It is OK for Christians to acknowledge when they are feeling depressed, helpless, anxious and afraid.
Christians openly acknowledge that we are only human and therefore we have human frailty ... Being in a pandemic heightens our sense of helplessness and lack of control. This can lead to additional feelings of fear, anxiety and even anger. Because our hearts and minds are already known to God it is right to be honest and acknowledge how we are truly feeling to God.
The Psalms are a good record of people honestly expressing their feelings to God. If you are finding it hard to identify your emotions or putting them into words, the Psalms can be very helpful. Read them through and find the Psalm that speaks to you. Compare and contrast what you are feeling with the words of the Psalmist and be assured that God is listening to us now just like God did back then.
As the Psalms lead you to expressing your feelings, let them also lead you to the assurance of faith that God — who IS in control and who is aware of our feelings — still loves us and will not abandon us. A common refrain in the Psalms and elsewhere in scripture tells us to “Give thanks for the LORD is Good, God’s steadfast love endures forever.” (See Psalm 107)
Anchoring our faith, feelings, thoughts and efforts to our steadfast God helps steady us in the ups and downs of these ever changing days. Leaning on God who is fully in control gives us the courage to claim the control that we do have to do what we can do to cope: we can accomplish one task, eat a healthy meal, take a walk, reach out to a family member or friend, take deep breaths, listen to music, dance, enjoy the beauty of creation or of creating something, and even get help from the helpers that God provides us by calling our doctor, a counselor or a pastor when we need to.
The Bible is full of stories of people struggling and God helping. Struggling with helplessness as slaves in Egypt with a total lack of freedoms, God heard the cries of desperation from His people and rescued them. When the whole world was struggling with ultimate helplessness over sin and evil, God saved the world by sending Jesus to be the Redeemer. The New Testament assures us that Jesus came and lived a real life among real people who felt afraid, confused, lost, judged, sick, and rejected just like we may be feeling. He responded to each person’s circumstance with compassion. And when His time on earth ended, Jesus promised His abiding presence through the Spirit. He gave the Holy Spirit who helps us, counsels us, reminds us about Jesus’ teachings, guides us, encourages us and gives us deep Peace. It’s the Holy Spirit that helps us talk to God honestly about how we are feeling through prayer. It is also the Holy Spirit that draws us close to each other. It is faithful to acknowledge our true feelings to God and also with each other. We gain strength when others listen to our most vulnerable thoughts and feelings with empathy and understanding, who offer love and do not judge. We also become more resilient when our grief at the graveside is balanced with the announcement of a baby’s birth and our list of deep concerns is balanced with things to be grateful for.
A thriving Christian community that fosters honest sharing and resilience is described this way in Romans 12:14- 21:
Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (Romans 12: 14-21 MSG)
This is a crucial time for us to listen to each other with Christ-like compassion so we can all feel OK acknowledging our true feelings and doing the good that we can.
The Pastor’s Podium column is offered each week by a different pastor or lay person representing an Ellsworth County church.
The week’s columnist is Amy Jo Hawley, pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, Ellsworth.