Fake It 'Til Ya Make It? 5 Ways to Handle Feelings Like Jesus
Our family of six recently attended a Michigan State basketball game, opting for cheap seats in the nosebleed section over dining on beans and rice for weeks. Besides, who really cared how far we were from the action when the sensory-stimulating Jumbotron gave us the same front-row thrills as the premium seats? Along with showing off our favorite players' dunks and swooshes, this 2-million dollar gargantuan screen scanned the audience to capture diehard fans, crazy dancers, and benchwarmers scarfing down hot dogs.
The effect of the Jumbotron's candid camera was consistent and predictable: When awareness of the crowd-cam dawned, folks dropped everything to ham it up for their audience of 15,000. Cell phone scrollers became expert chicken dancers. Bickering couples turned into lovebirds. Stoic tough guys leaped up to display their team spirit. All put on their game faces to prove to the audience they could hang, if only for that 5-second flash.
My favorite was a woman in her 80's, adorned in Spartan green blazer and beads, busting a move to Lizzo's Good As Hell. She has a story.
"Faking it" works great in short bursts. We slap on a smile for gatherings with the in-laws. We answer with "fine" instead of with truth. We cheer and offer congratulations to friends who've been blessed with impossibly quick pregnancies and bawl behind closed doors. We proclaim "God is good" and stuff our heartbreak back into its place, feeling lousy that our true melancholy broke through in the first place. But faking it is not a long-term plan.
I've been thinking a lot lately about emotions. About how well-meaning Christians shellack over feelings under the guise of God's sovereignty. This tired little habit reveals deep-seated questions about our core beliefs: Do our doubts and disappointments negate God's faithfulness? Does the honest sharing of our feelings put God's promises on trial?
The biblical answer to these questions, my friends, is a Big. Fat. No.
We need only look to Jesus, our God in human flesh, to see that faking our feelings was never part of God's plan.
He felt angry with those whose perfect outsides hid poisonous insides. (Matthew 23:33, 7:15, Ezekiel 34)
He felt disgusted with oppression in all its forms. (John 2:13-17, Psalm 69:9)
He felt sad about the devastation caused by sin and death. (John 11, 1 Corinthians 15)
He felt frustrated with his boneheaded disciples. (Matthew 17, Mark 4)
He felt agony to the point of sweating blood and tears. (Luke 22)
He felt empathy for others' pain. (John 4, John 19)
Clearly, Jesus was no serenely-smiling Buddha attempting to "ohm" us into enlightenment. Instead, he recognized feelings as a part of being human and gave us the perfect example of how to manage our emotions in a godly way.
So what can we learn from him?
5 Ways to Handle Feelings Like Jesus
1. Notice them.
Jesus' miracles were always preceded by an awareness of the pain and sorrow endured by the ones awaiting his touch.
The madman - Naked and living in a cemetery, tied and chained with shackles
The father of a critically ill daughter - Crying and begging for a stay of execution
The bleeding woman - Trembling and weak, confessing her shame in the public square
The five thousand - Stomachs grumbling and weary from the blazing sun
The man at the Pool of Bethesda - Forgotten and alone
Jesus, the Son of God, did not turn his head and walk on by.
He did not say:
Get over it.
It will be fine.
You should feel ____________ because...
God is good so what are you whining about?
He noticed people's feelings and this simple act brought immeasurable comfort.
2. Feel them.
Sorry to state the obvious but...Jesus did not shove his feelings down. He did not rationalize them away. He didn't compare his feelings to the feelings of others or view them as a source of shame. Jesus owned his feelings and did not allow his feelings to own him.
As the famous Mr. Rogers pointed out, "If it's mentionable, it's manageable." Name your feelings instead of ignoring them and watch their power of you shrink.
We can be sure of this: Our Messiah felt and we can allow ourselves to do the same.
3. Get away with them.
At times, Jesus took breaks from people to be alone with his father. Dealing with our own big feelings while continuing to cope with the crowd can be overwhelming. Times of withdrawal often bring healing, wisdom, and peace. If the Son of God needed time away, how much more do we?
4. Bring them to God.
When Jesus' strong feelings threatened to overwhelm his human vulnerability, Matthew 26:39 states that he fell on his face and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. Jesus was honest with God about his emotions while simultaneously surrendered to his will. We can express our feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, and/or fear...and still trust God's good plans for our lives.
Repeat after me: Feeling is not a sin.
5. Act (wisely) on them.
Jesus' feelings informed his actions. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. When he was confronted with injustice, he spoke out in truth. In the temple, he flipped tables (Since you're not God, I don't recommend this; you might get arrested).
Your feelings might lead you to:
Take a nap.
Take the next bold step.
Call a wise friend.
Jesus knew what today's neuroscientists have learned: When our feelings spur us to healthy action, we--and everyone around us--experience God's transformative power.
Notice. Feel. Get away. Bring to God. Act.
When we follow Jesus' example, we no longer need to hide from feelings. Big or small, they are a part of being souls in earthly bodies. An indicator of our humanity and our connection to God and one another. No more "faking it" as an act of Christian piety. God doesn't need a false witness. Instead, let's be real as we allow others to do the same. Only then will we experience God's very real power at work within us.
No. Faking-it. Necessary.
Until next time.
Your Hope Cheerleader,