Free to feel: four tips to respond to your feelings when you're "emotionally broken"
You’ve probably heard that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice.
Whoever said that was absolutely right. God chose to love us when we were unlovable. For those of us who are married, we know that we’re choosing to love our spouses even when the butterflies aren’t there or we’re stuck in the middle of an argument. Moms, we're loving our children when they’ve pitched a fit and disobeyed the rules. I'm sure we can all think of 100 instances we've chosen to love family, friends, coworkers, and even total strangers, when they weren't exactly lovable.
For sure. Love is a choice. But, that doesn’t disqualify our feelings. Our emotional response to circumstances and people is actually a gift from God.
I always thought I was a broken girl because I was not free to feel.
I’d see friends cry over movies and wonder why I didn’t feel teary at all. In fact, I only cried when I was mad. Everything about the way I emotionally responded to things felt off and always took a back seat to rationality.
Somewhere along the way, I accepted my "emotionally broken" fate and decided to mostly ignore them or put them on the back burner. Maybe, just maybe, if I ignored them long enough, they'd disappear.
However, the strange thing about our feelings is that, you cannot just ignore them until they evaporate. They actually become repressed emotions and start to surface in your subconscious or even physically in the strangest ways.
Which is probably why I found myself several years ago in a waiting room chair outside of a counseling office. I didn’t allow myself to feel anything for so long that my body and mind were spewing out all that I’ve stuffed down into that feeling file folder. I had to talk about it. I had to become free to feel.
One of my favorite books of all time is The Chronicles of Narnia. I felt like Eustace allowing Aslan to shed his dragon skin. The story goes a little something like this:
Being vulnerable with our emotions is hardest thing we’re called to do. God wants us to take off our heart armor and let Him all the way in. He wants to come right into our heart.
Being vulnerable with our emotions is allowing our heart to be exposed. It’s taking off those scales in front of someone safe. It’s coming to God and saying "I trust you’ll look at all of me and love me anyway."
The best reference point I have for this was when I went night swimming off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I spent a glorious summer working on Cape Hatteras. Y’all, it was the best summer of my life.
We’re girls so, we were all giggling in anticipation of doing something crazy. Once we were sure that the coast was clear, we turned to each other and screamed, “GO!” Clothes went flying and feet went running. We were racing toward the water in the moonlight until something hilarious happened. One of my friends (let’s call her Sally) face planted. Sally didn’t notice the little drop off in the sand and ate it big time as soon as her foot hit the ledge.
We couldn’t leave Sally there. So, of course, some of us went back to help our friend make it to the ocean.
I say all this to hopefully give you a good laugh, but to also tell you how to get up the courage to have an open heart in front of the God who loves you. To get a little young, wild, and free with your feelings.
So, here are my four tips on how to respond to your feelings when you're "emotionally broken:"
These are not acquaintances. I’m talking about people who really know and care about you. People you do life with, raise your kids beside, and invite over when you’re having a break down. These are people you’re okay opening up with. John 15: 13-15 says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Maybe you’re not comfortable going to someone yet. So, know that God is your friend. In Jesus, he laid down his life for us on the cross and expressed the greatest act of love in the history of the world. We can trust God with everything that’s hidden in our hearts because he already knows it all and chooses us anyway, as a friend, as a daughter.
This means you have to tell God about those layers you have to peel back. It's admitting the resentment and bitterness that have been tripping you up like an old pair of shoes. It’s showing that you have some depression or anxiety hidden underneath that shiny, happy mask. It’s telling someone about that thing, a secret sin or burden, that has been weighing you down like a trench coat for years and years. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” One by one, take it off girl. Bury it there in the sand. Step on it. Rip it up. Examine it. Whatever you need to do. Just take it off.
Run toward the Water as fast as you can. One of my favorite metaphors Jesus uses for Himself is “living water (John 4:10).” He is a safe covering for your exposed heart. An inviting ocean of grace and mercy, covering all your past mistakes. As healing as salt water to your wounds. He is ready to let you fall right into him and embrace you as you are. Go to Him with your bare soul and let Him clothe you in the strength, dignity, and laughter you were made for (Proverbs 31:25). Fall safely, honestly into your feelings and His freedom.
Vulnerability brings community. When you’re open to others, you’re giving them permission to be open too. You’re telling your husband what’s really going on and he may fall into you with something that’s going on with him too. You’re sharing with your friend about your secret sin and she may come to you later sharing about hers. You’re telling that person about the way they hurt you all those years ago and they may tell you about a wound they’ve been hiding. Whatever happens, just like we all rushed to save Sally, move toward your vulnerable friend and lead them toward the water as well. Let grace cover all those feelings and mistakes. Stand together, invigorated and alive with the living water rushing all around you.
In closing, I want to tell y’all a quick story about a crippled man challenged with the same thing each of us is here today: To dive into love and let God heal us. John 5:1-9 says...
“Would you like to be healed?” That question that Jesus asks the sick man is what he’s asking us all. What are we waiting for? If we actually want to be healed, we have to hurt. We have go to get off the sidelines, lay down our layers, and get in the water. We must jump into the process of discovering the purpose in our pain.
The wonderful thing about Jesus here is that He doesn’t force the crippled man to get in. He doesn’t say, “Ok guy, for me to help you I need you to sink or swim in there.” Jesus actually comes to him. It’s the Sabbath, the day of rest, so He’s actually going way out of the way for him and performing a miracle on the most unexpected of days. He asks him a pivotal question, get’s his honest response, and restores him to health enough to walk.
This is the grace Jesus is extending to us for our crippling emotions and pain. He’s going out of the way for you, coming and asking if you truly want to be healed, helping you roll up your emotional weight, and take the next step forward into freedom.
Have you been sitting at the ocean of your emotion wanting to be healed of your crippling pain but a bit afraid to jump in? If so, I think we need to be honest here. Truly wanting to be healed is saying yes to walking through whatever it means to process that pain.
If your answer is yes, then you have to get a little crazy and free with your feelings. Admit hurt to find healing. Respond to God’s love knowing that same God who created all of your feelings is not afraid to see your heart- the anger you have toward Him, the joy you find in His love, how overwhelmed or disappoint you truly are. You're creating community through vulnerability. Find a safe place, whether that’s with friends or maybe just God alone, to strip back all those feelings you’ve been hiding and dive in! Take everyone with you and rush toward Jesus. You are wild, free to feel, and extending that same invitation to all those waiting at the waters edge.
So, do you want to be healed?
This blog was written by Kaley Rivera Thompson. She is the owner of this blog, an author, worship leader and speaker. She's always down for a cup of coffee or a good hike. You can find out more about her on this website www.kriverathompson.com or on her instagram, @kriverathompson.
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Kaley Rivera Thompson is an author, copywriter, public speaker, and musician. She serves as the Director of Communications and Donor Relations for the student sports-centric nonprofit she and her husband, Gage, run called Twelve. When she's not championing other women, cheering on the rising generation, writing or playing her guitar, Kaley loves to sip strong coffee, go on hikes, or take a day trip to the mountains with her family. She takes the most pride in being a mom to two little girls, Lina and Lili. You can follow her on instagram at @kriverathompson or find out more on her website at kriverathompson.com.