A while ago, Stuart Greaves addressed the NightWatch concerning praying for healing. It was in February, which is historically a time when a lot of us tend to get sick. Not only is February the beginning of flu season, it comes right after our most taxing, demanding, sleep-depriving conference of the year. Additionally, because it’s towards the end of winter, it means we haven’t seen much sun for quite a long time. All things considered, it makes sense that we would be a bit more susceptible to the seasonal bug.
However, Stuart reminded us that sickness is not something God is okay with (case in point, it won’t exist in the New Jerusalem). Part of the reason He crushed His Son was for our healing (Isa 53:5). It’s good that our faith is not devastated when we get sick, but it’s not good that we passively roll over and accept sickness just becuase it’s normal to our fallen existence and we’ll get over it in a few weeks anyway. We should resist it and pray to remove it from us.
I’ve been increasingly convinced lately that the same thing applies to emotional distress and oppression.
Without going into excessive detail, I’ve been on a rather emotional journey through my lifetime (who hasn’t?). This is especially true since I’ve been here at IHOP. I mentioned in my last post how I have a tendency to dismiss things that bother me. That pattern has extended through most circumstances in my life. If I get upset / angry / depressed / etc., I generally try to downplay it and ignore it. Bad idea.
The Lord — in partnership with some of my awesome friends — has been exposing that for what it is. I’m grateful for that. I’ve been more able to admit if I’m feeling something and receive it as valid. Feeling stuff is normal and healthy. It’s not silly, it’s just being human.
But the Lord has been speaking to me about this more lately, taking it a step farther. As humans, it’s good to accept the fact that we have negative feelings sometimes. What is not good is if we camp there. It’s one thing to admit, “I’m having a bad day/week”. It’s another to be okay with that fact and just resign ourselves to it, waiting for it to blow over.
Now, it is important — to borrow another great phrase from Stuart — that we “don’t freak out about freaking out.” I’m sure many of us have experienced that hysterical downward spiral: “I’m upset. I shouldn’t be upset right now. I have no good reason to be upset. I can’t believe I’m upset! I’m so upset at myself for being upset!…” etc., etc., etc. It’s much less dramatic if we go, “Yep, I got upset. Bummer,” and keep moving on without being too disturbed by our weakness.
Not freaking out about freaking out is good. But what’s even better is to recognize the freaking-out-ness, and take proactive measures to stop it. This is not just pretending we’re not freaking out, and this is not just rebuking ourselves for freaking out; this is counteracting the insecurity that causes us to freak out in the first place.
How do we do that? We need to run to the love of God.
From the Word, we can gather that there is a four-part progression to growing in love. (Note: Mike Bickle has a fantastic teaching on this subject. Click here to download.) (Another note: It can be very helpful to read this list, and in the place of “love”, substitue “enjoy” or “like”.)
- We receive the revelation of how God loves us. (1 John 4:19)
- We are empowered to love God in return. (1 John 4:19)
- We are freed to love ourselves in humility and godliness. (Psalm 139)
- We are freed to love others (Matthew 22:39).
These are not “steps” in the sense that we check off #1 and then move on to #2, but there is a definite progression in that if #1 is out of whack, #2 is not going to be able to happen. If #3 is not there, we’re going to really struggle with #4. Similarly, if #2 is going strong, it will naturally lead to #3 and #4. Each part of the progression hinges on the previous one being in place.
Most of the time, when we’re struggling with emotional turmoil, it’s because of a problem with #3 and/or #4. If we decide to attack the problem, we usually try to do it within that level. But if our problem is with #3 — chances are our problem isn’t really with #3.
Now that I’ve contradicted myself, let me explain: No amount of chanting “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful” is going to make us actually enjoy ourselves one iota more. We can’t solve our self-image issues by trying to directly correct our self-image. Remember that each of those four parts hinge on the previous one. So if things are not working well in #3, then #2 was also weak. And if #2 is having problems, that means the ultimate breakdown comes down to #1 — receiving the revelation of God’s love for us.
In other words, if people are bugging us excessively, or if we are bugging ourselves excessively, that means we’ve lost sight of how absolutely, unrestrainedly in love with us our God is.
If we’re struggling with oppression and low self-esteem, the answer is not motivational tapes. The answer is not to simply hunker down and wait for the storm to just blow over — although it might eventually happen, why waste the hours/days/weeks it takes for it to pass? The answer is getting in the Word and asking the Holy Spirit to breathe on our hearts, asking Him remind us once again of what He’s already told us a million times. Don’t worry; He never gets tired of it. He knows our frailty and knows what we need to keep going — in fact, the Lord designed us to need to continually lean into Him. Our struggle can actually become a springboard into greater intimacy if we turn to the right Person.
It’s normal to hit emotional slumps. Everyone does. Such things do pass in time (most of them, anyway). But I don’t want to make peace with oppression. I don’t want to let its normalcy cause me to cease to resist it. I don’t want to waste a single trial — even an emotional one. I want to run to the love of God, the first time, every time.