(By Ruth Potter)
Imagine a meaningful relationship without emotion. Impossible! We are created with the capacity for a range of emotions, including joy and sorrow, so that we can connect emotionally with God and others. God connects with us emotionally when He tells us we are loved, chosen, cherished, and never alone. Joy and sorrow are not opposites and they can be experienced simultaneously. Love involves both joy and sorrow. Because we love deeply, we also grieve. We would like to avoid painful emotions, but we can’t selectively numb emotions. When we numb our painful emotions, we also numb positive emotions such as joy. So we need to develop emotional and spiritual resilience.
My journey through severe depression sparked a desire to understand emotional regulation and how the power of the indwelling Spirit, the Word, prayer, and healthy Christian community help us to face brokenness with hope. Today, I still have times of low mood. I also have times of joy and happiness. This reality reflects a life of experiencing God’s blessings, and also the pain and brokenness of life. This pain has been instrumental in my pursuit of God. I am still learning to trust him with my circumstances, still waiting on Him to meet my need. I’m praying this short article will strengthen you today.
There is huge diversity in how we experience emotion based on the complex interaction of inborn temperament, and life experience. Some people feel emotions more intensely than others. Some are naturally more empathetic than others. High empathy is a strength and also a vulnerability. Christians may experience the fallenness of the world more intensely because we long for the day when there is no more sin or sorrow. Or you may be struggling with sickness, disability, stressful life events, or other people’s attitudes and behavior, over which you have no control. Sometimes we influence, but we are not in control of our circumstances. God has promised to be with us in our circumstances.
Our strength comes from our attachment to God. As we turn toward God, and choose Him, He pours in His strength. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches… abide in Me” (John 15:5). We can be like a green branch that grows and bends in the wind and whose roots grow deeper in the knowledge that God is sovereign, righteous, loving, and kind. And there is purpose in our trials. Joy and sorrow help precipitate spiritual growth. They cause our roots to go deeper. The fruit might not immediately be external; it might be the inner work that the Spirit is doing in us, conforming us to God’s image. Although we continue to feel the effects of our fallen, broken world, we are also called to grow into a settled joy that Christ is enough. He is ours; we are His. Our desire for joy will only be fully met when we see Him. Until then, we have God’s Word, God’s ear, and God’s people to strengthen us, and bring hope and joy!
Here are three practical strategies for developing emotional and spiritual resilience:
1. The habit of daily times in the Word. Ask God to reveal His character to you through His Word.
2. The habit of fervent prayer—for personal, spiritual, and emotional needs, for guidance and wisdom. Give your burden to Him. When I am struggling, I hold out my hands, and my burden. Ask God to comfort you, and help you to trust Him for everything. Journal your prayers, and God’s promises for His children.
3. The habit of fellowship (Heb. 10:25). It’s important to be involved in a local church. God designed Christian community as a means of growth, encouragement, and building up. At the same time, it brings Him great glory! Invest in relationships that will keep you emotionally and spiritually grounded, and point you to Christ. You may feel alone, but please don’t isolate yourself. Praying friends can be a lifeline. God intended that we “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). He wants us to find joy in our relationship with others and with Him.