Emotions and the check-engine light

I’m tough on cars. I usually run them into the ground before I move on to the next one. The first car I ever drove was the family’s 1984 Oldsmobile station wagon. After that, it was my dad’s 1990 Chevy Lumina—torch red, beige interior. I loved that car. The Lumina was the car my brother and I shared through high school.

After the Lumina, a parade of less-appealing vehicles helped me get from point A to point B in my life. A 1984 Ford Crown Victoria LTD (that’s a story in itself). My mom’s little Saturn. A big old blue Buick. Until I could finally afford my own car—a 2005 Chevy Malibu, which I purchased in 2008.

Someday I’ll write a post on my car adventures. They have been many. But one thing remained constant with each vehicle I drove—I tried to take care of them. I drove them until they wore out in most cases. But if any lights ever popped up on the dashboard, I told my dad, or I took the car in for service.

I’m not a mechanic or a car expert, but I know enough about cars to realize that when the little engine light on the dashboard turns on, you’ve got a problem.

That’s a no-brainer, right? Of course, right. I would never ignore the check engine light on my car’s dashboard. If I did, I might get into trouble on a trip somewhere. Or I might cost myself a lot of money later on to fix a gigantic problem, when I could have handled it before it became gigantic.

It’s not okay to ignore the check engine light in my car. So why is it okay to ignore the warning signs in my emotional health?

That’s what emotions are, you know. They’re like check engine lights. And if you ignore them, they tend to make you explode (or implode, though I can’t tell you which is worse).

I don’t like emotions, especially the ones that make me cry. Emotions make me vulnerable. Open. Easy to hurt. Emotions turn me into a sappy mess who needs help, and I don’t like being that person.

But you know what? There’s nothing wrong with being a sappy mess. There’s nothing wrong with needing help. Actually needing help is normal. God even knew that we would need help carrying our burdens and encouraged us to come to Jesus just as we are, baggage and broken dreams and exhaustion included, to let Him help us carry our load (Matthew 11:28-30).

But I don’t do it. In my mind, emotion equals weakness, and I struggle with pride. That being said, do you know how difficult it is to be a Feeler personality without allowing yourself to feel?

Talk about confusing. And it’s not just yourself you confuse. You confuse everyone around you too.

Emotions you ignore become hurt feelings and vicious cycles. They become something you stew over, something you can’t let go of, something you can’t escape. And you go from controlling your emotions to your emotions controlling you.

It’s a lot like your car, honestly. When you see that check engine light come on, you’re still in control. You decide whether or not to go in for service. You decide if it’s worth dealing with now or not.

But give it a few weeks. Maybe even a month. Or longer. And the simple problem that made your check engine light turn on has become a crippling mechanical issue that leaves you stranded in your driveway or in your office’s parking lot. Now you’re not in control. Now the damage is calling the shots.

Have you heard that hurting people hurt people? It’s true. And I don’t want to be that person either. I’d rather be a sappy emotional mess and be my honest self with the people around me that have everyone thinking I’m strong enough to make it on my own.

So how do you learn to deal with your emotions? Frankly, I’m still working on that. But one thing I know works for sure: Ask God.

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

The Lord wants to have a relationship with us. He wants us to approach Him with our problems, our questions, our doubts, and our struggles. And when we need help, He wants us to ask Him first, even if all we need is directions.

Ask Him to reveal to you where the problem is. Ask Him to give you wisdom in how to deal with what you’re feeling. God gave you emotions, and He’ll help you learn to manage them.

I don’t like dealing with my emotions, but I need to. Otherwise I’ll be bound to obey them instead of the other way around.

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Happy sunflower on Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

How to deal with a heart problem

I don’t like being wrong. And I don’t like being corrected. Is there anyone out there who feels the same way? I get stiff and irritated when someone tells me that I’m wrong. It’s 100% pride, and I recognize it. It’s been a constant battle my whole life to be humble when it comes to facing my own flaws. But it’s one thing to point out your own flaws. It’s something else for someone else to see them and mention them.

I think it’s ten times harder to face your own flaws when someone points them out to you. That’s probably my pride speaking. So consider today’s verses from the Psalms, where the writer isn’t just willing to face his flaws … he’s inviting God to point them out!

