I have been blessed beyond measure in my 23 short years of life. I have a wonderful family, a nice home, a college education, more food than I can eat available to me at the slightest feeling of hunger, and let’s not forget, three sweet dogs that are always happy to see me. These are just the beginning of it. If I were to name them all I’d be here all day and you would get disinterested, so I opted to leave it at those.
When I think about all my many blessings, I sometimes wonder how it is possible for me to feel anything but happy. I feel like I am being selfish and senseless when I let myself feel anything but happy. I compare my small problems to the much bigger problems that others face, and while this may put my problems into perspective, it doesn’t change whatever I may be feeling.
There are times when I am surrounded by people who love me but I still feel lonely. Times when everything is going my way, yet I still feel sad. Times when I have succeeded, yet I still feel as if I have failed. Times when expectations have been met, but I am still disappointed. All of these feelings can make me feel guilty, like I don’t have the right to feel a certain way. My self-talk becomes more and more negative as I tell myself how selfish I am for feeling that way. I push back the feelings, thinking that they can’t possibly belong to someone who has what others only dream of having.
I couldn’t rest with this guilt hovering over me, so I started to question and seek a solution. I’ve heard “count your blessings” so many times and would become frustrated when counting my blessings didn’t make the feelings completely go away. Sure, I was thankful for all I have but the feelings still emerged. I did not understand.
I discovered that I was doing it all wrong. I was focusing on all I’ve been given instead of the One who has given it all. As I was counting my blessings, I was leaving out the most important words: given from God because He loves me. It’s not having a family, a home, food, etc. that bring me joy. It’s having a family that loves me with the love from God and a home and food provided for me because of God’s great love for me that give me joy. After each blessing I name, I add “given from God because He loves me” and those feelings begin to fade as God’s love consumes me.
I also learned that this type of guilt I sometimes feel is false guilt. Somewhere along the way I forgot that I was human. I forgot that blessings don’t make me immune to feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, sadness, loneliness, anger and all other human feelings. No one earns the right to feel a certain way. Circumstances, rather big or small, lead to feelings because of our human nature, and feeling something is not a sin.
However, sin can emerge from feelings when we let feelings consume us. This reminds me of an equation I learned in a book titled Above the Line by Urban Meyer. The equation is E + R = O. An E (event) plus a R (response) equals an O (outcome). The only part of that equation we can control is the response. Feelings precede responses,and out-of-control feelings lead to wrong responses, which in turn leads to bad outcomes. So, the key is understanding and controlling our feelings. That doesn’t mean pushing your feelings away (that can be as damaging as acting on them). Rather, it means seeking God’s guidance and wisdom to resolve undesirable feelings and respond correctly.
We were created to feel. Don’t suppress your feelings, but don’t react on your feelings either. Stop, think, and pray. Let God uncover the source of your feelings and lead you to release them in a healthy, Godly way.