Christopher was taught in his family and church that it was a sin to be anxious.
Over the years, shutting down his emotions left him spiritually dry. He got stuck at The Wall in the journey of his soul.
He explained, “I repressed my negative emotions by reciting Bible verses and trying to stay positive all the time. As an adult I bought a Christian book on anxiety that reinforced this thinking. My wife, kids, and friends kept telling me they felt controlled and criticized, but I didn’t listen. I was always trying to get them to look and act right, like me.
“I was living in my head — my faith never touched my feelings.”
He was surprised to discover that when Paul says, “Do not be anxious,” he is not saying do not feel anxious. He’s actually offering empathy and encouragement:
Whenever you feel stressed or worried, talk to God about how you feel, sharing your emotions openly. Don’t pretend to be strong — be vulnerable. Ask for the grace you need and be sure to receive it by being thankful. Then God’s sweet and powerful peace will nourish and protect you in the way of Christ (Phil. 4:6–7, author’s paraphrase).
Like Christopher, many of us try to change our feelings by changing our thoughts. Often that leads to dismissing our feelings, rejecting our inner self. That separates us from experiencing God’s grace.
Feelings are just as important as thoughts. Actually, in a healthy person the two are connected, as we show you in Journey of the Soul.
God designed you to feel the warmth of the sun, the prick of a thorn, the caress of a loved one, the hunger of a homeless person, the gentle listening of a friend, the still small voice of the Spirit.
If you can never feel your faith then it will whither and die.
To help you feel your emotions and be fully alive you need empathy.
Empathy is oxygen for your soul. It’s feeling understood, validated, and cared for. Everyday you need empathy and so do the people around you.
Empathy helps us to feel God’s presence with us on our journey.
Receiving empathy helped Christopher move through The Wall and into the Inner Journey (or I Stage) in his journey with Jesus. It was a season of spiritual renewal for him.
The Psalms of the Bible are a source of empathy to help you feel your faith and trust that the unseen God is actually present to love you. They guide you to pray and live with an emotionally honest faith.
There are Psalms for all the stages of your soul, to teach you to pray with the language of emotion in all the ups and downs of life.
Psalm 139 is a trail marker to guide you:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (vv. 23-24).
It’s an invitation to feel your faith.
Tell God what you’re anxious about or struggling with . . .
Ask the Spirit to lead you in the way of life . . .
(Adapted from Journey of the Soul by Bill & Kristi Gaultiere)
Listen to this week’s Soul Talks podcast: “Empathy & Healthy Faith” “What helps you trust that Jesus has deep compassion for you?” Bill & Kristi share their own experiences to this question, based on the Journey of the Soul: Soul Talk Cards. Feeling Jesus’ empathy and compassion for us in our struggles, both big and small, catalyzes our faith in powerful ways so that we can love others well. Tune into this heartfelt conversation and learn ways to share your emotions with God and others, so that you can give and receive empathy with those around you.