girltalk Blog

Feb 15

Surviving the Winter Blues

2017 at 6:50 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions

It’s February in Louisville, and we haven’t seen the sun for more than ten minutes all winter. The air is wet and cold, the kids are sniffly, and it’s the time of year when you just feel blah. So what do you do with these feelings? How do you escape the blanket of depression that settles over many of us this time of year? Wait until Spring? Binge on Netflix? Go shopping?

Getting rid of the winter doldrums is the subject of a lot of conversation this time of year. Some suggest you can buy a happy lamp or maybe exercise more. You may have seen the buzz about what the Danish call “hygee”—their secret to happiness despite almost year round winter. But as Christians, we have a secret of our own. We don’t just have a better way to handle the winter blues; we don’t just apply a more “spiritual” solution to the problem. We know why God gave us feelings in the first place. And because we know why we have emotions, we know what do with them.

Emotions are from God. That much is clear. He is the one who created us with the capacity to feel happy and sad, fearful and hopeful. God gave us emotions so that we might know him more fully. And so that we might experience and respond to the world that he created. Now sin got in and created a mess of things. It damaged the world we live in and our emotional response to everything that happens around us. Thus, on the minor end of things, we have the winter blues.

In this past year of studying emotions and feelings, we’ve learned one thing for sure: emotions are complicated. You can’t always figure out where your feelings come from or why they shift all of a sudden, or why they won’t leave at all. Maybe it is the winter weather. Or it could be my hormones. Or am I’m finally going crazy over here? Tracing the varied sources of every emotion is a fruitless endeavor. We may never know. But we can always know where emotions are supposed to take us. Our feelings should always move us back to God.

So what do we do when winter weather seems to drag our feelings down? James says it as clear as anyone: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (5:13). In other words, whatever you feel, move to God. If you feel sad, pray to God. If you feel happy, sing to God. Don’t hesitate, don’t put it off, don’t wallow in your yucky feelings. Move to God! Feelings—high and low—should drive and propel us to God’s Word, to prayer, and to church. Our confusing, unpleasant emotions should cause us to cry out to God for grace.

And so, a blue winter mood can actually be a glorious opportunity. A chance to turn to God. You see, our depressed feelings reflect the reality that this world cannot satisfy our restless hearts. The winter doldrums remind us that we were created for something more. Our joyless days reveal that we may have been seeking our joy in something other than God. Often, it’s not until we feel the coldness of our hearts that we become aware of our need for the warmth of God’s grace.

But if we move to God, the winter blues can be transformed into a season of grace. Our frigid hearts can blaze brightly with the fire of love for Christ, once again. When we cry out to God, he revives our feelings of love for Christ which have grown cold. We must not let a depressed mood drive us deeper into listless self-pity and self-absorption. We shouldn’t let the winter blues pull us into an online coma or a tv show binge. Rather, our depressed emotions should be a marvelous motivator. A catalyst to drive us to God.

Winter won’t last forever. One day soon the hot summer sun will shine and we’ll probably (to our shame!) be complaining about the infernal heat. But even more certain is what will happen to the emotions of those who believe in Jesus Christ. One day, all of our feelings will coalesce and culminate in pure joy and love for God. We will know ecstatic raptures of his presence. And we don’t have to wait. We can warm our hearts in the glow of the gospel of Jesus Christ today. As the old hymn puts it, “I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face.”

How do you feel? There are, no doubt, as many shades and shadows of emotions, as there are women reading these words. But no matter what you are feeling, you can know one thing for certain: your feelings are intended to move you to God. Look to him in your restless despair. Praise him in your happiness. Thank God that through Jesus Christ you can come to him, no matter what you feel today. You can have a foretaste of the joy of heaven, even in “bleak midwinter.”

Feb 10

Why It’s Worth It

2017 at 8:16 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God | Gospel

To all of you who sent encouraging messages about us restarting girltalk, thank you! We have been so blessed to hear from you, and we’re excited to get started again. This blog really is a conversation; we enjoy receiving and responding to your questions and comments. Needless to say, book writing doesn’t provide the same kind of interaction, and we’ve missed you.

