Article by: Ginger Harrington
Are you a worrier or a self-doubter when it comes to your own life? Do you ever feel weary under the weight of an emotional struggle?
If so, maybe you can relate to questions I asked God one morning as I burrowed deeper into the covers still warm from sleep.
Lord, why do I worry so much?
Why is it so hard to trust You?
How do I overcome this struggle?
For too long, anxiety and fear held my heart captive when I most needed to be strong.
Do you ask similar questions when emotions threaten to send you spiraling with worry, anger, resentment, self-pity, or discontent?
Friend, welcome to the gift of being human.
We respond to our world through the amazing gift of our emotions. Emotionally healthy habits are seldom mentioned as practices that can impact spiritual growth.
The truth is that we cannot grow spiritually beyond where we are emotionally.
Vulnerable feelings are powerful and often difficult to manage.
What we feel is what we feel. But too often, feelings shape our faith and keep us stuck in unhealthy patterns of living.
The longer emotional wounds, false beliefs, or unhealthy responses are left unattended, the wider the gap between our emotions and our faith grows.
We may know that we should trust God, but the power to settle our feelings escapes our grasp.What we feel is what we feel. But too often, feelings shape our faith and keep us stuck in unhealthy patterns of living.
Are You Ignoring Your Emotional Health?
Emotional health includes acknowledging and experiencing our vulnerable feelings.
When someone asks, “How are you?” how often have you answered, “Fine” when you were hurting inside?
There is power in the honest act of naming the emotions that drain life and peace from our soul.
This simple gift of recognition becomes a spiritual discipline when we understand that we cannot separate our emotions from our faith.
- We need to give ourselves permission to feel what we feel without judging ourselves.
- We need to stop lecturing our hearts with harsh words of self-criticism.
- We need to stop discounting our struggles and stuffing our pain.
Like blinking lights on a dashboard, painful emotions alert our attention to problems we need to acknowledge and address rather than deny, ignore, or escape.Like blinking lights on a dashboard, painful emotions alert our attention to problems we need to acknowledge and address rather than deny, ignore, or escape.
Anger, fear, resentment, bitterness, sadness, anxiety, and depression are sacred calls for us to attend to our emotional health.
Consider a few of the beautiful things God can do as we learn the sacred practice of attending to our emotions with Him:
God made my life complete
when I placed all the pieces before him. . .
God rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
Psalm 18:20, 24 MSG
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.
Psalm 94:19 NASB
‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you,
for I am your God. I will strengthen you,
surely I will help you, Surely I will
uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Isaiah 41:10 NASB
Learning to Recognize What We Really Believe
Are we learning to listen to what our emotions can tell us?
Emotional health also includes the sacred practice of recognizing what we believe in the moment.
The messages of past experiences and present feelings often solidify into beliefs.
I haven’t always understood how to respond to my emotions in healthy ways. I tried to ignore my feelings and keep moving forward.
Over time, God has shown me the misconceptions lurking beneath my worry and fear.
- There is something wrong with me.
- I shouldn’t feel so anxious.
- I am inadequate to handle this challenge well.
- I cannot trust myself to be the person I should be.
- I’m just an anxious person.
The deeper beliefs hidden beneath my feelings needed the attention, truth, and healing touch of God. Embracing emotions as truth holds us captive to unhealthy emotional reactions.Awareness of what we actually believe gives us the opportunity to put our confidence in God and the truth that really does set us free.
Jesus taught the importance of living in the freedom of the truth: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8: 31-32 NASB).
My spiritual life deepened when I learned to pay attention to my emotional health and ask God honest questions:
- Lord, I feel like a failure, but what do you say is true?
- I am anxious about this decision. Lord, what is really going on here?
- Why does this bother me so much Lord?
- Lord, what do I really believe in this moment?
God desires to bring our emotional struggles under the healing care of Christ.
When we invite God into our emotional struggles we can experience a holy shift of our attention from our problem to God’s presence, perspective, and power.
Spiritual maturity deepens as God brings healing to our hearts by teaching us to live in the freedom of truth, rather than being driven or misled by emotions.
The Gospel that saves souls for eternity is also the good news that gets us through the day.The Gospel that saves souls for eternity is also the good news that gets us through the day.
Friend, there really is hope and healing that can happen in your heart.
For a long time, I thought I’d always be at the mercy of anxiety and worry buffeting my emotions.
I still experience those feelings at times, but I’m learning to listen to the messages of my emotions, process them with God, and replace lies with the truth.
7 Holy Habits for Emotional Health
“Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NASB.
Try these sacred practices to attend to your emotional health and grow through the challenges you face. Each of these helpful actions is a holy habit for your heart.
- Acknowledge: Notice your feelings and experience painful emotions without shame, guilt, or judgment. Be specific in naming what you feel. God meets us at the place of our honesty.
- Feel: Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Take time to experience your emotions without discounting or avoiding them.
- Listen: Listen to the messages and recognize the beliefs hidden in your emotions by asking, “Lord, what is this really about? What do You want for me to understand? What am I believing in this moment?”
- Believe: Put your confidence in what is biblically true about God, yourself, others, or your situation. Hold fast to biblical truths and promises that apply.
- Trust: Rely on Christ to help you respond in faith rather than react out of your feelings.
- Be willing: Be willing to allow God to help you address the deeper feelings and beliefs over time.
- Ask for help: Seek support and wise counsel of godly friends or trusted professionals when you struggle with emotions that continue to be overwhelming.
In closing, I’d like to offer a simple prayer for an emotionally healthy you:
Lord, thank You for the gift of my emotions. I choose to rely on You to help me learn healthy ways to understand and process my feelings. Thank You for the truth that sets me free to live fully. Heal my heart as You mature my faith. Amen
Selah-Award finalist and dynamic speaker, Ginger Harrington is the author of Holy in the Moment: Simple Ways to Love God and Enjoy Your Life. Wife of a retired Marine, she is mom to three young adults. Helping women discover biblical ways to experience wholeness and healing in Christ, Ginger writes at gingerharrington.com and manages publishing for plantingroots.net. See Ginger’s website for more resources on emotional health or connect with Ginger on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.