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  • That Christian Lesbian

Happy or Heathen?

I grew up thinking that if I wasn’t happy then my faith was at a weak point. This idea that my level of happiness and my level of faith are correlated has stuck with me, and honestly continues to be something I work to keep in check. You hear about the joy, the peace, the strength, and the hope that God gives, and God most definitely does give us those things, but what about when you feel sad, anxious, weak, and hopeless? Does that mean God isn’t with you? Does that mean you’re a bad Christian?

Fortunately, the answer is no. God is within, around, and above those low points and struggles. On the other hand, if you don’t see or feel God, that’s okay too. The point is, those emotions, all emotions, are part of life, are part of the human experience, and no one emotion discounts your faith or makes you less of a Christian. Yes, we are called to a life of peace, joy, hope, and strength, but we are also called to meet God in those moments of stress, sadness, hopelessness, and weakness.

For me, anytime I would feel sad, nervous, scared, hopeless, etc. I would immediately try to get rid of it. I would recognize I was feeling a certain, negative way and go into fix-it mode. There was this mindset, both conscious and subconscious, that I had to be happy and content all the time in order to really be one with God and to have good faith. On top of that, anytime I did feel low in some way, I would beat myself up about it. That would then make me frustrated with myself, at which point I would get frustrated with myself for being frustrated with myself, and the cycle continued. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel any emotion other than a positive emotion.

Then, anytime a negative emotion would resurface, I would conclude that I hadn’t learned anything or grown in any way, or that I was failing in my faith and needed to work harder. There was this underlying assumption that only certain emotions were from God and for God and all the rest were human and evil. I had heard that joy and peace were gifts from God. Within the Christian communities I grew up in, I was reminded over and over not to fear and to have hope, but what happens when I’m full of fear and I’m crushed by hopelessness?

It wasn’t until later on that I realized that God invites us to feel all emotions this life has to offer. In all emotional and mental states, we can see God and be with God. The greatest attestation to this is seen in the life of Jesus.

We are frequently presented with verses like:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” - Philippians 4:6

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” - Matthew 6:34

And those verses are great and can teach us so much, but let us also remember verses of Jesus’s emotions such as:

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” - Luke 22:44

“Jesus wept.” - John 11:35

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” - Luke 5:16

Jesus shows us an incredible example of how to live and act in these times of worry, sadness, anger, etc. By looking at the life of Jesus, we can see that we are allowed to have periods of distress and also that we can honor God through all of it.

And amidst all this, I am reminded of the verse:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ - Mark 12:30

We are to love God with ALL of ourselves: all we’ve got, all the time. And sometimes what we’ve got is a little messy and that’s okay. God wants it all.


That Christian Lesbian

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