Connecting Emotionally with God in a Disruptive Time
We are made in the image of a God who has emotions. They are given to us, as David Powlison says, as a light on a car dashboard advising us to look inside.
Psalm 42:5 models our intent – “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” The self-aware Psalmist sees his downcast soul. He matches a word with his state, prays it to God, and “preaches the gospel” to His heart.
Sometimes we don’t know how we feel so we pray Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” Understanding our emotions is a prayerful exercise. “Lord, what’s going on in my heart? Help me discern what my emotions are telling me?”
If you’ve been part of any Westside’s discipleship programs you know we practice reflecting on and naming how we feel, as well as seeking to know and understand each other’s emotional states. We call this exercise “Feelings Check In.”
Because you may be new at this, I’ve provided a sheet of Feeling Words and diagrams to help you locate the word(s) or images that best match your state. You have a spectrum of emotions to choose from – more than are listed! There’s even an image that reflects a swirl of emotions, called a grief ball of tangled emotions. Think of these as a menu that helps you decide what you’re hungry for. Sometimes looking at a list of words or images enables you say, “Ah! Yes! That’s how I’m feeling.” Over time it’s worth noting if you tend to gravitate to one side of the wheel or one column. Be curious as to why. You can also name which ones you long to reflect your heart and why. There’s no “right” answer to how you are feeling.
If emotions make you uncomfortable, ask the Lord to uncover why. What’s your history with emotions and expressing them? “Lord, I wonder what my reaction teaches me about you, others and myself. Show me.” It is good and Biblical to name what you feel to the Lord.
A healthy rhythm to incorporate into your time with God is this simple exercise: Spend five minutes writing or drawing what you’re sad, mad, glad and anxious about. Then pray what you discover to the Lord. You can do this with children, too, if you have them. Consider having a “Feelings Check In” on your next Zoom call with friends or small group. Pray your check-ins to God. If you’re stuck, turn to the Psalms to locate your heart’s cry.
In this season of strong and rapidly shifting emotions you may need to do feelings check-ins with God multiple times a day. Do that! He is always attentive to our cry and an ever-present help in times of trouble.
Recommended Resource: Untangling Emotions by Alasdair Groves and Winston Smith