“Don’t yawn! Don’t get bored! Pay attention and stay on your place! These are my prime instructions to my 9 years old before his online class on Zoom begins. But every time it seems like my instructions are falling on deaf ears. He does what he wants to do.
Once I had to mute the speaker and turn off the camera to instruct him during the class strictly not to yawn constantly or show that you are bored. But his very frank response surprised me. He said, “Mummy, yawning is natural. I can’t stop it!”
Children are amazingly honest with their feelings. In Asher’s case, he is the same in and out. If he is upset, he is. If he is happy, he is. If he is sad, he is. If he is bored, he is. There is no pretension of any kind, no mask of any other feelings over the real ones.
I wonder, whether we outgrow the ability to be honest with our feelings as we grow up. We don’t usually reveal how we feel. Do we? Especially the feelings of depression, negativity or sadness are the most suppressed ones. We are conscious of being judged by others. We wonder if others will criticize us for our pain. So we always want to put our best self forward. Under the “I am fine” phrase, we keep on fighting our silent battles.
Above all, we are Christians so we aren’t supposed to feel any negativity. We are supposed to choose joy everyday. How can one have negative feelings and claim to love or believe in Jesus?
We are told that being followers of Christ, we must be joyful always. The Christian life is a life of victory. We must focus on whatever is good. We must choose joy and cling to the biblical promises. We must consider our trials and tribulations as a furnace for refining our faith.
And I am sure all of us want to live our Christian life exactly this way. After all, who wants to live a miserable life right?
But there are times and I mean those toughest times, when nothing really makes sense in life. There is an ache in your heart which doesn’t go away. No amount of encouragement works. You can’t differentiate between the fixed mind-set and growth mind-set and which one you actually have. You aren’t able make lemonade from the lemons you get. No sermon or motivational book seems to help you. No matter how much you try, you just can’t see the silver linings around your clouds. Happiness seems everyone’s state of mind but yours. And all you want is to just feel numb for a moment.
There are times when Job’s or Joseph’s life-example doesn’t motivate you enough. Paul’s letters don’t bring any instant hope. Nothing proves to be soothing for your aching soul. Though deep down you know that you trust in God and love Jesus deeply, but you just don’t feel like praying another prayer. Your cup seems to run dry. You cry yourself to sleep and getting up for another day feels like a huge burden for you.
And…and there are days when your prayers seem to hit the ceiling and come back to you. “This too shall pass” looks much like “this too shall last”. And you wonder day after day if there is any end to your challenges. And above all, God seems to be silent, distant and angry with you…
In his book “A Grief Observed”, C.S. Lewis describes God’s silence in this way –
“When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.”
We read in Psalms where David expresses his genuine feelings to God. He is so vulnerable and honest with how he feels and what agonizes his heart. And we see that he is always comforted by the Spirit of God at the end.
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” Psalms 13:1-2
Being real with your feelings can sometimes be hard. But choosing to be real is the way out. As long as you resist the pain, it will only intensify. So, if you feel like crying, just cry. If you want to stay alone for some time and process your feelings, just do that. If you want to just have some rest, allow yourself to rest. If you want to share your feelings with someone whom you trust, please do that. If you want to write down your feelings in a journal, do that (this has helped me a lot). But be open with how you feel.
You aren’t exaggerating them, you aren’t acting weird. It’s just natural that you don’t feel good. As they say, it’s just ok not to be ok. Keeping your true feelings suppressed will only do you more harm than any good. So let them vent out. At the end it doesn’t matter how many people you pleased by your smiling face but aching heart. Your life is yours and your mental health is your responsibility.
Feelings aren’t permanent. And you are not your feelings. They are just natural human responses to pain and challenging situations. In fact they are very necessary to address the cause of your pain, so you can know how things should look. Expressing your true feelings, shedding the suppressed tears aren’t the signs of your failing faith or distrust in God but it simply means you have been strong for so long, you still want to keep going but you just need some breather….you just need some time out.
And know this unchanging truth that no matter how hard you feel, God always remains by your side and walks you through this valley of sorrow. And His love for you never changes. He is your everlasting light. And this light is best experienced from the place of darkness!