I remember when I started going to church in high school, there was always one verse that would jokingly be thrown out when talk of memorizing scripture came about. John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”
When people would shout this out, I would shake my head and wryly smile, but never put much thought to the verse itself.
But for such a small verse, it is packed with a heavyweight implication for how we can strive to interact with our emotions.
Looking back on my first 25 years of life, I consider myself an emotional avoider. I thought that the goal with emotions was to interact with them in a manner that on the outside we appeared steadfast and unaffected or always upbeat and joyful. And, I feared that if I leaned into the more difficult emotions, I would never come back out. So, avoiding and suppressing emotions felt like the route to go.
But my therapy taught me that there is another way to interact with emotions.
We can lean into them. And, I will be honest, it is equally brutally difficult and abundantly beautiful.
I keep getting myself to lean in instead of avoiding and suppressing by reminding myself that emotions are like a wave. Yes, they can build up and when you lean into them, they can get to a height that can feel overwhelming and scary. But, if you stick with it, if you keep leaning in, eventually that emotional wave will start to calm back down. And, before you know it, you will realize that emotion has passed, and you are back in calm waters.
And, what is beautiful, is that Jesus is right there with us in our emotional fluctuation. There are a couple of other times in scripture that note Jesus crying (Luke 19:41, Hebrews 5:7). We also see His anger, we see His joy. Our God is a God who feels. He does not choose to suppress or numb, and He does not choose to only feel the positive emotions. He leans in, He feels, and He works through.
So, yes, you will have some times when you are in the thick of a high wave of grief, sadness, anger, envy, bitterness, etc. And, at times, you may feel scared being in an emotion that fully. But, if you lean into and stick with the wave until it passes, then you are often met with beautiful, big waves of joy, happiness, contentment, and love.
If you find that when you lean into emotions, they do not pass. Specifically, if you notice a depressed mood that lingers around or anxiety that does not subside, this may be an indicator of a mental illness. I encourage you to reach out to your primary care doctor or a therapist to further explore coping with these experiences.
Kylie Larson, MA, LPC