What Do I Do With These Hard Emotions?
“He said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.’ He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.”
What is this strange feeling in my chest? Having never experienced the small pain before, I wondered what was happening.
Over the past few minutes, I’d been talking with Jesus, praying about a tenuous family situation, giving Him my heartache. My pen and paper were tools helping me unload my fears as well as my pain. Hadn’t I been pouring out all my concerns to the only One who could truly fix them?
Why, then, was my chest tight and hurting a bit? Did this unfamiliar pressure of anxiety in my body mean I was doubting my Father? I truly thought I was trusting Him.
For the first time, I began to understand that when our emotions are overwhelming, we can feel their repercussions in our bodies. Powerful emotions are not bad in and of themselves; in fact, our emotions were given to us by God. His original design, though, when God created people in His image (Genesis 1:27), was not for us to experience emotions that hurt us.
To make more connections between my Maker and the way He made me, I read the Gospels, searching for the emotions Jesus experienced in His days on earth. There they were: sadness (John 11:35), anger (Matthew 21:12-13), happiness (John 15:11) and so many more.
Though Jesus could never be overwhelmed in His divinity, Scripture tells us that when He was overwhelmed in His humanity, Jesus withdrew to spend time with His Father. He found the strength to keep moving toward fulfilling His Father’s assignment even when He was feeling strong emotions.
The Gospel of Mark shares Jesus’ experience as He faced His hardest assignment yet. Mark 14:33-34 says Jesus “took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. He said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake’”.
There in the garden, on the night of His betrayal, crushed by pain, Jesus “fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him” (Mark 14:35). Jesus fell facedown (Matthew 26:39). It seems His emotional anguish was so strong He collapsed. And Jesus experienced other visible signs of emotional distress: “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
Yet He went on to pray: “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). He experienced extreme anguish and trusted His Father at the same time. In spite of profound agony, Jesus kept going, fulfilling His mission to die for us.
Like Jesus, you and I may experience powerful emotions, energy coursing through our minds, hearts and bodies, while walking with the Father.
Anxiety, sadness, anger or other emotions are not necessarily indications that we’re not close to the Lord. And trusting God doesn’t always mean that what’s creating the strong emotion in us will go away. Still, we can choose to trust God even if things do not go the way we want, facing what comes with the assurance that God is by our side.
As I began to take long, deep breaths and meditate on His Word, my emotions prompted me to continue inviting the Holy Spirit into my problem by using tools sometimes called “spiritual disciplines” — such as prayer, meditation on God’s Word, lament and more. We can always ask God to empower us to continue moving toward Jesus, even in the midst of anxious or hard feelings.
Father, when my heart hurts and I’m in pain, help me remember even this is an invitation to come to You. I trust You’re listening, and I rely on You for the strength I need today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.