Happy sunflower on Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Happy sunflower on Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 139:23-24.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

I’m not sure if I can pray this honestly. I need to be able to do it, but it’s a tall order. Like I said above: I don’t like being wrong. And the only thing I dislike worse than being wrong is being wrong and everyone knowing about it.

Pride is so dangerous. We think we know so much, and even those of us who are humble about our lives, pride still likes to sneak in when we aren’t paying attention. Of course, we know what we’re doing. Of course, we know where we’re going and what our majors will be in college and what our jobs will be once we graduate.

Sometimes I think we believers take things for granted. I think we get this idea that our lives are going to be easier because we are Christ-followers, that doors will just open, that opportunities will lay down at our feet waiting for us to scoop them up. Now, I’m not saying that doesn’t happen. It does. It’s happened to me too many times not to notice. But that hasn’t been the constant. I’ve had to work very hard. I had to struggle through school. I had to work through college. And when I was done with college, I didn’t have a job waiting for me, and I had to do odd jobs that had nothing to do with my degree.

And all that time, I never stopped serving God. I never stopped tithing. I never stopped serving in some kind of ministry. And I’ll be honest, there were times I wondered what on earth any of it was for. Because if I was going to work myself to death for God, why wasn’t He answering me when I asked Him a specific question? Why wasn’t He responding to me when I needed Him to?

It’s times like those I would turn to this verse. I know I don’t do a good enough job asking God to search my heart. Honestly, I’m afraid. I know some of the things that lurk in there, and I’m afraid to let Him see them. Which is silly if you think about it. He’s already seen them. He already knows what’s in there. The point of us asking Him to look is to come to terms with His absolute holiness, realizing our own smallness and our own insignificance in the face of His perfection. When we are open with the darkness of our lives before God, it makes us understand just how unworthy of His love we are. And it’s even more amazing that He would give His only Son for us.

So that’s what I need this morning. Instead of hiding my heart away, instead of trying to conceal my doubts and my fear and my insecurities and all the dark things in my heart that I don’t want anyone to see, I need to ask God to look at them. I need to ask Him to search my heart and reveal those parts of my life that displease Him, those parts that have no place in my life. Because when He brings those things to light, He also shows us the way to leave them behind.

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to know the way to leave my insecurity on the curb. I’d love to know the way to kick my anxiety out the door. But I have to admit it’s there to begin with, and then I have to be willing to let God take it away.

Open your heart to God today. Let Him see what’s inside. He loves you, and He won’t change His mind. On the contrary, He’ll change yours.

“Good” Christians need God too

Are there any “good” Christians out there? Would you agree that when you’re a “good” Christian and you follow the rules generally and try your best to read your Bible every morning that sometimes it’s easy to forget that you don’t have it all together?

Maybe it’s just me, but I forget sometimes. That’s why I appreciate verses like Psalm 139:23-34.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
      test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
      and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

When we’re doing what we think is right or living the way we think we’re supposed to, it’s a good thing to ask God to search our hearts to make sure that what we’re seeking is what He really desires for us.

I don’t know about anyone else, but my heart is a scary thing. It doesn’t always know what it wants. It rarely makes a decision and usually just leads me in circles. And if it ever does make up its mind about something, it usually isn’t something that God would have me do.

I know I’ve been struggling with a lot of choices and decisions recently, and my heart would have me drop everything and do what I want to do. But I don’t think that’s what God wants.

So I need God to look at my life, to look at my heart, and I need Him to tell me what I should do. I think I already have an answer, but I don’t want it to be my answer. I need it to be His. I want Him to look at me and tell me what needs to change in my life.

I get so used to being a “good” Christian that sometimes I forget that I’m not perfect. I mean, it’s not that I forget it. I know I’m not perfect, but it’s easy to fall back on my own wisdom or even my own interpretation of Scripture as truth. And just because I interpret Scripture some way doesn’t make it truth. Doesn’t even make it right. I need God to show me what is right and how to live and how to make decisions. I need Him to show me the areas of my life that need to change or disappear because I’m blind to them.

I guess the bottom line this morning is that I need God. I need to learn to be humble about things like this. To ask Him to look into who I am and be willing to change what He tells me to change. Because if I can do that, He’ll take me down the path He wants me on. And whatever He wants out of my life isn’t good for me anyway.

I need Him more than anything else in my life. With Him, my life make sense. It has purpose. Even when everything feels like it’s falling apart, I know it really isn’t because I have Him.