But we’ve also watched with dismay, along with all of you, at many of the cultural changes taking place in our world today. Hostility to the gospel has increased and intensified. The definition of marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman has been upended. The fabric of the family has been ripped to shreds. The most basic understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman created in the image of God has been chucked out the window. Most disturbing of all, we see some of these grievous trends making inroads into the church.

Teaching biblical womanhood in this day and age can sometimes feel like talking to the wind. So what’s the use? The four of us have talked about this together. And then this is the conversation we’ve been having around my house lately.

Me: “I might as well give up encouraging women in biblical womanhood. It’s a losing battle.”

My husband: “You can’t give up. You’ve got to do your ‘measly bit.’” (Something I once said, that he now likes to quote back to me.)

It’s not that I’m tired of talking about biblical womanhood. It’s not that I no longer think it’s important. But honestly, I have wondered at times: is it worth it? All around us the situation seems to be getting worse, not better.

Then it hit me. Rather than bemoan the awful that is happening all around, I must remember the glorious that has already happened: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Tit. 2:11). The grace of God has already appeared in the person of Jesus Christ! He has already died on the cross and risen from the dead for our sins. The glorious has already happened! And it is still happening. The grace of God that has appeared is still at work today: he is drawing men and women to himself, and he is “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Tit. 2:12).

He has given us a mandate: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

He has given us his presence: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

And he has given us a solemn charge: “Older women…are to teach what is good, and so train the young women” (Tit. 2:3-4).

So why is it worth it to keep teaching biblical womanhood?

...that the word of God may not be reviled (v. 5),

...that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us (v. 8),

...that in everything we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (v. 10).

It’s not like our mandate comes with a conditional clause. Give it a go, but if things get really bad, then you can stand down. Retreat is not an option. Too much is at stake. After all, it’s for the sake of the gospel that we must live and teach “what is good.” Things may be getting worse, it’s true. But we must be faithful to obey and leave the results to God.

I recently read this passage from Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle and found myself saying out loud: “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

“We have an awful lot of us Christian women in this country, and the road of feminine obedience is wide open. Not only that, we’ve stayed off of it for so long it is now completely unguarded. I believe that if we women decided, as a group, to take that road, we would knock a serious dent in the side of our culture’s rebellion. But the truth is, a movement of women doing this wouldn’t be terribly exciting or sexy. It wouldn’t involve marches or protests or petitions or lobbying or t-shirts or fun runs. It would involve a lot of women manning their own separate battle stations in their own lives, in their own families, in the day-to-day grind. It would involve disciplining ourselves in the small, seemingly inconsequential areas of our lives—what we admire, what we try to get good at, what we strive for, what we prioritize, what we love. It would involve faithfulness, obedience, and sacrifice. It wouldn’t seem like much. But one thing we know is that God loves to use the seemingly trivial things to accomplish staggering results. We may each feel like an insignificant little drop of water, and it may seem like the direction we take in our day-to-day lives doesn’t make any difference to anyone. But when all the drops of water move the same way, what is more powerful and unstoppable than a wave?”

This is why we decided to keep writing here at girltalk. To challenge ourselves and encourage you to “faithfulness, obedience, and sacrifice” so that we may adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ. It may not seem like much, but we are going to do our measly bit.

Feb 7

New Year, New Content

2017 at 8:02 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood

After almost a year hiatus—which sounds a whole lot more restful than it was—we’re excited to re-start the conversation here at girltalk. We never meant to stop, actually. What we thought was going to be a short break to finish up our book on feelings turned into nine months of intense rewrites. But we’re wrapping up final edits now (phew!) and looking forward to a good long chat with you again.

