I recently had a conversation with a friend who told me about a time in her life when a middle school boy ridiculed her ears. Up until that moment, she had never once felt bad about her ears but now, decades later, she still despised her ears and was self-conscious about them. This demonstrates the power that a seed of damaging thoughts can have on our feelings.
Last week we talked about the thought life of a Grown Up Christian. It was appropriate to discuss this first before discussing feelings. So much of our emotional life is dictated by our thought life. Like my friend and her experience in middle school, what we think about has a major hold on our feelings. Try this experiment, remember the last hug you got from your children or grandchildren or important loved one. Unless things are really damaged, my guess would be that the mere thought of this moment elicits feelings of joy, happiness, gladness, love, and peace. Thoughts precede feelings, not the other way around.
If our thoughts are consumed with God then the feelings associated with those thoughts are going to be marked by what the world truly longs for – love. This God that we are constantly thinking of is described in scripture as “love;” so our feelings will start to be filled with love.
Besides love, the Grown Up Christian is also filled with gratitude. This doesn’t mean that their life is free of suffering, far from it, but the Grown Up Christian has learned to be thankful in all things, even when things go bad. They know that God’s goodness and greatness is ever present and available. That they are not abandoned. This fills them with hope and increases their faith.
The meaninglessness and hopefulness that we see as the spirit of our age is not found in the Grown Up Christian. It is replaced with confidence and assurance. Fear, that can consume people, is also absent. Why? Because the Grown Up Christian knows how the story ends and that God is to be trusted and that his kingdom is never in trouble. They know that God’s will is a perfectly safe place to be.
To cultivate a more Grown Up set of feelings in your life, practice these two exercises:
- Three Things: Daily name, write down, or post online three things that you are thankful for. Do this long enough and your gratitude antennas will start to go up and you will start to be grateful for things you never thought of before.
- Regularly read this blessing written by Angela Gorrell, “You are a child of God. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are brave. You are smart. God has a purpose for your life.” These words will help develop the conditions that are needed for Grown Up feelings.
Sadness, grief, anger, fear, hatred, suspicion, paranoia, finger pointing, hyper criticism, and hopelessness are all feelings that we battle daily and see around us constantly. The Grown Up Christian doesn’t indulge these feelings because they know better.
Ask God to break the chain of these destructive feelings and seek his help in replacing these feelings with conditions of love, joy, and peace.