November 24, 2020

The Gospel and Mental Health: Feelings

Our feelings are up and down. One minute we can be on top of the world, and the next we can be in the valleys of despair. This is especially true when we struggle with our mental health.

Distrust Your Feelings

And the problem with our feelings is that they can often be misleading. Feelings skew reality. We feel depressed, and so we think everyone is against us. We feel anxious, and so we think the whole world is going to fall apart. We feel paranoid, and so we think everyone is talking about us. We feel suicidal, and so we think this world would be better without us. We feel hopeless, and so we think there is nothing worth living for.

How do we battle with our emotions, especially when they aim to deceive us and drive us to despair? Well, here is what not to do: ignore them. Don’t push them down and think they will just go away. Our emotions are powerful. Further, our emotions are God given. We’ve been created as emotional beings. God shows emotions in the Bible, and we’ve been created in His image.

So, what are we to do when our emotions are all over the place? We need to untangle them and work out what is true and what is false. And the best way I’ve found to do that is by reading the Psalms. Psalm 13 is a great place to turn when your emotions are all over the place.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.
(Psalm 13)

Take Your Emotions to God

The Psalmist does two things.

Firstly, the Psalmist calls out to the Lord. He lays how he is feeling before the Lord. He asks questions like, How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? He directs his questions and his emotions to the Lord. And that is key in the daily battle some of us have with mental health. It’s important to not bottle up your emotions, but rather bring them before the Lord. It’s important to talk through them so that you can discern what is real and what is false.

Sometimes, when it feels like your head might explode, just the expression of emotions relieves some pressure. Tell the Lord that you feel depressed. Tell the Lord that you feel anxious. Tell the Lord that you feel paranoid. Tell the Lord that you feel hopeless and forgotten. He is listening. He cares for you. He wants to hear from you. He is like a father with a child who wants to find out what is going on in his child’s life. He is not distant. He doesn’t get bored. He doesn’t mind you bringing the same feelings again and again and again.

But the Psalmist does not stop there. He does something important at the end of the Psalm, and it’s this: He declares that he will trust in the Lord despite how he is feeling. He reminds Himself of the steadfast love of the Lord. This is vital in our daily battle with mental health. The problem we have is that our emotions can lie to us and skew the reality of who God is. We feel like He doesn’t care. We feel like He is distant. We feel like He is not in control. We feel like He doesn’t love us.

However, none of that is true.

Retune Your Emotions According to God’s Word

This is where the Word of God can retune our thinking and our emotions. The Psalmist, despite what He feels, knows that he can trust in God’s steadfast love, and therefore he can rejoice.

You see, we need to remember that despite how we feel, God loves us. He really does. Nothing changes that. How do we know? Romans 8:31–32 tells us: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

The gospel truth is that if we are in Christ, God is for us. As Christians, we are loved, and we know that because God gave His Son for us! So if you are feeling the darkness today, cry out to the Lord and remind yourself of your salvation. Memorise these verses and ask the Spirit to imprint them on your heart. Don’t trust your emotions. Trust the God of your salvation.

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