I laid on my mat in the dark, crying my eyes out. I remember actually choking as I sobbed as silently as I could. Simply praying that the wind in the tent would silence whatever noise I was making.
This experience is a perfect example of how I interacted with my tears. I thought of them as something to keep hidden in a dark tent, ready to wake up the next morning and pretend like nothing happened.
I viewed emotions as a weakness, and definitely not something to be advertised. I went to great lengths to hide mine from the world.
But emotions are not meant to be hidden. They are a gift.
Through God’s faithful work in my life, I slowly learned that emotions do not equal weakness. God placed someone in my life who straight up addressed this misbelief of mine. Our conversation went something like this:
“Why do you think that having emotions makes you weak?”
“I don’t know. They provide a variable.”
“Jesus had emotions. Jesus cried. Was Jesus weak?”
The question stopped me short. No, obviously not. Jesus is literally God, so no, it’s impossible for there to even be weakness in him. Logic insists then that emotions do not equal weakness. So then what are they?
Emotions are a gift.
Tears and laughter and love and heartbreak. All of it comes when you are at the end of yourself. When you can’t contain your heart. When you have come to your limit.
They are prayer on the other side of words.
They are a literal overflow of the heart to the Father. If our hearts are on Christ, those emotions will be God honoring. They are a way of communicating that cannot be duplicated or understood without effort.
But they are wordless prayers God promises to understand (Isaiah 38:4). He sees them whether we cry in a dark tent, or in a group of people. And he promises to remember them and hold them, possibly the most intimate expression of our emotions.
For example, you wanna know the really cool part about tears?
God designed them in such a way where they trigger a release of leucine enkephalin, a natural painkiller. Meaning simply this–tears are a gift.
But these tears are only given to us on earth. A gift given for a time, not to be hidden away by our fear of showing that we have emotions.
Emotions connect us to others.
Okay, bear with me, but if you try to stick a piece of plain paper on the wall, it’s not going to stay. Gravity wins and the paper falls. But if you put a little water on the paper and then stick it to the wall, it stays.
You wanna know why? Because paper and the wall are two hard substances. The liquid is the soft part that bonds the two together. Emotions are the soft liquid that binds us together.
Emotions can get in the way of common sense. That’s true.
But it’s not always bad, because common sense gets in the way of love. It doesn’t make sense to love people like Jesus did. If we strictly tried to connect to people apart from emotions it would be like a piece of paper trying to stay on a wall. Gravity always wins.
But when emotions are used well…love can win.
Emotions can block common sense.
Here’s the bad part of that previous point. If we can’t shut our eyes to our feelings when making decisions that affect other people, we are set up for failure. It’s what happens in all the story books. Someone goes love blind, makes a stupid decision and then is left with the fall out.
Unfortunately it doesn’t only live in books. We probably all know of at least one time where someone let emotions blind them and we have felt the devastating effects. This is always what happens when you take God out of your emotions. Without your constant focus being on the Father, you're setting up yourself and others in your life for failure. Click To Tweet
Because even though emotions get in the way of common sense, the best part is that God gets in the way of emotions.
Emotions can often be misused (but always redeemed).
Like everything else God gave us, we have a way of messing it up. We manipulate other’s emotions and focus ours on things that cannot fulfill us.
For me this is the side of emotions I see most clearly. It’s messy. You love someone who hurts you. You enjoy something and it gets taken away.
If we jump back to my paper and wall analogy – when you pull the paper off the wall, the paper is still wet. It doesn’t even dry the same, and if you pull it off fast enough it might even rip.
Emotions do equal pain. Because to love at all is to risk being hurt.
As C.S. Lewis so famously said, “There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
God understands our emotions.
We are so blessed to have a God who knows exactly what we are feeling. And even beyond that, he emphasizes with us because God became fully man, meaning he felt all of the emotions that come with humanity.
God sees the heart, and he knows your intentions. We can always come back to the fact that he knows our struggles and has NEVER stopped walking with us just because our emotions keep getting in the way. We might have hurt people with our emotions. We might have made them idols. But God makes it good. Long term God promises good for his people. So entrust it all to God and his plan because he is always faithful.
So regardless of the fact that emotions can hurt, in spite of the fact that love can make or break you, even when you’re crying in the middle of the airport, even when your heart shatters…
Emotions are a gift.
Emotions are entrusted to us by God, fully experienced by Jesus, and definitely not something to be hidden.
For more information on this topic I suggest that you listen to this podcast on tears. https://open.spotify.com/track/5dJJ9OhfFomfBzHJDyXWA0?si=pgkvGRc8RJ6CbGml123VnA
The Gift of Tears – Cory Osborn
Did Jesus Cry? – Alex Pistor