The unplanned pause gave us a chance to consider—with the glut of online content these days, should we continue writing on this spot? We don’t have special talent or creativity, but we do have the same desire to encourage women in their every day lives as when we started writing girltalk over ten years ago. Besides, the four of us still talk all the time, and we missed having you in the conversation. So here, once again, you’ll find the same simple thoughts from one mom and three daughters as we encourage each other to faithfully follow the Savior. If it serves you in some small way, we’ll be thrilled.

One new thing we’re starting is a monthly (or so) newsletter which includes all the content from the previous few weeks, along with a more personal update, stray thoughts and quotes we didn’t include in our weekly writing, books we’re reading, funny stuff we’ve run across, and maybe (if it’s really good) what we’re cooking. So, if you don’t want to miss out on what’s happening here at girltalk, you can sign up using the link on our sidebar and you’ll hear from us by the end of each month.

For now, it’s good to be back. Thanks to all of you who asked. Hope you enjoy the new content!

The girltalkers

Feb 2

Going Out and Coming In

2016 at 9:23 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your

coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8, ESV)

“To be kept from all evil does not imply a cushioned life, but a well-armed one. The psalm ends with a pledge which could hardly be stronger or more sweeping.

Your

going out and your coming in is not only a way of saying ‘everything’; it draws attention to one’s ventures and enterprises and the home which remains one’s base; to pilgrimage and return; to the dawn and sunset of one’s days. But the last line takes good care of this journey. It would be hard to decide which half of it is the more encouraging: the fact that it starts from now, or that it runs on, not to the end of time but to time without end; like God Himself who is my portion for ever.” ~Derek Kidner

Jan 20

“I Cannot Trust My Husband When He Tells Me How Beautiful I Am”

2016 at 8:18 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

One time, after I finished speaking to a group of women on true beauty, a woman approached me and said: “That’s all fine and good, God’s perspective on beauty. And I believe it is true. But the reality is, that’s not the message my husband receives from our culture about beauty.”

She was worried: as she was getting older, her physical beauty was fading. It troubled her that her husband, like every other man in our society, was constantly bombarded with images idealizing youth and physical beauty.

Not to mention that her husband wasn’t at the women’s meeting to hear a message on biblical beauty. It’s not that he had given her a specific reason to worry; she just appraised the situation and thought it sufficient cause for concern.

Ours is a culture that unfairly holds women to an ideal standard of physical beauty. Since it is a kind of beauty most of us will never attain, and will certainly never be able to maintain, we may worry about how we are going to hold onto our husbands’ affection and attraction.

This is a recurring concern I hear as I interact with women about beauty. They wonder if they are still as beautiful to their husbands as their bodies change after childbirth and as they grow older.

“It Drives My Husband Crazy”

Even if their husbands attempt to reassure them, some women continue to worry:

“I have a problem with accepting that my husband finds me as beautiful as he says he does,” admits Stephanie.

This fear, along with our refusal to believe our husbands when they tell us we are beautiful, can cause tension in a marriage.

“I struggle with the fear I’m getting fat all the time. It drives my husband crazy writes Briana.

Jen says the same: “I don’t understand why I cannot trust my husband when he tells me how beautiful I am! It’s so annoying to him when I say, ‘You have to say that.’”

Friends, if there is one thing that frustrates a man, it is a wife who won’t believe him on this point. Men don’t like to feel as if they can never say or do enough to convince us that they appreciate our beauty. We do our marriages a disservice when we judge our husbands by failing to take them at their word.

But how do we deal with this fear that plagues so many of us?

The Cure for All Our Fears

We must trust God for our husbands.

God brings a man and woman together in marriage. He put affection in our husbands’ hearts for us, and he has a good plan for our marriages. This is not to say that we won’t face challenges, even severely painful ones. But no matter what trials we meet in our marriages, God will work them for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28).

God is not distant from our marriages. He did not set them in motion only to leave them to run on their own. He is “a very present help” in marriage trouble (Ps. 46:1): present to care, strengthen, and comfort us, no matter our difficulties, big or small.

Confidence in God’s personal involvement and tender care frees us from fear. Our hope is not in our husbands or in our beauty, but in the character of God, the constancy of his affections, and the surety of his purposes.

