A few weeks ago I wrote about the necessity of examining what we actually believe about God and his posture towards us. This can be an enlightening first step to facing the truth about ourselves and engaging with God. But it isn’t a once and done deal. Self-examination is a practice we need to weave into our spiritual lives. Not to become overly self-focused, but to continue to bring ourselves in truth to the God who alone can change us.
Jesus said that God’s worshipers need to come to him in spirit and in truth. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us of how easy it is to deceive ourselves. It’s all too easy to get comfortable in our Christian clothing and forget who is really underneath. While justification is done, our transformation is ongoing and always proceeds to yet deeper layers.
So we need to continue to examine what we really believe and keep coming to him honestly. But how do we resist the temptation to become comfortable with what we think we know and continue to bring the truth of our hearts into the light?
Bring Your Raw Feelings to God
When negative feelings come up, I tend to shove them down instinctually. I’d rather attempt to manufacture a happy facade than face what’s brewing underneath the surface of my soul. This bad habit intensified after I had children, hoping to also shield them from my feelings. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work out very well for any of us. It’s like trying to push a beach ball underneath the water. Eventually, it just pops back out, often quite forcefully.
As I’ve grown in grace and compassion for myself and my kids, I’m learning how to acknowledge negative feelings and bring them into the presence of Christ. As a mom of little ones, I hesitate to do this because I don’t want to let them see me cry. However, I’ve come to realize this is preferable to the alternative. I work to accept the feelings as they are. I face them and decide what I need to do to take care of myself that day. I trust that God sees me and knows what I need. Sometimes, in the reality of mom life, this is all I can do. But if time and circumstances permit, I lean into what my feelings want to reveal.
Process the Feelings
The best way for me to clarify what is really going on inside of my heart is to journal. You might prefer to pray out loud or call a trusted friend. Whatever method you choose, allow your thoughts to flow, unchecked. This is simply about bringing your honest self into the presence of God.
Consider this a practice of honest confession, letting God see your true emotions, needs, and pain. Give Him a space to meet you there and apply healing to your wounded places. Try not to focus so much on sinful behaviors, but on the sinful ways of thinking and believing that are ingrained, that you wouldn’t catch otherwise.
Sometimes you might not know where to start. “What is bothering you?” is a simple question to help get you started. Remember to examine the feelings, beliefs, and ideas about God behind it.
Pray the Psalms
The psalms can help us find language for our internal turmoil. Psalm 13, 42, and 142 have offered apt words to my emotions in the past. I once heard someone describe the psalms as a place to find words that we are allowed to pray to God. I love that! So often I find myself tongue-tied in the presence of God because I’m afraid of revealing my impure motives. But when I read the Psalms I find a lot more provocative language than what I want to say. David goes so far as to ask God to punch his enemies in the face and break their teeth!
God is not afraid of our emotions and He is not making sure we come to him in a certain pious way. He wants our hearts. He came while we were yet sinners. He’s not naive to the depths of our depravity. Rather He invites us to open our depraved hearts to Him, that He might restore and renew them. But if we hide our hearts away, pretending we’re alright, we will never change.
Take courage to bring your heart to God. He’s not waiting to judge you, rather He longs to have compassion on you and to guide you into the truth. But we can only start where we really are.