Sunday, May 28, 2017

Heart Trouble?

            As a woman, I am so tired of fighting my feelings! I am not saying that men don’t struggle with their feelings too, but I do believe we have a heavier dose of struggle with feelings especially because of our hormones that fluctuate frequently and take drastic shifts at various points in our lives. While this has been a battle for a long time, it has recently come to my attention in sharper focus the last few months. Primarily, it is my own heart that has gotten my attention, but I have certainly been burdened for some of my sisters who are overwhelmed by their feelings and emotions.
            Don’t get me wrong, emotions and feelings can be a tremendous blessing. When I look at my little boy, my heart is overwhelmed to bursting with a love and adoration that is sweet. When my husband and I spend quality time together or get some time away, I love the passion, romance, and security that our love engenders in my heart. Feelings are also helpful indicators when something is wrong. When you are hiking and run across a coiled snake, the panic that arises causes you to move quickly and safely away. And even some of these feelings that I am tired of fighting can be useful to show me where I am trusting in something or someone other than the Lord. Or, grief, anxiety, or depression can tell me when I am hurting and need to seek help from the Lord, from friends, or even a medical professional. But what is on my mind today are those emotions and feelings that tell us lies and try to convince us to believe them instead of truth. Let’s look at some examples.

Feelings can tell us:
I am not good enough.
I am too weak to do _____. (what God has called me to or given me)
I need _____ to be happy. (food, possessions, money, a certain weight, etc.)
If God really loved me, He wouldn’t allow this painful thing.

            Where do these lies come from? Two places: Satan and ourselves. God warns us in His word that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), and that our hearts are deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9). Some lies are so subtle that we don’t recognize that we are making decisions throughout the day based on them. One of my ‘favorites’ is choosing to eat junk food or too much food because it offers comfort or pleasure. I don’t analyze every time I reach for junk food to think “Am I just enjoying a fun creation of God’s in healthy balance, or am I trying to satisfy myself apart from Him?” However, even when I am aware of these lies, it is not any easier to battle them. The flesh or Satan shouts loudly and convincingly that I need _____ to be happy, or that I am never going to be the best mother I want to be.
            So, what do we do when these lies overwhelm our emotions? If our hearts are so deceitful, how do we fight them? The simple answer is with truth! God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) in His Word and through the power of His Holy Spirit. However, we have to be disciplined to utilize these great tools, be aware of our weak spots, and utilize the body of Christ through accountability. Our greatest asset is keeping our relationship with the Lord strong through daily Bible meditation and prayer. Joshua 1:8 says, “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you will be careful to do all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous and then you shall have good success.”
            Being aware of your weaknesses and the times or circumstances that highlight your weaknesses can also help you combat the lies of emotions. For many of us, right after we have had a spiritual high or even just an enjoyable thing like a vacation, we quickly experience a downturn of emotion and thinking, whether it is Satan’s attack or a physical/emotional letdown. Of course, being mindful of our natural hormonal ebb and flow is helpful if you do see a pattern. Knowing you often have a sensitive day at a certain time of the month can allow you to prepare yourself. But also knowing where you tend to run to satisfy yourself apart from God: books, TV, shopping, food, other people, etc., can help you heighten your awareness when you notice you are running to those things more often. Furthermore, you can find specific verses to meditate on or memorize that combat those lies with truth.
            Finally, enlist your sisters in Christ or your family members to keep you accountable and to share your burden or struggle (Galatians 6:1-2). I know that when I keep my struggle to myself, I go through cycles of shame when I feel like I am failing that defeat me more, but I also observe that what I am struggling with feels so much more powerful when I don’t share it. Find someone you trust who knows and loves you and wants the best for you. Start an accountability partnership or group, where you all share your struggles. Pray for one another and ask about how everything is going with the struggle. Offer any advice you have found helpful. We were not meant to do this alone. And often, just discovering that other women know exactly how you feel, or have struggles too even if they are different from yours can be a relief and a joy. May the Lord grant us the strength and honesty to battle our emotions and always keep His truth foremost in our minds and hearts!

 ~Judith Graham

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