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Nov 19

How to Express Our Emotions

2015 at 8:48 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions

How does a mature Christian handle her emotions? “Keep a tight lid on them” is the answer many of us might offer. But this intuitive reaction is not God’s prescription. He made us in his image, and he gave us emotions. Suppressing our feelings goes against his good design. That’s why it doesn’t work so well. Instead, God gives us a better way to handle our emotions. We are to pray. Rather than suppressing our emotions we are to express them to God. Instead of denying or ignoring our feelings, we are to bring them to the throne of grace.

The Psalms—indeed all of Scripture—is full of countless examples, but let’s consider one today: the story of Hannah. As you know, Hannah was barren and unkindly treated by her husband’s second wife, Peninnah (1 Sam. 1:5-6). She was overwhelmed by wave upon wave of tempestuous emotions. She was so upset she could not eat (1:7).

Did Hannah bottle up all of those bad feelings and put on a good front? Did she deny the bitterness and pain in her heart? No, Hannah’s painful feelings compelled her to pray.

”[Hannah] was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” (1:10)

Hannah prayed to the Lord. Her misery drew her to God.

Here we have a vivid illustration of the usefulness of unpleasant feelings. Bad emotions can have a beneficial role in our lives when they compel us to pray.

Charles Spurgeon highlights this point:

“Observe, that through her sorrowful spirit, Hannah had learned to pray. I will not say but what she prayed before this great sorrow struck her, but this I know, she prayed with more intensity than before when she heard her rival talk so exceedingly proudly, and saw herself to be utterly despised….Thus bitterness of spirit may be an index of our need for prayer and an incentive to that holy exercise.”

Hannah’s sorrow was the incentive to pour out her soul before God. Hannah rightly handled her miserable feelings. She didn’t allow her miserable feelings to drive her away from God; instead, they were the impetus to turn to God for help. So too our miserable feelings: they should drive us to God, they should compel us to pray.

Prayer is absolutely essential if we are to rightly handle emotions. If we expect to keep our emotions from wreaking havoc on our lives, then we must pray!

Dr. R.C. Sproul makes this assertion about prayer: “Prayer does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important thing it changes is us… Prayer changes us profoundly.”

Prayer changed Hannah profoundly. God changed her heart through prayer and subsequently her feelings changed. And as we know, Hannah’s emotions changed rather dramatically. She went from being “deeply distressed” at the outset of her prayer to being “no longer sad” by the end (1:18).

Pour Out Your Soul

Hannah’s prayer wasn’t some lifeless, dutiful, half-hearted prayer. It was an honest, fervent, “meet God where you are” kind of prayer. There were tears with this prayer. Lots of tears.

As the tears spilled out, Hannah spilled out her soul to the Lord. So emotional was Hannah’s prayer that Eli, the high priest, mistook them for drunken mutterings and wrongly accused Hannah of being intoxicated (1:13-14).

Hannah assured Eli that she was not under the influence of alcohol, but in a state of prayer: “I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord” she told him.

Did God condemn Hannah for her emotional prayer? Quite the opposite! He put her in Scripture as an example of a woman we should follow. It was Eli—the one who looked down his nose at Hannah’s emotional prayers—with whom God was displeased.

Hannah unburdened her soul before the Lord. She did, as Charles Spurgeon put it: “Turn[ed] the vessel of [her] soul upside down in [God’s] secret presence, and let [her] inmost thoughts, desires, sorrows, and sins be poured out like water.”

She poured out everything to God.

We can only imagine the lightness of soul Hannah must have felt after she poured out all the grief and resentment that had been pent-up in her soul for so long!

When we suppress our emotions, it weighs us down. It’s as if we are lugging around a heavy bag with us wherever we go. We all know what happens if we have to carry that bag for an extended period of time: The longer we carry it, the heavier it feels.

So it is with an overwhelmed soul. The longer we bear it, the heavier it feels.

The longer we ignore our sin and suppress our sorrow, the more weighed down we become. The bitter emotions only grow stronger. The depressing feelings only get more intense.

That’s why we should pray. There is no simpler, better way to find help for our overwhelmed souls than to pray. There is no other means whereby we experience relief from our sorrows and forgiveness for our sins than to pray.

That is why James instructed the believers to whom he was writing with these words: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (5:13)

Let me turn James’ question on us: Is there anyone here suffering? Is there anyone here whose soul is weighed down? Maybe you are burdened by a severe trial you are walking through. Possibly you are distressed about a particular sin you can’t seem to overcome. Or maybe you feel depressed and you are not even sure why.

If so, may I encourage you to pray?

Let’s pour out our souls before God. No matter how we are feeling, God wants to hear from us. He wants us to tell Him everything that’s on our hearts—to hold nothing back.

