It’s Okay to Not be Okay
My phone trembled against my ear as I listened to my mom’s compassionate advice, “It’s okay to not be okay right now.” In that moment shortly after I learned my pre-born baby had died, she reminded me of the truth: Christ gives us freedom to feel. Even strong negative emotions, when they’re appropriate.
We’ve previously discussed how to not be held captive by strong negative emotions. But there’s more than one side to freedom. We are free to feel as well. Remember, feelings and emotions are gifts from God to help us process our world. There are times when it is healthy and appropriate to give full vent to emotions, even strong negative ones.
Jesus left us examples of this in Scripture. When he discovered his friend Lazarus had died of sickness, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). Even knowing that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He didn’t rejoice in the miracle before it came. He also struggled with immense stress. In Luke 22, We find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying for an alternative to crucifixion and for the strength to obey His Father’s will. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (22:44). Hematidrosis is the medical term for the rare circumstances in which humans feel such fear and anxiety that our sweat becomes mixed with our blood.* Jesus understands our strong negative emotions. He exhibited them when appropriate as a model for us.
Grief, stress, fear, sadness, anger, and loneliness are not pleasant to experience. But God created them as gifts and tools for us. They are calls to action. When I feel lonely, I pray to my Best Friend and then perhaps give another friend a call. When I become stressed, I know it’s time to step up and create a plan. If something angers me, I am given an opportunity to understand what I care about. Fear tells me to use God-given wisdom. Tears of grief are the tonic for change’s heartache. When an event in my life triggers one of these emotions, I control it in the moment until I’m somewhere both safe and appropriate to express them.
Learning how and when to release these emotions is an essential aspect of taking care of ourselves. That said, we must not let our self-care become self-indulgence. There are times I need to take a break from my children, but doing so too often becomes escapism. I crave chocolate and sweets when I’m sad. I have freedom to enjoy a small amount during these times, being grateful to God for the emotional boost it does give, without gorging on 5 bars in one sitting. Needless, no matter the strong emotion, we need to be investing in friendships who can help us process through these moments. By reaching out to them, we are given clarity on the boundary between care and indulgence. Our focus of self-care is to strengthen us for our personal God-given assignments, not distract or hinder us from completing them.
So dear friends, no matter what circumstances may unfold today, let us rejoice in the freedom that we have. We have freedom to control our emotions. We have freedom to feel them in full. And in doing so, we will not be overcome by them. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Events transpire in our lives that strike emotional cords. But it is our control of these emotions that will dictate the paths of our lives.
*Miller, Dave. “Hematidrosis: Did Jesus Sweat Blood?” Apologetics Press, 9 July 2017, https://apologeticspress.org/hematidrosis-did-jesus-sweat-blood-5436/.
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”