When Negative Emotions have Positive Outcomes

by Jake Moore

Let’s play a little game.  I’ll say an emotion and you tell me whether it’s good or bad.

 Happiness?  Sadness?  Anger?  Delight?  Fear?  Loneliness? 

Chances are, you didn’t have to think very long about whether those emotions were good or bad. I bet a clear answer popped into your head right away for each of those words.  However, these are all just emotions, a human reaction to circumstances.  I’m not sure they are inherently good or bad.

Similarly, Solomon wades into some uncomfortable waters in Ecclesiastes by saying “There is a time for everything”.  Some of the things he lists are pleasant, like a time to embrace or a time to love, but he also mentions some less enjoyable things like a time to kill and a time to hate and a time to mourn.  We tend to gloss over those sections and awkwardly rush on to the happier words, missing out on a chance to deepen our faith and make it more real in a way that being happy all the time never can. 

When I’m away from my daughter for a few days, I miss her terribly.  The loneliness of being away from loved ones can be awful, but it is also wonderful when I see my little girl again.  When I get home she always runs up to me as fast as her little legs can carry her and throws her arms around me, telling me all about how much she missed me and all the crazy stuff that happened in her world while I was gone.  The joy I feel in those moments isn’t diminished by the loneliness I feel when we’re apart, it’s amplified.

I feel like I have taken a huge step in my faith recently because I’ve started to understand this in so many areas of my life.  I’ve struggled with negative thoughts and negative emotions for a long time and the struggle has always been to avoid feeling those ugly things and avoid finding myself in those uncomfortable situations.  But recently I’ve begun to realize that to truly trust God, one must trust him in the sunshine AND the rain, because if God really is powerful and in control and all the things we say about him, then our sticky situation didn’t catch him off guard.  He knew all about it before it happened. He’s right there by our side in the middle of the storm, coaching us through it, helping us learn.  And the crazy part about it is that God can use that storm - those negative situations we try to so hard to avoid - to challenge us and deepen our faith.

CS Lewis said,

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Unfortunately for me, too often God has to shout to get my attention.  I spend so much time and energy trying to fix those negative things on my own instead of trusting God and listening for his voice in every situation.  I’m beginning to realize there are no “negative situations” for God, IF we trust him and take the time to listen; God is trying to talk to us all day long in every situation. 

So my challenge to you is to learn to really, truly trust God.  When you find yourself in the middle of some unpleasant circumstances and you ask God “Why me?”, be sure to take a moment and listen for an answer.  Don’t push back from your emotions or try to feel something different than what you’re feeling.  Your emotions are there for a reason, and God can use them to teach us amazing things about ourselves and about him.  Remember, he’s trying to talk to you all the time. If you have the courage to listen you might be pleasantly surprised to see what he does in your life.