When I found out the ladies’ retreat theme my church was holding this year was on emotions, I admit I inwardly groaned.
That’s not for me, I thought. As someone who has previously prided herself on her stoicism, feeling emotionally out-of-control has not typically been an area I’ve felt weak in.
If anything, I more often struggle with hardness of heart and detachment. Displaying emotions can equal weakness to me, and in the past I’ve protected myself against hurt by building a wall around my heart.
I have grown though, in becoming a more emotionally open person, marriage and motherhood being the main means to my transformation.
In the weeks leading up to the retreat, however, I felt pushed to the limit and at the end of myself. I was struggling with anger everyday. Little things were cracking my reserves and I was blowing up over annoyances and discipline problems with my kids.
As much as I tried to change, everyday I felt failure. Everyday I showed my kids how to have a big ole temper tantrum. Patience seemed to elusively slip through my fingers.
No doubt many factors played into my struggle. The lack of time my kids were getting to blow off their energy outside now that it’s colder and the time changed. Homeschooling is new this year and stretching us all. A small house means we’re kind of all under each other’s feet.
But still, something needed to change with me. Yet change seemed out of reach.
Like Paul I could say, “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19).
As God would have it, by the time the retreat actually rolled around, it was perfect in timing and topic. Imagine that! I was wallowing in discouragement and not God’s grace to change and make me more like Him.
Each message at the retreat spoke to me in some way with my struggle of anger and self-control.
First, it was so good to be reminded I’m created in God’s image and that I’m more like God than any other creature in the universe. To be reminded that God feels. He is not detached, unfeeling, or stoic. My emotions are God-given; despite the fact they’re corrupted, just like the rest of me. “The cry of need and the song of joy are each appropriate in image bears of the glory of God,” writes David Powlison in “What Do You Feel?” for The Journal of Biblical Counseling.
Despite the fact I’m an image bearer of God, I still have a long way to go and I feel that. However, one of the speakers at the retreat reminded me that God is glorified by my attempt at righteousness, not just my attaining it.
What a good reminder that my weak attempts glorify God! That He doesn’t look down on me for that. Actually, the fact that I’m wrestling is a sign that God’s working in me, not that He’s not working in me.
This encouraged my soul. My attempts and my wrestling were signs that He was working in me. And though I must fight against my various sin patterns, God also offers rest for my weary and discouraged soul.
“Performance does matter to God.” The speaker had my attention with this comment. She went on, “Never think that it doesn’t. It’s just whose performance matters: that of Jesus.”
I’m not resting in my daily performance of perfect self-control. I’ll mess up. I’ll blow it. I’ll yell at my kids again. I already have since being back from the retreat. But I can rest that Jesus’ performance of a perfect life, death, and resurrection on my behalf covers me.
And so I continue to wrestle. But I rest too.
Does anyone else wrestle with their emotions too? How do you wrestle? How do you rest?