Many of us live a rush hour existence: running here, there, and everywhere, never quite catching up to our to-do list, seldom taking time to slow down and reflect. We get so used to the frenetic that when silence does come, we grab whatever device is within reach and fill it with screen time.
Underneath the surface, there are a myriad of emotions, dreams, and disappointments waiting to be heard and understood. But we often choose to stay busy and entertained instead of listening to what our hearts are saying. As a result, we miss out on taking our hearts to Jesus with vulnerability and trust. We stay stagnant spiritually.
"In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears." Psalm 18:6 (ESV)
Gail Ruth says that we have a lot to learn from King David: “What so distinguished David was that he took a broad spectrum of emotion straight into his relationship with God. … His emotions showed in tears, shouting, singing, and even intense dancing.”
David dared to look at His own heart and tell God exactly how he felt, even when things got ugly. As He got things off His chest, God had a compassionate way of assauging his fears, removing his shame, and filling him with hope once again. Notice the progression in Psalm 13:1-6 from lament and inner turmoil, to trusting God and even giving praise.
"How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me."
Some of us have a habit of presenting our good side to God. We're good at thanking Him and praising Him and trying to dispel negative thoughts when we pray. Maybe we do this out of a sincere desire to please God. But it might also be a way of avoiding what's really going on inside. If we were taught growing up to lock away our negative feelings, the idea of integrating them into our prayer life can seem very foreign, or even risky.
Giving thanks and praise is a wonderful practice in the Christian life, and it is even commanded. But if we go there too quickly, we have lost a valuable opportunity to experience intimacy with God. David's declaration of trust was all the more sincere and transformational because he first delved the depths of his negative emotions and expressed them to God.
Do you only present "safe" emotions to God?
Maybe it's time to get off the highway, find a rest stop, get back in touch with your heart, and tell God exactly how you feel? That’s not flaky spirituality; it’s having a real and authentic relationship with your Heavenly Father. It’s being an emotionally secure man or woman instead of an emotionally detached media zombie (I’m talking to myself here, too, of course).
You might be surprised at what God tells you when you let Him in on all of your emotions.