Nov 16

52Home Calendars Are Back

2015 at 12:46 pm   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under 52home

52home Calendars are back in time for Christmas! Available now in the 52home store are two new calendars for the New Year. Choose from urban doors and windows featuring inspiring hymns or floral vignettes featuring prayers of faithful women from the past. Each calendar contains 12 individual 5x7 prints and the unbound pages provide endless display options: framed, pinned to a bulletin board, hung with clothes pins, displayed on an easel or attached to the fridge! And when a month is over, simply trim off the calendar portion of the print and you have a 5x5 photograph which can be framed or mounted.

Hymns Calendar

Prayers Of Faithful Women Calendar

Nov 10

Should We Suppress Our Emotions?

2015 at 9:57 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions

(Editor’s note: Last year we wrote several posts about helping children handle their emotions. Here are a couple of thoughts for grown-ups on the same topic.)

Many of us have the impression that emotions are bad. Some were raised in families where people didn’t express much emotion. No one ever said it was wrong to cry or to get too excited about something. But then again, no one ever did.

Quite a few people are raised in a culture where “too much emotion” is frowned upon. Like one woman from the UK who says she is speaking very generally, but “I’m British so we have a stiff upper lip that is part of our DNA. Anything else would seem false or forced to us.”

Maybe you were made fun for crying on the playground, or mocked for your exuberance or your laugh. Whatever the situation, we all know what its like to get the message from other people: your emotions aren’t welcome here.

Even if you grew up with a more positive view of emotions from your parents and culture, you may still have gotten the idea from some Christian books or sermons that feelings were a sign of immaturity.

No matter what our background, most of us don’t realize that negative views of emotion have an ancient history. Aristotle and the Stoics believed that “if you feel good about something you have nullified the virtue of it.” These ideas have profoundly influenced the history of emotional thought.

While more recently, freedom of expression is celebrated in popular American culture, it is also seen as a hindrance to success. In particular for women, whose emotions are particularly unwelcome in the workplace. And it is often frowned upon in the church where a legitimate fear of excessive emotionalism leads many to avoid emotion all together.

“You almost get the feeling,” writes Matthew Elliot of philosophers, “that emotions should be kept in cages, like lions at the zoo—nice to walk past and look at, but better left locked up.”

Lock ‘em up is what many of us do. We press them down, stifle our feelings, suppress any emotional expression. We tell our friends to do the same. Keep calm and carry on. Chill. Relax. Keep a stiff upper lip. Put on your game face. Try to be cool.

We suppress our feelings because it feels like the safe thing to do. It provides protection from the ridicule and rejection of others. It makes us feel a little bit like we are in control of our confusing emotions, which frankly, can be a little frightening at times. It feels like the mature or godly thing to do. Telling us we shouldn’t suppress our feelings is like opening up the cages and letting all the wild animals escape. How can that be a good thing?

“The response of some Christians” writes theologian D.G. Benner “has been to suppress emotional expression. However, such emotional suppression is not only the cause of many psychological problems, it should probably also be seen as a sinful response to emotion in that it violates God’s intentions.”

Emotions aren’t bad. Suppressing emotions is bad because it “violates God’s intentions.” You see, God, is an emotional Being who created us to be like him, to reflect his image (Gen. 1:27). He is not glorified when we suppress or stifle our emotions. He is not pleased when we view feelings as inherently bad or defective.

Stifling emotions is not only wrong, it is dangerous. It is the cause, as Benner points out, of “many psychological problems.” AW Tozer agrees:

“Be sure that human feelings can never be completely stifled. If they are forbidden their normal course, like a river they will cut another channel through the life and flow out to curse and ruin and destroy.”

Because emotional suppression runs contrary to God’s design, it wreaks havoc in our lives. Feelings that are suppressed do not disappear; they burst their bonds and rush forth to ruin and destroy.

We all know the mess a burst emotional pipe can make. Ulcers and migraines. Family feuds. “She finally snapped,” we say. Emotions that are stifled and suppressed—contrary to God’s design—are the source of significant trouble in our lives. Sometimes, after years of stuffing their emotions way down inside, people either “lose it” altogether or instead lose the ability to feel much at all.

Be comforted that God has not left us at the mercy of our emotions. He didn’t give us a gift that is wild and uncontrollable and then tell us we’re wrong to try and tame it. No, he has given us all the wisdom and instruction we need in his Word to help us deal with our emotions in a manner that glorifies him.

So often, and especially with our emotions, we choose a course of action based on past experience instead of God’s Word. We have bad experiences with emotions and so we decide that feelings must be bad. We get rejected because of our emotions and so we conclude that feelings are best kept under wraps. But God wants us to set aside our experiences and return to his Word to learn how to deal with our emotions.

For those of you who have found some degree of safety in suppressing your emotions, God wants you to know that he has a better way. He wants to put faith and courage in your heart. He is the one who gave us emotions and he has told us how to handle them, in a way that results in freedom and in joy.

Others of you may worry that we are opening up all the cages to wild and uncontrolled emotions. Are you really advocating that everyone just express how they feel whenever they feel it? Of course not! If you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time you know us better than that. Rather, we want to encourage everyone to take a fresh look at what Scripture says about our emotions. In the next couple posts we’ll consider one way God helps us to properly handle our emotions.