Tuesday, March 10, 2015

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1

I don't know about you, but I struggle with expressing my feelings. Sometimes I keep too much inside until it overflows and is more than I or anyone else can reasonably handle. Sometimes I worry that expressing how I really feel will cause rejection or hurt. Sometimes I think that my feelings don't matter or that ultimately there's no reason to express them. Sometimes I think that it's wrong to give in to my pain, that I should be able to triumph over it, that in comparison to others, I should just get over my shallow or petty feelings. Sometimes I realize that it's okay to feel what I feel and even express what I feel...but this doesn't tend to happen as often.

While I'm more than willing to listen to someone else express their feelings and would never make them feel bad or wrong to express them - I don't do the same for myself. I have all the patience, encouragement, empathy and love for my friends and family, but I tell myself to hold back or to get over it or to pretend that everything is okay when it's really not. Do you ever struggle with that? I hope it's not just me.

“There’s no ‘should’ or ‘should not’ when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.” ~ Mister Rogers

Oh, how I love Mister Rogers! I know he's known for working with and speaking to children, but aren't we all just children at heart? I know that anytime I read his words I feel so understood, so encouraged, so loved. I think he helps me to feel brave.

“I have always called talking about feelings ‘important talk.’ Knowing that our feelings are natural and normal for all of us can make it easier for us to share them with one another.” ~ Mister Rogers

In my head, I know we have every right to our feelings. We really can't control how we feel, however, we can always control how we act or react. And I know it isn't wrong to share our feelings with others - if they've hurt us or scared us, if we're worried or stressed, if we feel anger or sadness. Sometimes it's good to wait until our feelings no longer overwhelm us, but other times the only way we can be truly honest is in the midst of our strong feelings. I don't always do this because I worry so much about saying or doing something hurtful or cruel or that I don't really mean. But I have also had experiences with being able to share my raw honest feelings, and the end result was so much better than I could have ever imagined.

“It’s good to talk about things that make you feel uncomfortable. Getting them out gives you a lot of freedom. It allows you to move around inside your life and get comfortable.” ~ Robin Jones Gunn

I hate to be uncomfortable. I hate to feel awkward. I dislike confrontation and never want to argue. But life is full of uncomfortable, awkward confrontations and arguments are bound to happen. But if I'm too afraid to express myself, to be real and honest with people - especially the people I love who love me too - then our relationships can never deepen and grow and become all they can be. This of course comes back to fear - fear of being the "only one," fear of being rejected, fear of being hurt, fear of being different, fear of people's opinions and so many other fears. I know I'm not supposed to live in fear, I know that God call us to a life of community with others and especially with Him, I know these things...but I struggle. We all struggle.

“Whenever I’m afraid, I will trust in [God]” ~ Psalm 56:3

Last year, when I was reading through my Bible I fell in love with Psalms. For many reasons, this book was such an encouragement and balm to my hurting soul. I got so many encouraging, joyful, and soul-strengthening promises to cling to and I was reminded that God created us and He created us with a full range of emotions. And it's okay to feel all of those emotions, and to express all of those emotions. The Psalms reminded me that, like David, I can swing from the highest heights of love and peace in Him, to the deepest depths of sorrow and anguish and pain, to the burning furies of anger and resentment and desire for our enemies to suffer. The key is to bring it all to God, to share our joys and pains and anger with Him. To allow Him to remind us of His promises, to soothe our hurts, to lessen our anger, to share our joy. He just wants us to be honest with Him.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we’re not alone.” 
~ Mister Rogers

The people that God brings into our lives are also a way we can safely express those feelings and emotions. When we are able to be honest and real with others, we begin to see that we aren't alone, we aren't the "only one" and that by being in community we can be reminded of God's promises when we might not be able to remember them on our own. I'm so incredibly grateful for the very special family and friends that God has blessed me with because I have learned so much about myself, about community and most importantly, about God by these relationships and the trust and love found in them.

“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”
~ Romans 15:1-2

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.” ~ Galatians 6:9-10

I'm so thankful for the people who have stepped in to my life to encourage me, to support me, to remind me of the promises of God and the ways that He has worked in their lives and in my life. And I'm thankful for the blessing it can be to be that person to someone who is struggling, who needs encouragement and strength in their time of struggle. God works in so many mysterious ways, and one of those is the beauty of how He brings lives together. How wonderful that we aren't all struggling at the same time or even joyful at the same time...because we are always in flux, there is always someone we can encourage in the faith and thankfully someone who can encourage us in the faith.

“Maybe life’s pretty good for you right now. God has given you this good stuff so that you can show the world a person who enjoys blessings, but who still is totally obsessed with God. Or maybe life is tough right now, and everything feels like a struggle. God has allowed hard things in your life so you can show the world that your God is great and knowing Him brings peace and joy, even when life is hard.” ~ Francis Chan


This isn't to say that we can't feel alone. This is definitely something that I think we all struggle with one way or another. But even when we don't feel Him, God is always there with us. He will never leave us or forsake us, but that doesn't mean we can't "feel" alone. I can't say that I know any solutions or perfect ways to deal with this, but what I do know and what I have to cling to is that we are never truly alone. God is always there and the more we turn to Him and cling to Him and are honest with Him, the better off we are. It won't necessarily solve the pain and hurt, but it's a start and God won't leave us unfinished.

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” ~ 1 Peter 4:12-13

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

One of my goals this year is to be mindful of my relationships. To make time to keep in touch. To find ways to spend time together. To reach out. One of the ways to do this is to send cards. Another is to set phone dates with those who live too far away to get together. Or find the finances to visit those who live far away. To have lunch or dinner with those who live close by. To pay attention. To pray more and reach out to those who might be hurting. Something a little bit harder for me is to be more open about my thoughts and feelings - to be more real and honest, to take a risk and be brave, to not be afraid to be who I am even if it might lead to loss or rejection or hurt. Another thing that I struggle with is wanting to be able to fix things, to always have an answer, to take away someone's hurt and pain. But I can't do this, and often even if I might have some answers, it may be better to just be. I love this quote from one of my favorite theologians - it speaks to my heart and encourages me to be this for those I love and appreciate this about the ones who love me.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.  ~Henri Nouwen

I think that part of the beauty of this quote is that this is often what God does for us - He shares our pain, touches our wounds with His nail-scarred hands, He sits silently in our despair and confusion, stays with us through our grief and bereavement, but (and this is one of those glorious life-changing buts) He is powerful, He does know and He can heal. He is the best friend we will ever have and His love for us never changes even when we cycle through the full range of emotions that He has given us. He can handle our rage and pain, He can handle our hurt and confusion, and He loves to share our joy and wonder. When I think about feelings in this way, it makes me wonder why I struggle so much. But I know that even when I struggle, He is there and He understands and He will get me through it. God is good all the time and the feelings He created in us and not something to be afraid of, but something we should always feel comfortable sharing with Him. And like Mister Rogers says, "When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary."

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for creating feelings and allowing us the opportunity to feel such an amazing range of emotions. Help us to come to You with our fears and hurts and joys, and know that we aren't alone. Help us to “Be completely humble and gentle: be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3) Help us to remember that even when we are hurt, it doesn't give us reason to lash out. Help us to remember that when we are in pain, to seek comfort and peace with You. Help us to remember to thank You for the joys and beauty in the world around us. Thank You God for always being there for us and for providing people in our lives to help encourage us in our faith. Thank You for loving us. We love you too. Amen.

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