We all have an inbred desire to tell someone how we feel, but telling the wrong
person only makes our problems worse. Talking excessively about a situation
can easily drift into complaining, and that is a sin. Take time to read the
upcoming Scriptures and really consider what they are saying:
We must not gratify evil desire and indulge in immorality as some of
them did—and twenty-three thousand [suddenly] fell dead in a single day!
We should not tempt the Lord [try His patience, become a trial to Him,
critically appraise Him, and exploit His goodness] as some of them did—
and were killed by poisonous serpents; nor discontentedly complain as
some of them did—and were put out of the way entirely by the destroyer
(1 Corinthians 10:8–10)
These verses would be frightening if we did not remember that we live in the
age of grace, and we have the ability to repent and receive forgiveness quickly.
But it is interesting to note what a serious problem complaining is considered to
be. Why? Because God is infinitely good, and He expects us to remain thankful
even in the midst of difficulty of any kind. It may not be easy, but He expects it
In our quest to talk to someone about what is upsetting us, we need to be
careful not to move into complaining or to make the mistake of talking to the
wrong person. You might ask, Who is the right person? If you really just need to
vent in a healthy way and perhaps want a good friend to pray for you, then I
suggest choosing a trusted friend, family member, or spiritual leader. Don’t
repeat ad nauseam how you feel. Just express your feelings and follow up by
reminding yourself that God can heal you and resolve your situation.
If your situation is serious and you seem to be at a standstill, consider
professional counseling. That kind of talking can be healthy because the
counselor will try to help you face repressed issues that may be producing
unhealthy emotions in your life. Such issues can be poisonous, and it’s necessary
to work them out of your system. Then you can go on to the good life God wants
you to have. I think some people pay a counselor for years and years just to have
someone to talk to. But that is not true counseling. True counseling helps you see
and face the truth, and once that occurs then the work of healing can begin.
Talking to a counselor can be a good thing, but never forget that the absolute
best person to talk to is God.
I find the Psalms written by David very interesting because he was not
reticent about telling God exactly how he felt. But he also followed up by stating
that he was trusting God to be faithful to keep His promises. Often David would
even remind God of something He had promised in His Word. Let’s look at just
one passage of Scripture as an example:
How long will You forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long will You hide
Your face from me? How long must I lay up cares within me and have
sorrow in my heart day after day? How long shall my enemy exalt himself
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; lighten the eyes [of my
faith to behold Your face in the pitchlike darkness], lest I sleep the sleep
of death, lest my enemy say, I have prevailed over him, and those that
trouble me rejoice when I am shaken.
But I have trusted, leaned on, and been confident in Your mercy and
loving-kindness; my heart shall rejoice and be in high spirits in Your
salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with
If I paraphrased the above in today’s language, it might sound something like
this: “God, I am hurting so bad, I feel like I am going to die. How long will You
wait before You do something for me? Do You want my enemies to say that
they’ve won? God, I have trusted in You and will continue to do so. Let me see
Your face even in the midst of my trouble so I can be encouraged. I feel lousy,
God, but I will rejoice and have a good attitude because of Your salvation and
Your promises of love and mercy. I will sing to You because You are good.”
This one Psalm describes the principle I am presenting in this book. We don’t
have to deny that our emotions exist, but we must not let them control us. Our
emotions don’t need to control our decisions. We cannot always change the way
we feel, but we can choose what we will do in every situation. We can trust God
to level out our emotions while we make right choices.
I believe it was spiritually and even physically healthy for David to express
to God how he really felt. It was a way of releasing his negative feelings so they
could not harm his inner man while he was waiting for God’s deliverance. I’ve
noticed that David frequently said how he felt or what his circumstances were
and then he said, “ But I will trust God. I will praise God, who helps me.”
I would never suggest that you stuff your feelings inside and just let them eat
away at you. My purpose is not to encourage you to be phony and just pretend
that everything is fine while you are seething with anger inside or feel so
discouraged that you think you might explode. People who repress pain and
never learn to deal with it properly eventually either explode or implode, and
neither one is a good choice. We don’t want to deny the existence of emotions,
but we can deny them the right to rule over us.
My purpose is to get you to express yourself honestly to God or to a person
God wants to use, and to get you to express yourself in a godly way. I want to
teach you to own your emotions rather than letting them own you.
I want to teach you to own your emotions
rather than letting them own you.
Have you ever opened the refrigerator door to an odor that made you say,
“Something in here stinks”? I’m sure most of us have had that experience, and
when that happens we know if we don’t find what the source of the problem is, it
is just going to get worse. Not too long ago, I had coffee with a friend and was
surprised to hear some of the things she was saying about her church. She
expressed discontent with several things, and she did so in a critical and
judgmental manner. I left that day thinking, Something isn’t right in her heart. I
heard jealousy, discontentment, criticism, and bitterness. She was discussing the
worship department of the church, and it was obvious to me that she was
offended that she had been passed over for the position of worship leader.
I tried to get her to see that her attitude was not good, but she wasn’t ready to
be sorry for the way she was acting. I know for a fact that she talked to several
other people and ended up spreading her critical attitude onto them. I was aware
that her attitude stank and would only get worse unless she cleaned it up. Several
months later she ended up falling into deep sin. The door for the sin may well
have been opened in her life through a wrong attitude toward others. Her stink
became an infection that caused very serious problems.
The whole thing could have been avoided if she had talked to God instead of
others. She was not talking to me or anyone else to genuinely get help, she was
simply complaining. And we’ve already seen God’s attitude toward that. If she
had gone to God as David did, she might have said something like this: “God, I
am feeling angry because I was passed over for the position of worship leader. I
must admit, Lord, that I feel jealous and I think this was unfair. But I will put my
trust in You. True promotion comes from You, and I believe that if You want me
in that position, You can surely put me there. While I am waiting for You, I will
praise You and support the team that has been selected.”
