I remember once, many years ago, sitting with a friend who had had a miscarriage. She was just waking up after surgery, and she kept saying, "Why do I feel so terrible? Why do I feel so terrible?" I remember saying to her, "A terrible thing has happened." When bad things happen, it's normal--and it's healthy--to feel bad.
But I think many of us have the same question my friend had. "What's wrong with me? Why do I feel so bad?"
Here's an analogy that works for me. If I cut myself with a knife, I will bleed. Every time. When I was five, when I was 20, when I was 30, today, and tomorrow, until the day I die. Cut me, I bleed.
In fact, if I don't bleed, something is drastically wrong. Because bleeding is the first step toward healing. The process of bleeding cleanses the wound, and brings healing elements to the wound site.
I think our emotions work the same way. We're built to feel bad when bad things happen, and that feeling bad is actually purposeful and useful. I think experiencing our emotions is the first step toward healing.
But the truth is, a lot of us are pretty avoidant of our emotions. I, for one, have been through times in my life when I felt like I was sitting on the lid of Pandora's Box. And if I moved an inch, all those bad emotions would come flying out and destroy the world.
Someplace I picked up the lie that "real Christians" don't feel bad. That lie slithered around in my life a long time until I finally spent some time with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I have felt some bad emotions in my life, but I have yet to sweat blood. The fact that Jesus felt THAT BAD has helped me feel free to experience my own emotions more fully.
I love what Brennan Manning says Abba's Child. "Resurrection power enables us to engage in the savage confrontation with untamed emotions, to accept the pain, to receive it, take it on board, however acute it may be. And in the process we discover that we are not alone, that we can stand fast in the awareness of present risenness and so become fuller, deeper, richer disciples. We know ourselves to be more than we previously imagined. In the process we not only endure but are forced to expand the boundaries of who we really are . . . Hope knows that if great trials are avoided, great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul is aborted."
Instead of judging my emotions or trying to make them go away as quickly as possible, I want to have the courage to receive them and experience them with the hope that God is in the process of healing me, and maybe even growing me into greatness of soul.