As the Bible teaches: "So get rid of your feelings of hatred. Don't just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty…. Long to grow up into the fullness of your salvation."1
In much younger days I had figured the way to happiness was to be a committed Christian and serve God to the best of my ability. It sounded good but it didn't work—at least it didn't work for me. In fact my life felt very empty. I was sharing with a friend how empty inside I constantly felt. He admitted that he felt exactly the same way even though we were both very involved in Christian work and ministry. Both of us grew up with the teaching that feelings weren't important, and that you couldn't trust them. In spite of this teaching, we both got down on our knees and asked God to give us some feelings anyhow.
Whoa, be careful how you pray. When we get real with God, he gets real with us. Within a very short time my world fell apart. I got feelings back real quick! They weren't the kind I was looking for, but they were certainly feelings.
My problem was that by the time I was five years old I had learned that big men don't cry, and that it wasn't acceptable to show one's feelings. The fallacy with this teaching, of course, is that a five-year-old boy is not a big man. Another fallacy is that big men do cry. It's frightened men or repressed men who don't cry. Furthermore, I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and, to protect myself from hurt, I had learned to build defenses around my heart. The problem with doing this, however, is that the wall one puts around his painful feelings also blocks out his positive and loving feelings.
I also used to think that being strong was being like the Rock of Gibraltar … let the winds blow and the storms rage all around and there it stands as solid as a rock is supposed to be. But as one of my counselors said, "Rocks don't have feelings. Rocks aren't real." Neither was I. I learned that my life was empty because I was emotionally repressed and living in denial.
Since praying for feelings, I discovered that the only way I've been able to break through my walls (defenses) is when my pain is greater than my fear. I also learned that when I bury my feelings, I end up with emotional "constipation"—and that poisons every area of one's life—physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. It is an extremely unhealthy way to live.
It took a long time and a lot of work to recover from childhood hurts and learn to feel again, but it has been well worth every effort. In fact today I am physically healthier than when I was half my age. My loving relationships have never been more fulfilling and my work never more fruitful. I also realize that there will always be room for improvement and growing in "faith and love and every grace."
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be real, to get in touch with all of my God-given emotions, and learn how to use them as you intended. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 1 Peter 2:1, 3 (TLB)(NLT).