Sitting With Discomfort: How to Face Negative Feelings
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | December 20, 2018
The day starts with a grating alarm, a coffee pot that suddenly breaks, the gas light going on in your car and the realization that you forgot to put on makeup before work. Your anxiety is at a high and your overwhelm is right behind it. Your coworker is insensitive and demanding as soon as you arrive at work, and anger starts to boil in your spirit. Everything about the day is awful.
Sound familiar? I remember those days. In the moment, they felt like SO MUCH. Too much, in fact. The overwhelm, anger or resentment made it hard to honor God with words and attitudes.
Or maybe it’s not anxiety and anger; maybe it’s the uncertainty of a new relationship or a transition. You hate feeling out of control. You hate not knowing what will happen. You’re on edge and anxious not because of a bad day, but because you don’t know if or when a bad day will come!
God’s heart for His daughters is for their freedom. He died to secure our place eternally, and He’s not about to abandon us presently. Why would He go to the cross just to leave us floundering in our negative emotions? This world is troublesome, yes—but Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33)!
This doesn’t mean our emotions will be dispelled immediately or that we’ll never be anxious or angry again. It challenges us instead to live on a higher plane, to walk by the Spirit into the courage to sit with our discomfort and face our negative feelings. Here’s how we can do this.
1. Ask: Where did this feeling originate?
In the throes of negative emotion we forget that emotions are often a response to our situation. We believe the emotion is so REAL that we forget what caused it, and instead of treating the situation, we treat the emotion. We must become mindful of our feelings and where they originate. Then we can address them spiritually!
My own emotional struggles usually originated from my own lack of planning or my desire for control. I’d get anxious because I woke up late and didn’t have “time” for packing a lunch, doing my hair or looking nice for work. “The day is ruined,” I’d murmur on my way to work. But whose fault was this really? Mine! I stayed up too late, I didn’t pack my lunch the night before and I hit the snooze on my alarm. Those are things I could have controlled, which would have helped me emotionally.
If my negative emotions were because of something outside my control, that was a lesson in releasing the situation to the Lord. We can’t control everything. We shouldn’t control everything! And remembering that God is sovereign helped me relinquish what control I thought I had.
2. Sit with the emotion.
Don’t ignore it. Don’t just swipe it away. Instead, sit with it. This is very uncomfortable, but it will help you think rationally about what you’re feeling. After you’ve determined what the emotion is and where it comes from, you can discern how to deal with it. You can find appropriate thoughts to replace the ones you’re battling.
3. Check the situation against Scripture.
Lastly, judge your emotions (and the situation that caused them) against Scripture. Well-known verse Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure.” How can you exchange the thoughts you’ve been thinking for thoughts of this nature? Let the Spirit guide you into biblical thinking.
Your emotional response is not bad, but it shouldn’t be your lens for making decisions and dealing with people. Filter your emotions through your relationship with God. Let Him overcome. That’s why He came!