In Christian circles, sometimes it is taboo to say that we are sad, discouraged, angry, or disappointed. A good Christian should always be cheerful, they say! Yet our soul is a gift from God and we must take care of it.
We are a spirit, living in a body, having emotions and instincts, that is, a soul. In our churches, we often hear the advice to not base our decisions on our emotions, and this is absolutely true! Our soul is not a reliable source (Jeremiah 17:9). We must not follow our carnal impulses, our body, which is also a bad adviser. We have to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, communicating to our spirit, to walk in the right direction in all areas.
But while we shouldn’t listen to our emotions while making a decision, that doesn’t mean we have to muzzle our emotions and suppress them. It is God who gave us this wonderful aspect and emotions are also very useful, just like our bodies. If, for example, one of our brothers complains of back pain, some Christians will only stifle his pain by throwing biblical promises: “Refuse this pain! Jesus took your sufferings on his cross! You are healed in the name of Jesus!” These are beautiful statements and we must pray for the sick. But if we take the time to find out where this suffering is coming from, sometimes the answer is not just spiritual. Maybe our brother has back pain because his mattress needs to be changed! If our sister has diabetes, of course, we should pray for her, but also help her make some dietary changes. If someone has severe lung disease but is addicted to cigarettes, praying for their recovery is not enough, they must also help him be free from this bad habit.
Likewise, our negative emotions are also red flags that should not be ignored. If a sister tells us that she is sad, we shouldn’t just say, “No! The joy of the Lord is your strength! Rejoice in the Lord always! ” Again, these statements are very biblical, but by stifling the suffering, that does not make them go away. You don’t just need to have faith, you also need to have compassion. Romans 12:15 (NIV) says: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” When we ask someone why they are sad, and help identify the cause of their sadness, we are in a better position to help our sister. For example, a single woman meets a man during an event and gives him her phone number and the man does not call her back. The woman could just shrug her shoulders and forget the story. But if on the contrary, she becomes very irritated, angry, or becomes very discouraged and depressed, she should see these negative feelings as a hidden reason, a deeper problem to be addressed.
Because just as our body can be hurt, so can our soul. The most common injuries are those caused by rejection, violence or lack of protection, lies or lack of praise, abandonment, and injustice or false testimony. These are, in a way, sins done against you. They may have been done on purpose, or even sometimes unintentionally. Our perception of a situation may be completely different from the other person’s intentions. But no matter if our perception is real or not, if the hurt is there, we must seek our healing.
Since these wounds are, in a way, sins that have been done against you, to wash them away you will need to forgive. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13 NIV). We must forgive others by giving this offense to God and leaving Him the vengeance, correction, or justice. In our previous example, maybe the woman was overcome with negative feelings at the man’s silence because it reminded her of another person who rejected her in the past. A person she has not yet forgiven. By forgiving the person from the past, their negative feelings will be less intense.
The negative emotions we feel (sadness, fear, anger, disappointment, etc.) should not be ignored. We are to use them, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to identify the hidden cause. It is not the emotion that needs to be resolved, but the cause. What God wants for His children is for us to be at peace with each other, and for that, we must not ignore our differences, we must talk about them (Matthew 5:24).