How To Become More Beautiful

Here’s where it gets amazing: The more we trust God, the more attractive we become. A gentle and quiet spirit adorns the whole woman, making her beautiful from the inside out. Her lack of anxiety, restlessness, and neediness, her carefree confidence in God’s goodness makes her more lovely as the years go by.

This beauty is so profound, it can even attract unbelieving husbands to the gospel; they can be “won without a word” by the beauty of a wife’s godly character (1 Pet. 3:1-2).

~Adapted from True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre

Jan 13

Who to Follow In the New Year

2016 at 9:27 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood

(The New Year presents a new temptation for me to sinfully compare my life and productivity to other people. This biblical counsel from my mom—which she first shared with me over a decade ago—still redirects my gaze to Christ. See a link to her excellent message on “The Snare of Compare” at the end of this post.)

Sinful Comparison: A Pain in the Neck

It’s January again, and social media is clogged with New Year wishes and resolutions, reminiscences of the year past and predictions about the year ahead.

But the New Year can come with an unexpected side effect: the crick in our neck that we can get from looking around at everyone else and worrying that maybe they’ve got it better than we do. With every glance at our Facebook feed, the strain gets worse, the knots tighten.

Maybe 2015 wasn’t such a great year for you. Maybe it was full of set backs and frustrations, disappointments and challenges. Yet it seems (if Facebook is to be believed) like everyone else had an exciting and successful year. Everyone else got married and had babies. Everyone else’s home business took off. They made new friends, had great vacations, and their kids excelled in school. Everyone else lost weight.

They have and we have not. The more we think about it, the more restless, anxious, and dissatisfied we feel.

In search of a cure, we may pour out our sorrows on social media, and watch the sympathy likes pile up; but somehow they never fill our empty love cup to its tippy top.

Or we protest (too much, methinks) that we don’t care a wit what people think; we’re proud of our messy house and messed up life. We call it “being real.” We may try to release the tension by taking jabs and digs at others. If we can’t feel better about ourselves, at least we can create some company for our misery.

It’s not that we resolve to bigger complaining and better envy in 2016, but when we start to sinfully compare, we’re well on our way. If we sow seeds of “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” at the start of the year, they are sure to sprout up as weeds that choke our growth in godliness the whole year through (James 3:14).

Our Savior graciously confronts our sinful comparison in John chapter 21. The scene is following his resurrection. He has just restored his disciple, Peter, and then he gives him the news: you will die a horrible death. We have a lot of sympathy for Peter, who strains his neck to look around at his buddy John and asks, “What about this man?” “What is that to you?”Jesus says to Peter. “You follow me.”

Our Savior’s loving rebuke echoes in our ears. He meant for it to. He meant for his words to protect us from sinful comparison that would distract us from our calling, stifle our growth in godliness, injure our relationships, dishonor his holiness, and make us miserable. And he invites us, or rather, commands us to “follow me.”

We follow him by meditating on his Word instead of longing for what others have, by taking whatever steps of obedience he requires from us today, and by rejoicing with others when they receive blessings from God. At the beginning of the New Year, let’s receive our Savior’s loving rebuke and gracious invitation.

Yes, everyone else may seem poised to be faster, better, prettier, smarter, and more successful in 2016, but “What is that to you? You follow me.”

{If you find yourself tempted to sinful comparison at the start of the New Year let me encourage you to watch this workshop.}

Dec 10

Christmas Expectations and Emotions

2015 at 8:38 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Gospel | Homemaking | Holidays

Christmas is about expectations. “Come thou long expected Jesus” was the prayer of God’s chosen people as they waited for the Messiah. In celebrating Advent, we enter into those expectations and rejoice in their fulfillment.

Sadly, we often load Christmas down with all kinds of other expectations. When people or presents don’t meet those expectations, we feel disappointed. Unrealistic expectations lead to unhappy emotions.

What should our expectations be this Christmas?

