I stared at the screen, shocked. My head felt as if it were physically spinning, though I knew I was standing as still as I’d been the moment before I saw the post. I tried to evaluate my emotional and mental states.
What was I feeling?
Was I mad?
Was I sad?
Was I hurt, frustrated, disappointed?
Yes to all of it. Check “all of the above,” because I felt all those things — and more. I felt betrayed and despondent. And most of all, I felt uncertain about what to do next. How was I supposed to react to this situation? How did I want to respond? And was it possible those two answers would resemble one another in the slightest?
Minutes after seeing this social media post that pierced my heart, I was scheduled to attend a Zoom call. At first I thought it might be the perfect distraction from my pain, or possibly even a way to get over all the myriad emotions swirling around my heart and brain.
Spoiler alert: It was not. I did not get over it. At least, not in the thirty minutes immediately following the thing that hurt me. I’m not sure why I thought I could fix a broken heart in a few minutes, although I’m blaming wishful thinking and a good four decades of stuffing my feelings down deep whenever I — or others — deemed them unacceptable.
But this time, I couldn’t “get over it.” I was hurt! I was sad! And angry! And scared and disappointed and — oh my goodness, the list of my emotions seemed endless on that afternoon. No wonder I couldn’t move past them in the blink of an eye (or a swipe of the screen)!
The specifics of what hurt me that day don’t matter here. Because while it was a specific person who took a specific action that led to my pain that day, it wasn’t the first time (and certainly won’t be the last) I found myself in a cyclone of emotion, unsure how to react, what would “fix” things, or even which way was up. And I know I’m not alone in this experience. You’ve felt this sort of pain, too, haven’t you?
What matters is that on that day, God gently and generously whispered, “Stop. Take a moment. Let it out. I’m here.” He pushed the pause button on my agitation cycle, pulling me away from the feeling-stuffing and problem-fixing, opening His arms to hold me as I let it all out.
And He’ll do the same for you the next time you find yourself in a storm of emotion.
Jesus was no stranger to emotions when He walked on earth. In John 11, we see the story of His reaction to the death of His friend, Lazarus. Both Lazarus’s sisters — Mary and Martha — cry out to Jesus when He arrives, saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!” (John 11:32 CSB)
When the women express their despair that way, Jesus doesn’t reprimand them. He doesn’t suggest they calm down or instruct them to do something productive with their emotions. He holds space for them and comforts them; He grieves for them and even weeps with them.
As soon as Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!”
When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked.
“Lord,” they told him, “come and see.”
John 11:32-35 (CSB)
Jesus knew that in a moment, He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew Mary and Martha’s grief would be short-lived and followed with incredible joy. But He didn’t expect them not to feel their feelings, and He didn’t require that they calm down or manage their emotions. Rather, He welcomed their honesty and complexity, offering acceptance and compassion in response.
The Lord will do the same for you and me.
In those moments when we are punched in the gut with something painful, God invites us to take our every emotion to Him. He doesn’t demand we get it together first; He doesn’t require us to tone it down. He simply says, “Come to me. Take a moment and rest your soul here.”
He will give us strength and wisdom and remind us that He will fight for us and finish the good work He’s started in our lives. But right now, when you’re reeling and feeling the sting of your pain, He invites you to let it out. Feel your feelings. Pour out your broken heart. He will hold all of it — all of you — gently. He will be with you in the storm.