By handling it that way, she could have expressed herself honestly, yet
maintained spiritual integrity and righteousness. She could have managed her
emotions instead of letting them manage her.
When you feel dog tired at night, it may be
because you’ve growled all day long.
When you feel dog tired at night, it may be
because you’ve growled all day long.
Sing Away the Blues
I read an interesting story in a book titled Child of the Jungle. A missionary and
his family lived among the Fayu tribe in New Guinea. The missionary’s
daughter, Sabine, wrote this:
When we first moved to the Fayu, we wondered whether they knew any
songs, since we never heard them singing. This question was answered
fairly quickly. We had just returned from Danau Bira, and our things had
once again been stolen. As we were cataloguing our losses, we heard
singing from the other side of the river. It was Nakire singing in a lovely
“Ohhhhhhh,” he sang. “The Fayu are like birds. Ohhhh, they always
take from the same tree. Ohhhh, such bad people. Ohhhh, poor Klausu,
poor Doriso. They are so sad and wonder where their stuff is. Ohhh…”
Papa was delighted as it became clear to us that the Fayu simply
improvise a song to match their situation. The songs only consist of three
notes with which they express whatever they are feeling in the moment. It
is not the most sophisticated music, but it is a sound I quickly came to
Their use of songs to express themselves may be one of the reasons the
Fayu do not seem to suffer from depression or other psychological
disorders. Feelings are immediately expressed. There are even times set
aside for the release of emotions, for example, the mourning song. When
the song of mourning runs its course, the grieving truly is finished, and
life resumes as normal.
When a person experienced a traumatic event, he might lie for weeks
in his hut, not saying a word but singing for hours at a time. During this
period, other clan members would provide him with food. Then one day,
he would simply get up with the trauma behind him. Cleansed of pain, he
would smilingly resume his everyday tasks.
What if we started making up our own songs? “Ohhhh, I am so miserable
because my husband lost his job and I don’t know what we are going to do.
Ohhhh, I don’t understand why my friends are blessed and I seem to always
have trouble. Ohhhh, when will my circumstances change? I feel like running
away from it all. Ohhhh, yes, I feel like running away.”
After hearing me preach this in a seminar, a girl on our staff made up a song
about her sinuses. It went something like this: “Ohhhh, I am so tired of my
sinuses being stuffed up. I just want to breathe; yes, I want to breathe with ease.
It doesn’t seem fair that I am allergic to the space I live in. Ohhhh, it just isn’t
I am sure you get the point. It might help to sing out your true feelings, but
always tell God that you are trusting in Him to make wrong things right.
This is the same principle that David practiced. The Psalms are all songs;
they are words set to music. And they were David’s way of expressing himself
honestly to God. We are encouraged in the Bible to sing unto God a new song
(see Psalm 96:1). Perhaps part of those new songs that we make up should be an
honest expression of how we feel. In venting our emotions properly, we might
avoid lots of psychological problems, the same way the Fayu tribe did.
Our Plastic Society
Do you ever feel that we live in a plastic society? We use plastic cards to make
purchases, which provides the illusion that we own what we have purchased and
brought home, but the truth is that as long as there is a balance on the plastic
credit card, it owns us. Credit cards are easy to use, but when the bills come, we
are often amazed that we spent so much and the illusion we had disappears.
We often appear to own what we really don’t. Many of us work at jobs we
hate simply because they give us titles and a feeling of importance. We can
undergo plastic surgery or liposuction, have our hair colored, or wear hair
extensions or wigs. With an unlimited budget, we could do just about anything
we wanted to alter our appearance. We can put on a plastic smile and tell the
world we are fine while inside we are falling apart. It’s all an illusion.
When we ask people how they are, the answer is usually “Fine,” but the
person might actually be freaked out, insecure, neurotic, and erratic. As
Christians we often believe that we should feel better than we do, or that it is
wrong to feel the way we do, so we hide our feelings from everyone. Sometimes
we try to hide the way we really feel from our own selves. We pretend to have
faith while we’re full of doubt. We pretend to be happy while we are miserable;
and we pretend to be in control and have it all together, but at home behind
closed doors, we are totally different people. We don’t want to admit that we are
living phony lives so we stay busy enough that we never have to deal with things
as they really are. We may even bury ourselves in church work or spiritual
activity as a way of hiding from God. He is trying to show us truth, but we
would rather work for Him than listen to Him.
God just wants us to be honest and real. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking all
your feelings are wrong. Being a person of faith does not mean you will never have negative or ungodly feelings. We will experience feelings that need to be dealt with, but we can always exercise our faith in God and ask Him to help us not to allow our feelings to control us. The Bible says we live by faith and not by sight (see 2 Cor. 5:7). That means we don’t make decisions based on what we see or feel, but according to our faith in God and His promises to us. I don’t think what we feel is a sin as long as we are talking to God about it and securing His strength to choose to act on His Word and not on how we feel. The Bible says to be angry and sin not. That literally means you can feel angry about an injustice, but if you deal with it properly then it will not become sin (see Eph. 4:26).
The truth makes us free. We are to deal truly, live truly, and above all be
truthful with God and ourselves. The Bible also says that we are to reject all
falsity; be done with it and let everyone express truth with his neighbor (see Eph.
4:25). I don’t think that means we should spill our guts to everyone we meet
about everything we feel and have done in life, but we cannot have plastic
relationships that are built on pretense.
Decision and confession: I will be authentic and truthful in my walk with God and my fellow human beings.