We all like to feel happy, excited, joyful, and relaxed. But what about the emotions like sadness, anger, fear, or discouragement? These are much harder. Yet God has created us as creatures with a full range of emotions. How do we express and share them well?
There is a time and place for every emotion
Can you imagine if you actually felt happy every day, all day, all the time? How annoying you would be to everyone you meet! You would miss so much depth and intimacy of life.
There are times in life when the feeling of sadness (or anger, or other hard emotions) are the only acceptable emotional response to a situation. Our grief and sadness after the loss of a loved one is a testimony to the depth of that loving relationship. Our anger in the face of injustice – from bullying at school to oppressive dictators in far-away countries – mirrors God’s anger. Hard emotions are good, real, and sometimes very powerful.
We experience intimacy with others as we share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences together. If your friend is sad, it is right to be sad with them. If unexpected tragedies keep happening around you, it is right to feel discouraged and unsettled. If you remained happy, this would be untruthful to the actual experience or actual relationship.
Sharing your emotions: Express them rightly
It is usually easy to express our feelings of happiness or excitement, but can be much harder to express discouragement, fear, or other hard emotions. But there are right, healthy, and helpful ways to express these difficult feelings. Tears are healing. Deep breaths can calm our heart rate. Anger can lead us to change things we don’t like.
You may find it helpful to dissect your discouragement in order to deal with it, or to follow Jesus’ example in bringing a lament to God when you are sad.
And don’t ignore the powerful community around you:
Ask for prayer and pray with people you care about. Share the details of what you are struggling with. Let them pray the words the Holy Spirit brings that your heart may be too heavy to speak.
Seek a friend for an activity or intentional time together. Friends can offer comfort, encouragement, history, and words of truth and love. And maybe you can share a few laughs.
Seek help if your hard emotions are interrupting or taking over your daily life. If you can’t get out of bed due to discouragement, seek help. If you can’t express anger without screaming or hitting, seek help. Help may come in the form of meeting with your pastor, joining a support group or a Bible study, or finding a counselor to help you work through the emotions.
Remember the Lord is in control and meditate on his word. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).
Emotions are part of how God created us – and in a healthy life, we will experience the full spectrum of these feelings. Recognize them, accept them, and share them well.