Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
— Job 7:11
I love the book of Job. I know that sounds really messed up, to love a book of death, loss, grief, anger, and big emotion, but I love it because it is raw. Job is so honest with God and with others about how he is feeling. His sadness, confusion, hurt, brokenness — he does not hold back. And you know what? Not one single time in the entire book does God get angry with him.
It is not an easy thing to do, to get real with God or with anyone. Vulnerability is scary. Sometimes the fear is even just in acknowledging to ourselves the depths of our pain because we fear that we won’t be able to handle what we see.
Over the years, I’ve learned a couple of valuable lessons about emotion and God.
1. God created our emotions. They serve a purpose. We need to pay attention to them, be curious about them, and seek to understand where they are coming from. In the same way that touching something hot triggers pain, causing us to pull our hand back to safety, our emotions can serve as that same alarm system. When we feel anxiety, it is rooted somewhere. Our body is alerting us to a problem, real or perceived, and we need to take notice. The same is true of any other emotion that arises.
I love this quote from Jonathan Edwards: “Of all the knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves, are the most important.”
Many of us like to numb emotions or avoid them, but here’s the reality: you cannot choose which emotions to numb. If you numb the pain, you won’t experience joy to its full extent. God gave us emotions so that we could fully live and experience life.
2. Our emotions do not make God mad or disappoint him in any way. He invites us to be honest.
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you…
— Psalm 55:22
3. Nothing takes God by surprise. No emotion, no secret, no pain, nothing that we can bring to him will surprise him. He already knows. There is such comfort in this truth for me. It removes the barrier, that feeling that there is anything I need to hide. There is no sense in hiding what God is already fully aware of.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
— 1 John 1:8
I chose this verse, not because emotions are sinful, but to make a point. God already knows all of our stuff. Also, he created emotions, and we all have them, so we have the freedom to be real.
Bottom line: God cares. He won’t be overwhelmed. We can’t scare him away. He won’t be disgusted or angry. He already knows. He just wants us to talk to him. It is when we get honest that we find healing.
I’ll leave you with some encouragement:
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
— Psalm 34:18
“And I [Jesus] will ask the Father, and he will give you a Helper, to be with you forever…. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
— John 14:16, 18
One final note: Healing happens in the context of relationships, both with God and with others. If you’ve been in church long enough, you have likely had a very well-intentioned person say something like “pray about it” or “don’t worry, God’s in control” that has made you feel like your emotions were invalid. The thing is, people don’t always know what to say. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep trying. It may just mean that we need to explain to that person how their words have invalidated us, or just find someone else. We were not created to do life alone. I will repeat it and stand by it: it is in the context of healthy relationships that we heal. Find your people, that may be a Community Group, a Journey Group, a therapist, or a combination of all three. Just find your people and dive in. It might be hard at first, but you won’t regret it.