Feelings give us two important things necessary for transformation: Information and Energy. Emotional information is critical in being able to live a relational lifestyle. Empathy, compassion, and sacrificial love are all fueled by our ability to be emotionally vulnerable. When we’re standing on the emotional river bank watching other people struggle with waves of feeling, our heart is not engaged. We shout out directions or vent our frustration with their process, but they cannot receive from us.
If we’re sitting in the other person’s boat, we become overwhelmed with their feelings and codependently take on their burdens. A healthy lifestyle is where we navigate our own boat through the river of life with God as our Captain, allowing others to pull alongside us with encouragement, and empathetically supporting others ourselves.
When feelings are shut off or dismissed, we miss out on valuable information God uses to reveal personhood. We’re not created as “one size fits all” people. Just as God created multiple varieties of birds, animals, and plants, He created each of us as unique and special. Wanting to feel special is one of the core longings God instilled in our soul. When this message isn’t communicated from our parents, we shut down our feelings and often go into victim-mode. Owning our feelings allows God to show us how we respond to the world in our own, unique way. Knowing what shuts me down emotionally allows me to protect myself in a healthy way from harmful people and situations.
Clients ask me how to clearly hear from God, wanting to know how to discern God’s plan for their life. There’s no way to establish walkie talkie communication with God without being an excellent student of our emotions. Feelings allow God to communicate through the Holy Spirit to our soul. I spend a lot of time with God discussing how I experience people. Every time I talk with a new client, I’m trying to open myself up to how I feel in their presence, what they say, what they talk about, and what God shows me about their heart attitude. I ask the Holy Spirit to sort through all my thoughts and feelings and give me insight into the client’s character and discernment about whether we will be a good fit for each other. I get a red light/green light sense in my gut that I’ve learned is God speaking to me.
Learning to correctly interpret our emotions is a trial and error process. Most of us are much more comfortable living in fear, relying on black and white facts to make sure we are “right.” Giving up the illusion of certainty is brutal. It feels like God is asking us to jump off a cliff without knowing how far we will fall.
Trust in the transformation process gives you courage. Most of us desperately cling to certainty for safety, but living free is about risk. I began stepping out in small ways to find out if I could trust my gut. When I got a red light feeling about a person, I asked more questions and watched their life for a while. It really did became clear what God was communicating to me. I became bolder, asking people if they had certain thoughts or felt a particular way, and usually they agreed with my discernment. When I missed the mark, I learned it wasn’t a fatal, catastrophic failure but a learning experience.
Emotions also give us energy to overcome fear. In some households, anger was used to overpower, intimidate, and harm. But emotions can be used positively to push through fear barriers. I’ve read amazing accounts where adrenaline provided people the physical strength and courage to act in a crisis. King David was the only one able to harness his outrage and use it to step out on the battlefield and challenge Goliath.
When I need to have a difficult conversation, I first squeeze out all the worry and fear. Venting all my knee-jerk self-protective defenses allows me to anchor to what God has shown me is true. John 8:32 says that God’s truth will set us free. I now know what freedom feels like, so I can use that knowledge to give me the needed boost to enter into that scary conversation with courage and confidence.
Graphic used by permission from Creative Commons (Office.com)