Emotions and following God

For me, and I’m sure many others, being a Christian is often not easy. I am often filled with fears and concerns and I daily struggle to live a life that is fully reliant on God. Personally there are a lot of reasons why following God can be uncomfortable, even though I know that God controls everything, continually provides for me, and answers my prayers. These reasons include, but are not limited to:

  • Loneliness
  • Lack of worldly status
  • Loss of control
  • Lack of financial security
  • Persecution, whether physically or in other ways
  • If you are called to go to a non-English speaking country, not being fluent in the language and stumbling around
  • Looking like a fool in the eyes of the world

In the past week, I’ve been struggling a lot with what it means to live wholly for God. How do I give my life to God in everything I do? I have a long list of worries, fears, and reasons I want to hold back. But as I’ve been thinking about this question of what it would mean to give up my life to God, I have been encouraged in my devotions by all the different stories of Daniel and how God was with him through all the different trials. Being set apart has a cost but God is faithful, whether it was with Daniel and the palace food (Daniel 1) or the lions (Daniel 6). Or if we think about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). Yet while being encouraged by the book of Daniel, I also felt very frustrated as I imagined the great faith and courage with which Daniel faced the challenges in his life. I think of passages like Joshua 1:9 (“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.”) and I can’t help but feel that I don’t have enough faith and am not strong nor am I courageous in how I follow after God.

Today I saw a video clip depicting Daniel in the lion’s den. In the clip, we see Daniel thrown in the den and initially being overcome with fear as he fully realizes where he is. After standing and trembling in fear for a few moments, we then see Daniel fall to his knees and pray, asking God to save him according to His unfailing love.

As I watched the clip, I was thankful to be reminded that following God does not mean we feel no emotions. So often I imagine the heroes of the Bible following God with such faith and courage, never experiencing disappointment, fatigue, anxiety, fear, pain, hurt, or anguish. But watching the clip today reminded me that trusting in God does not mean that we don’t feel these emotions. Going through Daniel, I did not find many references to Daniel experiencing fear or the emotions I would have myself were I in his circumstances. But I’d like to believe that because he was human, he did experience some fear being in, for example, the lion’s den. Nonetheless, even if not in Daniel, throughout the Bible there are numerous passages about believers who do experience emotions (and often with vivid descriptions), whether that be David in the Psalms or even Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane (“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” -Luke 22:44). I believe that we are human and thus we do and will experience emotions, but often more important than the initial reactions to the given situation is how we respond following the initial emotions. In the clip, we see Daniel respond to his fear by calling out to God. With Christ, we see that despite his anguish, he still faithfully goes to the cross. In stressful times, do we turn to God and still follow Him with complete faith and obedience despite our fear, disappointment, anger, or frustration? And in our times of joy and happiness and peace, do we look to God and thank Him for how He has provided for us? Do we remember that we have something greater than ourselves to rely on? God protects us, stands by us, gives us hope, provides His peace that surpasses all understanding, and fights for us. At all times when we are overcome by the troubles of this world, we can rely on God who is big enough to handle anything we are facing and is worth following with our whole being. For me, it is also comforting to realize that the emotions I feel are part of being human and that often the more important question is how I respond to the emotions. And so the question remains, given how I am feeling today, do I still faithfully follow God and give my whole life to Him?

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