Is it Okay to Feel Bad?

I come from a certain Christian tradition that puts a premium on being joyful even when we didn’t feel especially joyful. It was a “fake it ‘till you make it” mentality. But we chose to call it walking by faith. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for faith. The bible says:

For we live by faith, not by sight.
— 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

So faith is an absolutely essential part of living the abundant life. But faith is not denying what you feel or the reality of the condition of your heart. Faith is looking beyond our present circumstances or feelings to an ultimate truth and then placing our trust in that truth. As believers we have chosen to believe what God says is true more than our experience, emotions or human logic. That is because we trust in a God who has made everything, knows everything and has our future already guaranteed. So when he declares truth we can be assured, in his eyes, it has already happened. But I can hear you saying; “that’s great James but I live in the here and now and, I am pretty darn anxious right now!”

So that’s why we often slip into the “fake it ‘till you make it” philosophy. In other words, we deny our feelings and try to look positive. But let me give you an alternative.

Transcend rather than deny

What is transcending our feelings? Let’s first look at what happens when we deny our feelings.

  • When we deny our feelings we are closed to our hearts cries and shut the door to God’s comfort. How can God comfort our hurting heart unless we admit that our hearts need comforting?
  • When we deny our feelings we often shame ourselves for not being stronger in faith. Faith is not a feeling. The most powerful demonstration of faith is in the presence of our doubt.
  • When we deny our feelings we isolate ourselves from others who God could use to encourage, comfort and give us wisdom. God has put every believer in his family and this family is the way he brings us resources.
  • When we deny our feelings we are attempting to be someone God has not chosen to make us. As Brennen Manning said, “God loves us for who we are not who we’re not”. When we deny the true state of our heart we are trying to be someone other than the person that God loves … perfectly!

Okay if denial is bad what does it mean to transcend our feelings?

  • Transcending means that we acknowledge what is going on in our hearts. We don’t hide our feelings from God or try to “sugar coat” them with platitudes. Our prayers are real and our pain is exposed fully to his glorious light.
  • Transcending means we agree with God concerning his promises and proclaim them truer than our emotions, acknowledging that he is able to do just what he has said he will do. Note: This requires that we become intimately familiar with the Scriptures. We will never escape the power our feelings have over us if we don’t know the greater power of God’s truth as proclaimed in the Bible.
  • Transcending means that we become real in the presence of other people. We acknowledge the present state of our hearts all the while confessing the truth of God’s Word. We invite other’s encouragement and prayers because we accept the maturing process of Holy Spirit in our lives and in humility receive all the resources he graciously provides. Denial is often an excuse for our pride. When we deny the true state of our hearts we are often saying that we are better than we are. But Scripture says; “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6)
  • Transcending is the only path to healing. Jesus said; “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) and that is true of the emotional prison our feelings put us in. When we set our hearts on what is true we set in motion a process of transformation that will ultimately lift our emotions out of the pit and free us to experience true joy and peace that are our true inheritance and children of God.  

One last thought. I have found that sometimes I have enjoyed wallowing in my negative feelings and resisted the need to transcend them.  Don’t ask me why, it’s a mystery. Why would I find it strangely comfortable to be in emotional pain? The one thing that pulls me out of this emotional masochism is the effect I am having on the ones I love. When I allow myself the “luxury” of remaining in my pain I am in fact inflicting pain on those around me. Therefore transcending my feelings is a gift I give to others especially those who are close.

Here are five tips for transcending your feelings

  1. Write down on 3X5 cards Scripture verses that state a truth or a promise from God that is especially meaningful to you.
  2. Carry them with you constantly and refer to them regularly, especially when you are tempted to go negative in your emotions
  3. Talk to God honestly about how you feel but always acknowledge that you will ultimately put your hope in him despite your current feelings. (this is a faith statement)
  4. Be real with others, especially mature believers, about the state of your heart and ask them to pray for you right there and then.
  5. If you get stuck seek godly counsel to help root out the underling source of your emotional pain. We all need help sometimes.

As always if you have any comments, questions or prayer requests it is our privilege and delight to respond