Emotions are one of those things. They can suffocate you like being sat on by an elephant. Or they can give you powerful motivation and energy to fuel positive changes in your life.
The first thing to realize is:
We are Emotional by Design
In Scripture we see God expressing all kinds of emotions.
He is compassionate, he is loving, he rejoices (Jer 32:41), he is angry, he weeps and he even sings (Zeph 3:17).
It is no wonder that we too, created in His image, are emotional beings.
So if we are designed to be emotional, it means we don’t have to feel like a weakling or failure when we have strong emotions.
My husband is manly but he is fairly quick to cry. We sit watching TV together and I glance over and see tears rolling down his cheek. I love that about him because I can see how much he cares.
Emotions Can Zap Our Strength
I remember one day I had cleaned up so many messes and changed so many diapers and no one in the house was feeling well. I was overwhelmed. I wanted to quit and couldn’t see a way out.
The next day I couldn’t get out of bed. I wasn’t thinking about the diapers or messes, I was just thinking about how bad I felt and how bad I thought I was, and it was just a mess.
My situation hadn’t changed but my emotions were out of control.
Seeing Opportunity in Our Emotions
Every challenge, every problem and every negative emotion coming out of those trials has an opportunity in it somewhere.
As a Christian, the most important opportunity in our anxiety, fear and depression is to realize that when we are weak God is strong in our lives.
When I realize I don’t have the answer; I don’t know whether to take my daughter to the doctor or wait another day, I don’t know what to do when time-out isn’t working. I am humbled.
God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.
So instead of being crippled and having an extended pity party, I just have a short pity party and then take my fear and indecision to God and beg for his help. He promises to give wisdom to those who seek it.
Emotions Come from Trials and Trials are Stepping Stones
Sometimes the opportunity in our emotions is very clear and practical.
Let’s say you are barely surviving with your first child and number two is on the way and will be here soon.
God will be there for you but he also promises that every trial develops perseverance and makes us more mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
It is quite possible that you are lacking in something and God wants you channel your fear about the second child into something more constructive.
Maybe you need to be talking to other moms of two and building friendships or support relationships.
Maybe instead of chanting meaningless worries to yourself like “how am I ever going to go to the grocery store?” you need to be finding a real answer to the question of how to manage shopping with multiple kids.
Sometimes I am frustrated and get stuck because something isn’t working on my website, ExperiencedMommy.com, but so many times that frustration has been motivation to figure out the problem and not have to worry about it again.
There is Opportunity Even in Positive Emotions
One thing I learned is that it is not just negative emotions that can be channeled toward a more authentic relationship with God and opportunities to grow. Positive emotions are assets too.
My daughter Anna has Angelman Syndrome which means that even though she is 17 years old, she operates at a one-year-old level. She is still in diapers.
Raising Anna has its share of negative emotions, but it also makes me happy more than I ever would have expected.
She does funny things, she hugs strangers non-stop, she makes these amazing little joyful sounds, she constantly does something unexpected.
It seems like it would be enough just to enjoy the frequent smiles she brings to my face.
But that isn’t enough.
I need to channel the emotion of joy into thanksgiving to God for such an amazing daughter.
I can use these blessings to encourage and help other moms by telling Anna stories and posting funny pictures.
And one important thought:
It Gets Easier
You may feel that you’ve hit your lowest low. If you have, praise the Lord. The next low won’t be as difficult.
If I practice giving each one to the Lord, and then watch how he helps me through it, I’ll remember next time I’m in the valley that God gives peace beyond my understanding.
If I channel the negative emotions toward positive opportunities like preparation, education, acting on my ideas, and helping other moms in my situation, then I’ll be growing and maturing as a mom and a person.
It’s Not About Repressing or Ignoring Emotion
There is a temptation to say to myself, “Suck it up buttercup” and just turn off the emotional reaction and move on.This is better than a downward death spiral, but it doesn’t exploit the opportunity either. If I take the time to understand my anxiety, I can profit from it, not just shorten it.
Instead of worrying about how my kid will do in kindergarten, I can go sit in a class and check it out.
Rather than freaking out about what kind of baby food to use I can buy 10 kinds and see what works.
Instead of feeling inadequate about my parenting when the kids constantly fight with each other, I can identify the opportunity for them to learn how to like and love each other and use my emotion as a motivator to start teaching the kids those skills.
Even as I write this, I know it is all easier said than done.
That’s why the first opportunity in every emotional situation is turning to our heavenly father who happens to have a lot of experience with difficult children ?
I can’t do it all by myself but I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.