My Emotions Are Holding Me Hostage

One summer at the lake, one of my younger cousins told me, “You smile . . . like, way too much.”

That comment, of course, made me smile, and I’ve never forgotten it. (Thanks, Kennedy! You’re always good for a laugh.)

She’s right; I smile a whole bunch. But the thing is I often smile even when I’m sad or confused or hurt or frustrated or anxious. It’s a coping thing.

I feel emotions really, really deeply. It doesn’t seem like I can even conjure up the words to describe how intensely something can affect me. But those emotions are so tender, so raw, that I assume they’ll overwhelm anybody else. So I tuck them safely inside my heart. On the outside, I smile. I laugh it off. Maybe I tell a close friend that I’m hurting, but there’s this huge smile across my face—because “I’ll be fine,” I say, too afraid to reach into the deep well of my giant emotions.

But behind closed doors, I’m aching. Or maybe I’m screaming angry. Maybe I’m crumbled on the floor gasping for air. Or maybe I’m happy dancing on the coffee table or singing my lungs out while I straighten my hair, pumped for some good news or thrilled for what’s to come. (Truly, that happens. My solo dance parties are embarrassingly wild.) Because the only place I feel safe enough to express my larger-than-life emotions is alone, on my own.

And if I’m not seeking Jesus, if I’m allowing my emotions to rule the day, I’m utterly lost.

It’s Jesus, in His Word, that provides perspective for our emotions. He calls us out of the pit and places us on solid ground—Himself. He is a sure foundation when it feels like everything is topsy-turvy or straight up crumbling (Ps. 40:2).

It’s also His Word that invites me to stop smiling when real pain has cracked my heart and to trust Him as I reach out to a trusted friend to express those emotions in vulnerability. Those vulnerable moments are powerful. It’s in those moments where a godly sister can look me in the eyes and say, “I see you. God sees you, too. He is your hope” (Lam. 3:19–27; Ps. 42).

Over and over again, God blows me away when I slowly peel back a layer of emotions and share them with a friend.

She speaks Truth into my heart.
She says, “I’ve been there, too.” (Those words are just ridiculously powerful.)
She prays for me.
She follows up with me.
She joins me in my struggle.
She helps me to know I can let the “it’s okay” smile fall from my face and allow the pain to breach the surface.

She points me to the Word, where I’m reminded to put on what’s true and to put off what’s a lie. God does that sorting in our hearts as we fix our eyes on Him, praying, reading Truth (Col. 3:12–17).

Because our emotions can’t always be trusted (Jer. 17:9). I’ve been repeating this to myself often: “Feelings aren’t facts.” My feelings are huge. Massive. Deeper than deep. But does that mean they’re true? Not necessarily. That’s where Truth steps in. God helps us discern what we’re believing so that we can feel according to His Truth.

That’s why I loved and so needed this message from Dannah Gresh at True Woman ’18. I resonated with much of what she shares—and was deeply convicted about my need to put on Truth (reading Scripture) so that I can believe Truth, no matter what my emotions may tell me.

It’s absolutely worth the twenty-three-minute watch. This quote is my favorite, and it’s been sticking with me: “Sisters, your thoughts are the boss of your feelings.” If we’re thinking Truth, our emotions will be ruled by Truth. Amen?

This doesn’t mean we stop feeling—the Bible is filled with accounts of people who felt crazy raw emotions. But the Truth helps us guide our thinking so that our hearts align with God rather than running off the deep end of anger or despair or loneliness.

Settle in and watch Dannah’s message:

I do plan to keep smiling, like, way too much. But I’m asking God to help me discern my emotions according to His Word and to look for the moments where I can enter into vulnerability with my sisters in Christ. Fake smiles out, genuine smiles in.

After watching Dannah’s message, take time to ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I “putting in” my heart? Is it Scripture, or something else?
  • Have my emotions—the ups and downs and all arounds—been ruling my life?
  • What steps can I take to “put on” the Truth?

About Author

Samantha loves lazy lake days, strong coffee, and writing about the ways Jesus transforms our everyday messes into beautiful stories. She digs the four seasons in northern Indiana, is probably wearing a Notre Dame crew neck, and serves as the social media manager on the Revive Our Hearts staff.

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