One of my favourite elements of the psalms is how raw the emotions displayed often are. They cover everything from love and despair, hope and loneliness, guilt and conviction, contrite hearts and robust joy. One of the lessons of the psalms-as-prayer-book is that, despite what we may have been taught elsewhere, it is perfectly alight to come to God with any emotion. Sometimes we do so looking for Him to “fix it” other times we come simply because we need to be heard and recognized, our emotions honoured and dignified, even if they have us as a blubbering mess
If God is as big and all knowing as we think he is then he knows about our emotions anyways. One question I often ask is whether we are as aware of our emotions. There are many ways that we have learned to suppress emotions and this has come to the point where we are often not particularly talented at even identifying what we are feeling. This can lead to a lot of problems, but the psalms try to teach us that not praying or distancing ourselves from the divine need not be among them.
One practice my wife came up with and that we take up with vigour from time to time is to have our evening meal with the boys be dominated by a discussion of emotions. We printed off 3 different “emotion wheels.” Our little practice is to ask the lads to identify a moment in their day that was particularly emotional. They describe the moment and then the emotion it brought up. Sometimes these are very fast and other times they are deep. We have a bunch of goals in doing this: to help them not feel shame over emotions, learn to listen to others expressing emotion, learn to recognize how they are feeling in a given moment, and to ensure that they know that it is “normal” and “ok” to feel things.
I am writing about this today because I have been hearing of more and more people feeling frustrated, anxious, angry, despairing and the like as the pandemic (and now trucker convoy) drags on. I wonder if it might be helpful for us to take time to reflect on what we are feeling. I know, because I talk to folks, that many feel guilt/shame/embarrassment about their feelings, which is too bad because they are far from alone in feeling them and because there is nothing wrong with being upset at this point.
Once we have identified the feeling, and maybe even the presenting cause, (and if we are really really keen we may even ponder what needs are deep within us that lead to the specific emotions and reactions we are having), can we bring those emotions to God in prayer?
I don’t think David (and whoever else) wrote these just for fun, they were therapeutic, before that was even a word:) I do think that God is pleased when we come to him with these emotions. So let’s take some time today to identify an emotion or two, and lift them to God, not necessarily to fix, but just to be heard.