in mind, we can still misunderstand aspects of God’s Word while His truth remains unchangeable and His love steadfast forever. We must keep this in mind as we have conversations with one another in the love of Christ.
What does this look like?
My best understanding is that these three things helps us have conversations in love:
Bold humility seems contrary doesn’t it? Yet, that’s how God is. His ways are mysterious, but they work and they are best.
God delights in His creation. He calls us all into the state of knowing our brokenness and resting in His righteousness.
Broken & redeemed.
Regardless of personal views on the numerous hot topic causing division today, let’s remember we are all creations of our Creator. We are all flawed and beautiful at the same time.
Going forward it is unlikely I’ll say much, if anything, on hot topic issues. Not because I’m afraid to talk about it, but because I prefer to talk in person. I prefer to see someone’s eyes and to hear them speak from their heart as they see my eyes.
Like when I had the privilege of engage with another after my post. Let me tell you…beauty and brokenness lay bare between both of us and God met us there.
One broken conversation, bound by the love of Christ.
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.~ Ephesians 2:18-22
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My face squinted and I stopped short when I saw it. The blog post title said, “Emotions are liars.”
Although this phrase sparked head nodding conversation with others, I couldn’t agree to it. Something struck dissonance. I wasn’t able to verbalize why, just yet, but I knew I wanted to write my own blog post about why emotions are not liars. They are informers.
Months later, I also stopped short when scrolling through Twitter. I hadn’t interacted with Marc Schelske on social media before, but something got my attention this time. Marc was looking for supporters for his new book, The Wisdom of Your Heart.
Two immediate thoughts occurred.
Sill, I clicked through to learn more. The sub-title definitely intrigued me. Discovering the God-Given Power and Purpose of Your Emotions
I wondered what this guy had to say about emotions and what they tell us.
Every misgiving I had disappeared once I read the book. I devoured chapter after chapter on my Kindle, wishing I had a paperback copy to mark with highlights and notes. Since then, I’ve recommended it to several others and it’s been purchased by just as many men as women I know.
In the last couple of years, I’ve read a lot of books on emotions, emotional healing, emotional maturity, and how emotions tie to spiritual growth. I’ve also learned more about the way our brains work when it comes to the storing of emotions and emotional responses. This has been part of my healing and growth. It’s also awakened my dormant pursuit of Christian counseling and psychology studies, thus fueling my passion to help others become emotionally healthy as a part of their spiritual growth.
With all this learning, I was somewhat skeptical about reading anything new in The Wisdom of Your Heart.
I was wrong.
Sometimes being wrong is good.
Because of this book, I was able to better understand why that phrase about emotions being liars didn’t resonate with me. In the early chapters, Marc addresses four common myths Christians have about emotions and the first one is, emotions always lie. He says,
“…our core emotional responses are not lies. They are almost always telling us something true and important about our inner landscapes or outer circumstances.”
My passionate plea to all believers is to let the work of God continue in their lives beyond the point of salvation. I see so many Christians living stuck in ways I’m all too familiar with. One way is by reducing Christianity to head knowledge and deeds, void of dealing with any difficult emotion. Another, is to let difficult emotions cripple them from taking active steps of faith.
Emotions don’t need to take over our lives, but they must also not be ignored. They are God-given and play a vital role in the whole of who we are as image bearers.
Facing difficult emotions gives us an opportunity to reflect on our inner world. When we do so in partnership with God, and we respond to the work He wants to do in us, we find His power transforming us from the inside out. Thus, life long change occurs.
I get why people say emotions (feelings) are liars. I do. When we experience difficult emotions, like anger, hurt, sadness, anxiety, depression, we usually have thoughts that coincide with them. We need the truth of God to speak louder than the negative playlist in our heads. Those thoughts are part of the narrative that speaks untruth to our souls and our thoughts impact how we feel. Thus, we need to renew our mind daily as Paul says in Romans 12:2. This helps us from a downward cycle of difficult emotion, destructive thoughts, more painful experiences and less freedom, then more difficult emotions.
However, it is important to understand that the emotions are not what’s untrue. Even though our filters for understanding them is often unclear and sometimes destructive.
The process of experience – emotion – thought – action seems like one fixed event. Therefore, if we feel angry because someone cut us off on the highway, we might believe that the feeling is what lies to us when we think things like, “that jerk!” In this case, our response is an unhealthy response. But the feeling of anger isn’t what’s lying to us. It’s the narrative thoughts that follow and the underlying beliefs we already hold.
Marc says the emotional response sequence is really more like four separate but connected events. He explains further in the third section of the book which talks about the neuroscience and physiology behind emotions and action.
These topics aren’t always easy to consider, because we all want to avoid difficult emotions. However, when we take the time to lean into what our emotions are telling us, we find a God who is transforming us.
I could go on, but I’m going to stop here. Marc and I talked a whole lot more in the interview below. He shares his story behind the book and I share some of mine as it relates to emotional unhealth. We also talk about how Christians respond to one another during times of emotional distress and how we can do a better job of listening and loving.
Learn about emotional maps, myths, our emotional God, what happens physiologically when we experience certain emotions, how we can lean into the underlying issues going on internally so real growth can occur, and the tools Marc provides to help Christians grow emotionally healthy.
Before you go, don’t forget to enter the giveaway on the blog! Marc has graciously offered to send out TWO copies of his book.
Whether you win or not, you won’t want to miss his FREE valuable resources found on his websites listed below.