She just couldn’t bring herself to do it.
Her mother and siblings were urging her to join them as they were leaving for a trip–but Elizabeth felt panic rushing over her body, and she couldn’t explain why. As the panic attack stole Elizabeth’s control over her body, she passed out on the ground, cancelling her family’s trip as they rushed to help her.
Dark episodes like these continued throughout her childhood and teenage years. For Elizabeth, every shadow, every dark corner in her family’s giant home sparked unquenchable fear in her, imagination running wild with all the dark possibilities of the dangers that could be lurking. She was known as the fearful one, but her family couldn’t understand what was wrong with her.
After her mother’s untimely death, Elizabeth became plagued with constant nightmares. Her father took her to doctors to try to help her with her frequent, severe episodes of depression, but nothing they could offer helped Elizabeth. She just didn’t know how to make all the panic, all the fear, all the depression go away, but she did know that her emotional problems were slowly draining her life away.
Have you ever felt like Elizabeth? Maybe you felt panicky, or stressed, or scared, or angry? Or perhaps you have experienced an emotionally hard day, week, month, or maybe even year? Especially with the craziness of 2020, I think all of us have felt more stressed and scared than usual.
You are not alone in these feelings. There is an epidemic of negative emotions, especially among teens and young adults. According to Pew Research Center, seventy percent of teens say that anxiety and depression are a serious issue among their peers. There has been a sharp increase in depression, anxiety, and even suicide among teens and young adults over the last two decades. As of 2017, a minimum of 13.2 percent of teens and young adults were showing symptoms typical of major depression.
Emotions are powerful forces, and it’s important that we consider how we handle our emotions. God has a lot to say about emotions, and He wants to lead us and help us in processing our feelings.
When Jesus Transforms Our Emotions
Elizabeth grew up in a Christian family, but until her teen years, she never had a personal relationship with Jesus. When she received Jesus as her Savior, the miraculous occurred. Nightmares that had tormented her for years went away. Even though she still struggled with fear and depression, those chains slowly lost their control in her life as she grew in her relationship with Christ.
As an adult, she realized God had called her to serve the poor and needy, and she began by finding the poorest communities around her home and providing education, food, healthcare, and clothing. This regularly led her into dangerous, scary neighborhoods, but she refused to allow fear to stop her. She trusted God to protect and take care of her.
Elizabeth lived in England in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. During that time, prisons were a repulsive place, crammed beyond capacity, filled with infectious disease, starvation, and vicious fights among the inmates. To make it worse, foster care did not exist, meaning that female prisoners normally brought their children with them to prison.
When Elizabeth heard about the situation in prisons, she knew she had to do something. The prison was so violent even the guards refused to enter the cells for fear of their lives, and they repeatedly begged Elizabeth not to enter the cells. But she boldly marched in, and she quickly discovered that the female inmates were desperate for the love and care that Elizabeth showed them.
With the help of the inmates, her fellow church members, prison and government officials, Elizabeth transformed the prisons into a place of healing and rehabilitation for the inmates. Elizabeth’s expertise in reforming prisons became widely sought after, and soon she was helping prisons all over Europe and the United States to become a safe place for prisoners to turn their lives around.
Through her relationship with Jesus, Elizabeth Fry was transformed from suffering with debilitating panic attacks, to an adult who boldly entered terrifying prisons and neighborhoods on her mission to help people.
Though Elizabeth lived two hundred years ago, her struggles are relevant to us today. The same God that helped Elizabeth handle her emotions is the same God who can help us today.
God designed us to have emotions
Maybe you’re experiencing a health issue that’s causing you anxiety, or the passing of a loved one that has broken your heart, or the stress of work or school.
With the insanity of all the world events in 2020, I know many of us are experiencing fear about the pandemic, concerns about returning to school this fall, trouble finding jobs in our shaky economy, and the fear of the unknown as we navigate life in our strange new circumstances.
These are all valid concerns, but I do know that God knows every thought in your head, every struggle you’re experiencing, and He longs to comfort and help you! The Word of God is relevant and accessible to us in every struggle we may face.
For example–just like in Elizabeth’s life–God understands that we often feel afraid, intimidated, and inferior when we are facing a new challenge. When God gives us a new opportunity, even if it is outside our experience, God promises to be with us every single step of the way.
In the Old Testament, Moses was commanded by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. Moses succeeded in the first half but ended up wandering in the desert with the Israelites for forty years. Moses died, and his protégée, Joshua, was put in charge of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.
If I were in Joshua’s shoes, I would feel completely inadequate and absolutely terrified. After all, if Moses could not succeed in leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, then how was Joshua supposed to do it?
God must have known how Joshua was feeling, because in the very first chapter of the book of Joshua, He said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
As we go through new, challenging, hard things in life, God is taking care of us and holding our hands through the whole process.
The Bible Is A Tool For Handling Our Emotions
When we are struggling with our emotions, the Word of God is our answer. Sometimes, attending church and doing our normal Bible study may not be enough to address an emotional problem we are facing. The Bible is brimming with verses that will address and help us with our specific problems. Dig deep into the truths in God’s Word, find those that apply to your struggles and speaks to your heart and allow it to comfort you. Allow it to change you.
No matter what the issue, God promises to be with us and comfort us (Isaiah 41:13). When our hearts have been broken, He promises to heal us and give us redemption from our past wounds (Psalms 147:3). In Isaiah 66:13, God promises, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you . . .”
When we feel anxious and scared, God directs us to give our worries to Him through prayer and He will take our burdens and give us peace in exchange (Philippians 4:6-7). Jesus knows from personal experience that life is often difficult and heartbreaking, and He is always present to comfort and encourage us through His word!
And when God comforts us, we can turn around and offer that comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God recognizes that we have emotions and that we need help in handling our feelings. God created our emotions and experiences emotions himself. Emotions themselves are not inherently sinful, but emotions have been broken by sin. That’s why we need God’s grace and help to redeem our broken emotions and experience emotion transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ.
God is constantly with us and is constantly thinking of us (Psalm 139:17-18). He knows our situation, our concerns, and our fears far better than we do. God’s love is a powerful weapon that will cast out our fear (1 John 4:18).
Whatever we are facing, through Jesus’ power in our lives, our emotions can be transformed and renewed. Dive into God’s Word and discover all the promises He has for you and the power of inviting Jesus into our emotional struggles.
I promise, you will not be disappointed.