I’m not a very organized person. My wife is, though, so for her sake I try to keep my clutter to a minimum at our house. I try to restrict my chaos to a few small places around our home. One such spot is my bedside table, where I freely stack up books and papers, and any other items that I can’t find a place for. I also use that table’s three drawers for any junk that I need to get out the way. Whenever I’m not sure what to do with something, I simply shove it into that drawer, figuring I will deal with it later. That strategy works for a while, but it falls apart once the drawer is full, of course. At that point, my papers and books start to protrude from the top of the drawer, and I can no longer fit anything else inside. Once that happens, I have no choice but to empty the entire drawer and deal with the contents one at a time, by throwing things away or finding a permanent place to store them.
All too often we treat our doubts, fears, and difficult emotions exactly like I treat the junk in that drawer. When we feel sad, angry, or upset, we try to suppress or ignore those feelings instead of acknowledging them. Perhaps we feel like we can’t even tell God about those feelings, because we are afraid that He will disapprove of them. Over time, those emotions pile up until we feel like we can’t take it anymore. At that point, they can create quite a mess in our lives. All of that anger, fear, and doubt spills out of our hearts and affects our relationships with God and other people. We might find ourselves becoming aggressive or withdrawn. And in our pain, we might even find ourselves running away from God.
We might be afraid to express our emotions honestly, but the writers of Scripture showed no such hesitation. For example, nearly one third of the Psalms are “lament Psalms,” in which the writers pour out their fear, doubt, and anger to God Himself. Instead of stuffing their feelings into some dark corner of their hearts, they let them out. Consider the opening words of Psalm 22, which Jesus quoted during His crucifixion: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” Or Psalm 42:3: “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” Over and over again, the Psalmists expressed their frustration that God sometimes seemed far away, or that He didn’t seem to be listening to their prayers. They let Him know when they were grieving, or angry, or doubtful about how their lives would work out.
For some of us, their candor feels inappropriate, even sacrilegious. Perhaps we are afraid that expressing such feelings to God will threaten our faith or even unravel it. But for the Psalmists, acknowledging their struggles seems to have had just the opposite effect: It deepened their faith in God. In fact, most of the lament Psalms end with statements of trust in God’s goodness or even optimism about the future. Near the conclusion of Psalm 22, which begins with terrible despondency, David wrote, “I will tell of Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the Lord, praise Him… For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” Working through his emotions in God’s presence led Him to a stronger faith, not to a weaker one.
David and the Psalmists knew something that we often forget: If God knows everything, then He already knows how we’re feeling. So we might as well tell Him about it and ask for His help. Quite often, a deeper walk with God begins when we decide to trust Him with our darkest secrets and toughest emotions. Once we understand that He won’t reject us or turn away from us, even when we’re struggling with doubt and disappointment, we’ll be able to trust that He loves us even when we don’t feel His love near us.
So the next time we’re in a season of sadness, fear, anger, or doubt, let’s resist the temptation to shove those feelings into some hidden drawer in our hearts. Instead, we can pull everything out and place it all in the hands of our loving and all-powerful God, where it truly belongs. We will surely find that His love is steady and strong even in the midst of our struggles and fears.