Last time, we looked at the first of seven questions aimed at helping us grow as disciples of Jesus – exploring the importance of listening to God, and acting on what He says to us. This time, I want to explore the second disciple-making question that focuses on emotional health. In their book, The Cry of the Soul, author Dan Allender writes…
‘Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice.’
We are created as emotional beings. It’s part of what it means for us to be made in the image of God, because God is emotional. He weeps in Lamentations 1:16, and yet rejoices in Zephaniah 3:17 (to name just two examples).
The difference between us and God, is that God is not broken emotionally – and yet we all know that we are. Whilst we all hopefully experience many positive emotions – like joy, wonder, contentment, happiness – we equally all wrestle with a darker side to our character. Whether it’s battles with anger, self-pity, loneliness, anxiety, shame, rejection – or whatever – there’s a journey of emotional healing for each of us. A journey that God is committed too, if we invite Him to help us.
So what are your emotional battles? Our lives are like icebergs – there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface than we’re usually willing to admit. But that’s the first step to healing. To be willing to ‘name’ what you struggle with.
The second step is then to pause and ask yourself, why? Why am I reacting like this? It’s what the Psalmist does in Psalm 42:5 – ‘why are you so downcast, oh my soul?’ The ‘why’ question is often tough to answer. It might simply be because we’re tired and our emotional tanks are running on empty. But often, there are deeper answers. We are all products of our past, impacted both positively and negatively by experiences and upbringing. Bringing this stuff to the surface can often be painful but as author Peter Scazzero writes in his brilliant book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, sometimes we have to go back in order to go forward.
Once we’ve consider what and why, the most important question then is how – how do I bring healing to this emotional scar – which brings us to this key second disciple-making question that’s regularly worth asking…
What practical and prayerful steps are you taking to address your character flaws?
Emotional healing comes in both practical and prayerful ways. A practical action could be choosing to forgive someone every day until the feeling of forgiveness catches up. A prayerful action might be to pray every day for God’s healing to come. I love the prayer of David in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” – that’s a great place to start.
At the end of the day, emotional health and spiritual growth go hand in hand. You can’t be spiritually growing whilst remaining emotionally unhealthy. God wants to bring healing and wholeness to our broken emotions. It’s all part of the journey of becoming more like Jesus.
Time to look below the surface. Start today.