First, we should expect nothing. If we go into the holidays with zero expectations of how our husband will shop for us or how our children will behave or how our sister will treat us, our emotions will be unruffled by other people.

In other words, the best way to prepare our emotions for Christmas is to repent from idolatry. Remember, as John Calvin warned us, the evil of our desires is not so much in what we desire, but that we desire it too much. We often call these desires “expectations.” And where you have “disappointed expectations,” more often than not, you’ll find an idol lurking nearby.

When we do away with selfish expectations–or as the Bible likes to call them, “worthless idols”–we can expect joyful emotions this Christmas.

Secondly, we should expect trouble. For the Christian, trouble around the holidays should not be unexpected. Our Lord has promised that, “in this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33); and, to paraphrase my dad, “Sin doesn’t take a holiday.”

Expect that your children may be ungrateful or unruly or that your uncle may criticize your Christian convictions. Expect trouble this Christmas and you will be better prepared to handle it emotionally.

Our secular culture tries to ignore the reality of trouble around the holidays, covering their eyes with sentimentality:

“Have yourself a Merry little Christmas,

May your heart be light

From now on our troubles will be out of sight…

From now on our troubles will be miles away…”

For the Christian, our troubles will be miles away and out of sight—one day. But that is the promise of heaven, not Christmas. Unless the Lord returns or calls us home, trouble is an ever-present reality, sometimes especially so at Christmastime.

Christmas is about celebrating the fulfilled expectation of Christ come to earth, even as we wait in expectation of his glorious return. As we celebrate the “already” we must also expect the “not yet.”

But our expectations shouldn’t end in despair. Because of Christmas, we can also expect grace. Christ has come! God is with us! Hebrews 2 highlights our spectacular Christmas expectations, made possible because of Jesus Christ:

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

He is able to help! He is able to help us respond graciously and courageously to our antagonistic uncle. He is able to help us train our children. He is able to help us put off worthless idols and find our joy in Him. In our Christmas troubles and temptations, we can expect the help of the incarnate God. God is with us and God is with us to help. He has made propitiation for every sin. He is able to help us to resist every emotional temptation. His presence is our comfort in every trouble.

When we set our Christmas expectations on Christ, we will be full of joy unspeakable.

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 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.

Oct 22

The Good Kind of Comparison

2015 at 8:31 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

We see them when we walk into a room or stroll through a crowd: the women who are prettier than we are. They are everywhere, aren’t they?

Women have special powers of observation that enable us to instantly spot a woman with a prettier face, a more attractive figure, cuter clothes, or more of a flair for style than we do. We tend to rank everyone we meet on our own private beauty scale—placing them somewhere above or below ourselves.

Comparison is a common trap for women, and it can quickly turn into complaining. I wish I had a gorgeous head of hair like she does. I wish I were as skinny as her. She always wears such attractive clothes. I wish I could afford to dress like that. If only I were tall like her. If only I had her pretty face. Obsessive comparing and complaining leads to envy, and envy, as we know, makes us bitterly unhappy.

Why are we so unhappy that we don’t have so-and-so’s figure or that other girl’s face? It is most likely because we want the attention she receives for ourselves.

Instead, we must repent and choose to trust God. We must recall that it is God has decided what we look like and what every other woman looks like too. When we remember that He has ordained our beauty “lot” we can receive it as truly pleasant (Ps. 16:5–6). We can cease stressing, striving, and comparing.

In 1 Peter 3, God teaches us to trust him by giving us a different group of women to look at. Instead of picking out the prettiest girls in the room and marking them for resentment, we are to look to the godliest women:
These are the heroines, the company of holy women of the past who trusted in God. Instead of comparing our physical appearance to other women, we should be measuring our hidden beauty next to these women, and striving to be like them.

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:5–6).

Here’s the good news: while most of us will never be the prettiest girl in the room, we can, by the grace of God, become like these holy women. When we cast off comparison and clothe ourselves with a gentle and quiet spirit, we can become beautiful children of Sarah.