Growing up all I wanted was a dog. I remember announcing to my dad, at age three, that I wanted one and when he told me no, I replied that I was just gonna pray until God gave me one and there was nothing he could do about it. I proceeded to pray for a dog, making sure my dad could hear me, every night for eight years until he finally broke down and bought me a puppy shortly after my eleventh birthday. Life was good and she quickly became my closest companion. I was sure I would have her for the rest of my life. However, two short years after, she came into my life, my family made the decision to move overseas. We looked into taking her with us but the immigration procedures for a pet just seemed to intense and stressful for my dog’s temperament and I realized I was going to have to give her up. Eventually, we found a very sweet couple who lived on a large farm and had plenty other dogs who could keep my dog company. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life but I knew that the environment and home she was going was better than anything I could hope to give her. It was an odd sensation of being brokenhearted that I was losing her and relieved that I didn’t have to worry about whether or not she would be happy. I am telling this story because it was popped into my mind when trying to wrap my head around the concept behind the song “It is well with my soul.” Growing up, it freaked me out because I thought it meant that no matter what happened I had to be happy all the time or I wasn’t a good enough christian. I didn’t understand why I was supposed to ignore my emotions if it was God who had given them to me in the first place and hardly anyone in the Bible seemed very good at it so why should I be guilted into doing that? A lot of my confusion came from the denial of “negative” emotions in the church I grew up in. People were seen as more holy if they weren’t sad when a family member died. The impression I got was that those people were not sad because God was closer to them than me and my sadness was a result of my inability to see the big picture and God’s inability to comfort me was because of my lack of spirituality. When I came depressed and withdrawn after a close friend died, I was berated for being selfish and not caring about the lost souls that were going to hell. Needless to say, emotionally healthy were not adjectives you could use to describe my teenage years. Fast forward eight years and a lot of growth, looking at this song now, I see it in a different light. It was never about trying to deny or ignore the pain and sorrow we feel as a result of life but rather to embrace it with the knowledge that even though I am going through this pain, He holds me in the palm of his hand, He has a plan for my life, and He will surely bring me through this pain. Psalm 112 does a great job of describing those who have this attitude.

6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.7 They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. 8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.”
(Psalm 112:6-8)

They will have no fear of bad news : I love this line because it is not like there is never bad news or pain that will arise in their lives. They are simply just not afraid of it. They are not hiding from it or trying to pretend it does not exist. They have no reason to run from it because they know that no matter what they go through, in the end they trust the one who holds their universe together more than they are afraid of the crisis they are in. That does not mean they don’t feel the anger, sorrow, and anguish that comes from those experiences. They do; they just don’t let it derail their trust and belief in the sovereignty of the Lord. They invite the Lord into their grieving, instead of either denying that their grief exist or turning on Him in their anger and shutting Him out of the whole process. Their hearts remain firm in the belief that they are loved by the most trustworthy being in existence.

How do you handle grief and frustration?
What were you taught regarding emotions, positive and “negative”, in and out of church?
What impressions did you get from church regarding grief and anger affect how you process life?
Has this affected you negatively or positively?
In your words, what is the Biblical stance on grief, anger, loneliness, frustration etc..

“Lord, you created every part of us and gave us the ability to experience emotions. Help us not shut down and ignore what we feel, but rather to bring them to you and allow you to sit with us in our grief, pace with us in our anger and frustration and hold us in our loneliness. Help us to find the balance of trusting you and your plan for our lives without trying to turn ourselves into happy robots that always smile and say the right things. Help us to be real and genuine even when it hurts. We love you, Amen.”

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