In case you were wondering, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks, and I’m not mad about it. Here’s my proof: Jeff, an old dog (in age but not in spirit), has recently learned the fine art of “Ooohing.” (INSERT TRUMPETS HERE🎺.) It may not seem like a big deal to you, but I assure you, this is no small thing.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, to “oooh” someone means that you verbally acknowledge their emotions. It’s the equivalent of saying, “I hear you!” Put another way, it’s the magic phrase that allows a person to feel seen and heard. Tuck that little tidbit away, dear readers, because “ooohing” someone is the relational equivalent of hitting a home run in baseball. It is gold.

Here’s why I’m excited about Jeff’s new skill: Because my husband spent the previous six decades either ignoring or dismissing his own emotions, his ability to connect with my emotions was, to be pithy, lacking. This shortcoming was not a deal breaker for us because we adapted as many long-term married couples do; we skirted around our weaknesses and depended on our strengths to see us through. Since we’re both technically old dogs (birth certificate and all), I assumed we had reached our marital peak.

Thank God, I was wrong…by A LOT. (MORE TRUMPETS, PLEASE! 🎺) Almost thirty-eight years into our marriage, we are still growing our relationship to deeper levels. Still, perhaps more importantly, we are healthier versions of ourselves. Let me explain.

Learning to recognize and process emotions leads to enhanced emotional intelligence and greater levels of personal mental health. Given that there is a worldwide mental health crisis—an estimated 1 billion people suffering from a mental health disorder—that shows no signs of abating, we all would do well to learn what we can.

white and black braille machine
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

These statistics validate what I see playing out in many of the communities where I have lived: people who struggle with anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental health challenges are left without an obvious solution to get help. Something needs to change. That is one of the reasons why I began writing about Jesus as my therapist last week. I have found that spending time with Jesus has provided me with significant therapeutic benefits and my hope is that you will too. Even if you don’t have a Jeff in your life, you can have a Jesus…

Photo by Mitch on Unsplash

Imagining Jesus as a therapist may be a foreign concept for you. After all, if you have only ever asked God to fix your problems in the same way you might ask a technician to fix your computer, it’s a radical idea to enter into a healing relationship with the Creator of the universe. However, God’s greatest desire is to have the kind of relationship with you that Jesus had with his disciples: They did life together—walking through the good, the bad, and the ugly, day by day and minute by minute. God wants to have that kind of relationship with you, too. He wants to be a place of safety so you can be honest about all that is going on in your life and then be healed by discovering His truth about you. Let that thought sink in…do you want to be healed? Really, fully, completely healed?

If the answer is yes, I highly recommend you make time to share your heart with God. Even though I’ve known about God all of my life, I’ve only recently begun to understand the importance (and benefits) of being open and honest with Him. Learning how to do that has definitely been a process, but the benefits have been worth the time I’ve put into it.

Just as Jeff and I have had to learn to share our emotions with each other, I’ve also had to learn how to share mine with God. Because I spent decades telling myself I shouldn’t feel hurt or rejected or angry, I was constantly fighting back those overwhelming feelings on a regular basis. However, when I’ve been honest with God about my emotions—even if I felt silly or self-indulgent—I was finally able to receive the healing that I needed. Are you ready to get your healing, too?

red heart shaped hanging decor

Although I’m convinced you would benefit if all you did was share your emotions with God, the real therapeutic blessing occurs when God imparts His truth into whatever situation you find yourself in. As I’ve mentioned more than once in this blog, although your feelings are real (and no one should tell you otherwise), they aren’t always true. This is why working with Jesus is really, really helpful.

Let me explain with a personal example: I have spent most of my life feeling shame for not being clever enough to achieve in life without extreme hard work and feeling guilty if I ever rested from my chronic busyness. The feelings were so overwhelming (and real)ho I had a very difficult time relaxing. I would jump out of bed even on weekends because I felt compelled to “get stuff done.” Because the chronic feelings of shame and guilt were ever-present, it didn’t occur to me to address them with God. In fact, I kind of assumed He was always disappointed with me anyway, so there really was no point.

However, once I started to talk to God about how I was feeling, He began to unravel the web of lies that I believed about myself. God showed me that I had come to believe lies about myself while simultaneously discarding how He saw me. These falsehoods were so entrenched that they were hard to break free from. I wonder if you can relate.

Thankfully, with God’s help and the support of a few wonderful Christian friends, I was able to believe God’s truth about me. From that truth came relief from the chronic guilt and shame that drove so much of my behavior. Although I am still a work in progress, the change in me has felt like a miracle in more ways than one. Are you ready for your breakthrough too?

If you are ready to take steps toward entering a healing relationship with God, as already mentioned, you can begin by acknowledging your feelings to Him. When we process our feelings before we ask for advice or seek God’s truth, we are making room to hear what God wants to say to us in return. The very act of sharing your heart openly with God prepares you to receive revelation and truth into the barren places of your soul.

Important Note: If you are a person who tends to disconnect from your emotions, or buries your feelings with work, food, social media, partying, porn or something else, maybe even excessive exercise, you may find it difficult to discern what is happening inside. If so, start by asking God to help you figure out what you are feeling. Here are a couple of prompts to get you going:

  • Jesus, what is ____ (work, social media, eating, etc.) keeping me from feeling right now?
  • Jesus, bring my attention to where in my body emotions are being housed. Mentally “check in” with your body and see if you notice pockets of tension, sadness or fear anywhere. Is your jaw clenched? Is your back tight? Are there knots in your upper back? Write down what you notice and ask God to explain to you what your body is experiencing.
  • Jesus, if my body parts could speak, what would they say?
  • Jesus, what am I afraid of?
  • Jesus, can you help me remember the last time I felt lonely?
  • Jesus, with whom or about what am I angry?
  • Jesus, help me recognize when I felt hurt today.

After you have taken time to share your heart with God (perhaps by journaling), read over what you wrote, asking the Holy Spirit to highlight anything He wants you to explore further.

This step is a critical part of the therapeutic process because it will help you hear God’s truth about your situation. If truth doesn’t replace the lies you have come to believe and wounds aren’t healed by the One who has the power to do so, you risk letting your emotions run your life. Don’t get me wrong: emotions are important indicators of what is happening to or for you, but they aren’t a good basis for making decisions. Below are a few questions that may help you with this process:

  • Jesus, does my ____ (anger, fear, hurt, sadness, loneliness, etc.) have deep roots that need to be exposed?
  • What do you want me to know about how I’m feeling?
  • Is there a lie that I believe about myself that is fueling this emotion?
  • Is there someone who taught me this lie about myself? Is there someone who I need to forgive?
  • Jesus, what is your truth about me?

Next, remember that learning to discern God’s voice takes time. If you struggle to hear or sense what He is saying, don’t panic. God also speaks through the Bible, so consider taking time to research (hello, Google!) all the passages that address the emotion you want to process with God. For example, I googled “loneliness” and came across dozens of verses. God may use one of them to speak directly to you. Read through those verses, asking God to highlight what He wants you to explore further. Journal about what you see, sense, or hear God saying to you through that verse.

Lastly, remember that therapeutic work is usually not a quick fix. (Of course, God is God, and He can work however fast he wants to!) In a therapy session, you would expect to spend fifty minutes to an hour with your therapist. From my experience, that is the minimum amount of time that I like to spend processing with God as well. Don’t let the amount of time put you off from getting started, though. Start with the amount of time you have and go from there. You truly won’t regret it!

If you need help getting started or feel stuck at some point, reach out for help. No one else can walk your journey for you, but sometimes it helps to have a guide along the way!

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