All feelings are okay. It’s how we let them out that makes them safe or harmful.
This is a phrase that I’ve used for years in my work with children. As we face this current pandemic crisis, I think it is important that we practice this, both children and adults. Let’s be honest, there are a TON of feelings we have going on right now – scared, worried, confused, angry, sad, concerned, happy, afraid, grateful, irritated, trapped, and the list goes on. It can feel a bit crazy making and confusing to have such a variety of feelings. I can hear the tune about mixed up feelings from PBS’s show “Daniel Tiger” playing in the background of my mind, “Sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time, and that’s okay.”
Can we pause and give ourselves permission, give our children permission, to have mixed up feelings right now? This is normal and this is allowed. We are created in the image of God who is vast and complex. God has the ability to hold ALL emotions at the same time. So if you and I are created in the image of God, wouldn’t it make sense that we could hold more than one emotion at the same time? Not only that but the fact we are made in God’s image and He is the author of emotions, gives us a place to be understood and loved in our emotions. In Hebrews 4:15 (NIV) it states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.” In Jesus we have a Savior who understands and one who has felt the gamut of emotions as a human, just He was able to remain sinless in his emotions.
King David Felt Mixed Up
So when we look to Scripture, what guidance do we find for dealing with these mixed up emotions? We can look at the Psalms and the amount of lament Psalms and see examples of expressing our emotions to God. For example David wrote, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2 NIV). David lamented, pouring out his heart, expressing anger, fear, distrust, sadness, hopelessness and just about any other dark or negative emotion you can think of.
The rhythm of almost every lament psalm is the same – lament that eventually gives way to doxology, tears turn to praise – the but God, or the praise God moment arrives. Psalm 13 ends with David writing, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13: 5-6 NIV). We get to read the psalm in its entirety in just a few minutes, but we do not know how long the psalmist spent in the lamenting part before his saddened heart gave way to doxology. Let me be clear – doxology is not putting on a happy Christian face and saying “Praise God! He’s so good!” while gritting your teeth and inwardly crying. Doxology is the natural progression of praise once we have brought our emotions to Jesus. It arises in us; sometimes ever so gradually.
Getting Raw & Real With God
In lament we are honest and raw with Jesus. We invite him into our emotions and honestly confess what we are feeling. Truthfully He already knows, but there is something powerful and freeing for us to express our emotions to him, to be loved and accepted in these difficult emotions, and to be emptied of them. As we lament and pour our hearts out to Jesus, our soul empties of these emotions and there is space now for Jesus to pour in the things of Himself – peace, hope, joy, and yes praise that turns into doxology. We don’t know when the situation of this pandemic may change or even what it may change into, but we can experience freedom and peace in these mixed up emotions as we bring them to Jesus and release them.
We honestly have a lot to lament right now. As adults, many of us have experienced significant changes and losses in these recent weeks related to the pandemic. Our children have experienced change and loss as well. This brings with it grief and mixed up emotions.
Sharing Your Laments With Someone Else
What might it look like for your family to take time to lament, to find doxology and to worship Jesus together? Each of you could write or draw out the things you are lamenting – missing school routines, not seeing friends, the big dance competition being cancelled, the vacation that has been postponed, the work stress that has escalated, the isolation you are feeling being at home, the difficulty it is to not be as busy, the school trip to Washington, DC, that is now cancelled, not going out to dinner for your daughter’s birthday, the delay of baseball season, not seeing grandpa and grandma – whatever it is, however big or small, without judgment, offer those things to Jesus. Express your feelings about these things in whatever form helps you or your child to release them to Jesus – write them, draw them, find images to represent them, play the song you were supposed to dance to, imagine a safe place where you could talk with Jesus – be creative.
Share your laments, your sorrows with one another, witnessing the emotions and losses, honoring how difficult this is and bringing the tangible love and compassion of Jesus to each other. Obviously adults need to be sensitive with how raw we are with our children about emotions, but be honest with them to an age-appropriate point. It is healthy and good for them to know that grown-ups get mixed up feelings like sad and mad too. However, when you’re interacting one on one with Jesus, be as raw, honest and vulnerable as you can be to fully express the depths of lament you are experiencing.
Once you have all lamented, pray and invite Jesus to minister to your heart, to bring his healing and comfort, to ease the ache of these losses. You could engage in prayer in any number of ways – one person praying for the entire family, each person in the family praying, praying for each other, singing a worship song to offer praise to Jesus. The important thing is to be genuine in your expression with where you are at in your process.
This honest, vulnerable expression of our mixed up feelings creates a doorway to experiencing Jesus and relationship with Him. And the presence of Jesus is the only thing that will truly release, relieve and shift our mixed up feelings. He can transform them into something beautiful because He is the God who engages in the great exchange. Our hope is found in His Word from Isaiah 61:3 that talks about beauty coming from ashes, joy instead of mourning, and praise for despair. So I invite you to pause today, notice your mixed up feelings, bring them to Jesus, and receive His loving comfort as He ministers to you and transforms these emotions as only He can. And, remember…
All feelings are okay. God welcomes our real sadness and sorrow and can turn them into real joy and praise.
Sarah Queen, MA, LPCC-S
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Extension Site Team Leader
Sarah is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Extension Site Team Leader at Emerge Counseling Ministries, and is a graduate of Huntington University (B.S. in Educational Ministries) and Ashland University & Theological Seminary (M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling). She has a Certificate in Formational Prayer from Ashland Theological Seminary and is a trained EMDR Therapy Clinician. She works with adult women, adolescents, children, and families on a wide range of areas including anxiety, clinical counseling & Christian spiritual interventions, depression, domestic violence, family relationships, parenting, self-esteem, trauma, and more. She is also a presenter for Emerge Counseling’s Center for Pastoral Counseling, System Administrator for our electronic health records system, and clinical member of the collaboration between Emerge Counseling and Rahab Ministries.