"You keep saying this thing: processing emotions. What exactly does that mean?"
I love reader questions! And this is such a great one.
When we're processing emotions, we're not navel-gazing for no reason.
We're getting out the gunk so the healing can come.
We undergo difficult circumstances, traumatic experiences, stressful situations and we're left with emotions we don't know what to do with.
We put those leftovers away in the dark of our hearts--feelings like abandonment, anger, grief, shame, guilt--and they fester and grow and make a mess in our lives.
We end up with sideways symptoms like anxiety, depression, addictions, relationship problems. When we see those things happening, we've probably got emotions to process.
Here are 3 do's for processing emotions:
1. Do: be honest
Just call it what it is: sad, mad, scared.
Dig out the Good Christian Stuff that keeps us from being honest.
"God is good all the time!" Well, yes, He is.
"I'm blessed!" Well, yes, you are.
But that doesn't keep life from being a real pile of poop sometimes. We're not Home yet. As long as we're here, there's gonna be poop.
Jesus got mad. Jesus wept. Jesus got so distressed that his sweat was like drops of blood.
It's okay to be honest. God knows it all, anyway. Might as well admit it to ourselves. Admitting is the first step to letting go and Letting God.
2. Do: be patient
It appears that God designed life to be a process. Let's accept that and work with it.
While you're being patient:
Walk. Walking releases stress hormones, and turns your brain on.
Listen to music. Pay attention to the lyrics that appeal to you, and how those words stir your emotions.
Journal. Give yourself time to get it all out there. Invite the Holy Spirit to show you what's down there. And when you see it, say it. The truth sets you free. That's a promise from Jesus to you.
Go to therapy.
3. Do: be kind
"The kindness of God leads us to repentance." (Romans 2:4)
If God can be kind to us when we are a mess, surely we can be kind to ourselves as well.
Beating ourselves up because we are still in this mess is not helpful. It produces more shame, and the truth is: there is no condemnation for us. (Romans 8:1)
Shame does not belong to us. The kindness of God does.
And here's a don't:
Don't: be afraid.
You're beloved. You're chosen. You're safe.
All of you. All the pain, all the anger, all the anxiety, all the sorrow. God knows it all, and he loves you with an everlasting love.
Your Redeemer lives.
Come out of the dark. Walk into the light. The Son has set you free.