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My tears have been my food day and night (Ps 42:3a).
Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud (Gen 27:38).
I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes (Ps 6:6-7).
Jesus wept (John 11:35).
When I was a junior in college, I found out that a close friend of mine from high school had died in a car accident. It hit me deeply. But I couldn’t express it.
I cried a few tears at night, when I was alone. But never in front of anyone. And never much at all.
Many of us—especially men—have been told to suppress their emotions. And it’s killing us and our relationships.
I think it may come from, when we are growing up and we get hurt, we are told not to cry. It’s just a scrape; why are you crying?
And it’s good to teach children to endure physical pain. It’s generally short-term. It’s not as bad as they think it is.
It’s one thing to say that to a toddler: with so few experiences, it’s quite possibly the worst pain they’ve ever felt. You have to keep that perspective. But by age 10 or so, you would hope that they can scrape their knee and not think it’s the end of the world.
But a problem arises. Many people, in being taught to endure minor physical pain, internalize the idea to never experience any pain. That showing any pain is weakness. Boys are generally taught that it’s effeminate to do so, but overall, people seem to internalize that expressing any sort of pain is beneath them.
This is a recent idea. If you read ancient texts, you see adults—even men—weeping all the time. And not just in the Bible. For example, the ancient Greek heroes, to whom many look as models of manliness in our modern times, wept when they experienced loss, and they were not wrong to do so.
The fact is that emotions are God-created reactions. God created you to feel emotions. You cannot be healthy and ignore your emotions. You cannot be a whole person if you do not experience your emotions. To cut them off is to amputate a part of yourself: you cannot do so and be whole.
What’s more, if you suppress your emotions, you are not following Christ completely. We are following the suffering servant, the one who wept. We follow a God who was moved with compassion again and again.
We follow a God who feels deeply. If we are to truly follow him, so must we.
If we are truly to be people after God’s own heart, then our hearts must be willing to break and to rejoice as his does.
This is a hard thing, but it is doable.
Every day, I pray for God to renew my heart. To give me a pure heart. To make my heart like his.
Every day, my prayer is to make who God is everything that I am. And that includes my emotions.
This does not mean that we must be overwhelmed to the point where we can do nothing. There are those who overemphasize their emotions to the point where they are dysfunctional as well. Instead of amputating part of them, they over-express that part of them, and become out of balance. That is also unhealthy.
People like this are like a bodybuilder who has focused solely on her upper body and never worked out her legs. Her upper body is strong and robust, but she has little chicken legs. Just as such a bodybuilder is going to look strange and out of proportion, so such overly-emotional people act strange and out of proportion.
So the key here is to not deny, but to embrace. Do not deny your emotions, but let them happen. Do not let them control you, however. Remember that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control.
You cannot healthily deal with anything by denying it exists. You cannot grow in anything until you acknowledge it. Nor can you give it to God until you own it.
This goes for all disorders of a person. Whether it’s an emotional disorder, a spiritual disorder, or even a physical disorder: you cannot heal the disorder until you first acknowledge you have it.
You can’t heal a broken leg until you acknowledge it’s broken. Then you go and get the bone set and get the leg wrapped in a cast. And you can’t heal from loss if you don’t first acknowledge that you’re hurt by it.
So do not amputate your heart. God has given you your heart. Let him transform it daily!