I sat cross-legged on the puffy brown leather chair, heart twisted in despair, trying with all my might to get over myself, get up, and ready for work. I have always been so good at stuffing my feelings, slamming the door on them, and getting on with my day. A master at hiding from my own hard feelings. But today, I just couldn’t. I even had a client to answer who had sent me a message early that morning that I knew I needed to get back to, and yet my backside seemed glued to the chair.
Interestingly, my spirit knew God did not want me to breeze past my broken heart on my way toward whatever it was that would distract me from dealing with these hard feelings. He wanted me to sit fully present in my hurt and be honest with myself and Him about the feelings that raged there. He wanted me to answer up to why I had always felt like I could not be honest with myself about the fact that I have feelings. Real, raw, and deep feelings that are not warm and fuzzy even half of the time, as I would like to pretend.
But most of all, He wanted me to know that it's okay to feel the feels and bring them with untidied-up rawness before him. After all, hiding what He already knows is downright silly and blocks us from the deepest healing our father is more than willing to provide.
Somewhere along the way, the well-meaning world has associated faith with feelings that never waiver. We've unintentionally implied that if your faith is strong then you will never have any of those messy feelings that no one likes to talk about, and should not be put on display. It’s okay to show your joy, peace, and strength, but none of this doubt, anger, and sadness stuff. Those are the bad feelings that need to be kept hidden. If you have those feelings your faith must be failing.
Yet Jesus shows us a different way.
“When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them.
They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!’” John 11:33-36
In this passage, we see Jesus getting deeply angry and weeping in grief. Two messy feelings for sure. He shows us it is okay not to be okay all the time. Anger and sadness are not a lack of faith. They are simply two of the feelings God gave us to experience. It would only make sense that our response to the brokenness of this world is anger and sadness? God’s is.
The strangest part of this story is that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead just after feeling and revealing His true feelings. His faith in the supernatural power of God was not wavering just because he experienced anger and grief. He was about to show the supernatural power God has to raise the dead to life, and yet He grieved with His friends first. Did He take the time to do this to show us hard feelings are okay too? I think so. And I am so overwhelmingly grateful He gives me permission to feel and fail without questioning my faith or His love for me.
We were created to experience all kinds of feelings. Not just the good ones. Faith is not the absence of messy feelings. In fact, it is usually the messy ones that drive us to the heart God. They reveal our need for Him and our longing for what was supposed to be and will be again. God wants us to be real and deeply honest with our hearts when we come to Him. He does not want the cleaned-up version of you that the world wants because He wants your whole heart, and that includes the messy parts.
When we believe that God can handle our messy feelings and failings and love to heal us as we open our whole hearts up to Him, we exercise our faith in His true character. We believe He is who he says He is – gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 145:8.) We give Him permission to heal us, restore us and guide us. We release our supposed-to-be's, finally following Him with our whole and undivided hearts, and amazingly that is where we find the Kingdom of God.
Father, we bring you our whole hearts believing that you are who you say you are. You are the God with us. The healer, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. We know that we do not have to hide from you because you love us just as we are and you love us whole and healed as we come to you. Thank you for you grace and love. Help us to trust you more and more and find healing in your radical love. In Jesus' name, Amen.