When I was in high school I didn’t fit in socially. My days were consumed with being an “A” student, working to save money for college, and being helpful to my parents and four younger siblings. Looking back I can see that my perfectionism and internalization of stress made me anxious and depressed all the time.
But I didn’t know the language of feelings. My unconscious defense mechanisms kept my emotions shut down. So I didn’t know how to express my inner self, release my distress, and receive comfort.
Being disconnected from my emotions made it hard for me to feel God’s love.
Then I found a classic book from the 15th Century called The Imitation of Christ by a monk named Thomas á Kempis. It helped me put words to my emotions of stress and temptation and to feel desire for intimacy with God.
From Kempis, I learned how to pour out my heart to Jesus and “take hold” of the only One who could hold my soul (Philippians 3:12).
I was drawn by my Shepherd Jesus into the sweet and spacious place of his Abba’s heavenly world (Philippians 3:20). In God’s presence, I felt alive and I longed to be close to him all the time!
The old monk taught me how to converse with God — even when I didn’t feel his love. For instance, here is my paraphrase of his meditation on “True Comfort is Found in God Alone”:
Oh God, I desire so much more than this world has to give me. I don’t belong here. I don’t fit in anywhere and I’m stressed out all the time.
My son, I see you sitting there all alone, with slumped shoulders, and downcast eyes. I understand you feel as if you have no friends, no place to belong, no significance to your life. You are looking to this world for comfort and refreshment, but none is to be found!
Look to the Spirit of Christ in the heavens all about you. Here is the Comforter of the needy, the Benefactor to the humble, and the true Joy-Giver. Hear me: you are a faithful servant of Christ and your heart is pure.
I give you a foretaste of heaven in the true comfort of Christ’s ambassadors who listen to your inward person.
Wait a little while, O my soul, for the Spirit of Grace will manifest to you. Wait for the divine promise and you shall have a great abundance of all good things that are in the heavens. Your only happiness and blessedness are in God.
Be present with me, O Lord Jesus, in every time and place. I seek only your consolation. I am cheerfully willing to do whatever you ask and to suffer anything — as long as I have you near and dear to me. Amen.
It’s a blessing to journal your own psalm. Simply share your feelings with God, receive his empathy, and listen his “voice” of thoughts or feelings that come to you.
Learning to feel and share your emotions with God and a safe, strong friend can change your life. That’s the power of praying Psalms and engaging in soul talks.
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: Have you ever felt as though God’s presence was far from you? All of us experience seasons when we feel distant from God and long to feel cared for. In this episode Bill shares the story of a pastor he supported who experienced a season like this, often called a “Dark Night of the Soul.”