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3 Signs Your Emotions Are Ruling Your Life

It took everything in me not to text back. I turned my phone off in vehement protest. I would not let my emotions get the best of me. I would not be that person who was reckless with their words.

I knew my friend’s text meant nothing personal. But as an INFJ and 4 on the Enneagram Test (how scarily accurate are those personality tests, by the way?), I know that my emotions are my kryptonite. Which is why I sometimes have to keep myself in check and make sure that I’m not letting my emotions sit on the throne of my life.

Dear friends, emotions are very important, but we cannot let them rule over us. I know for some of us “feelers” out there, this can be really difficult. But it is one of the most important lessons I have been learning over the past several years.

Learning to master our emotions will grant us wholeness in every area of our lives. After all, we are not defined by our feelings. So how do we know if our emotions have gotten the best of us? Well for starters. . .

 

1. You’re reacting instead of responding

When my emotions get the best of me, I often find myself reacting (sometimes unnecessarily) in the heat of the moment. Whether it’s receiving a passive-aggressive email from a colleague, or finding the dirty dishes (yet again) left on the kitchen counter, sometimes it’s a lot easier to simply react to a situation and say the first thing that pops into my head.

Jumping to conclusions can be so much easier than demonstrating grace and giving someone the benefit of the doubt. But I am challenging myself to avoid that knee-jerk reaction, and think about how I can respond positively instead of just slinging mud around.

My husband and I have a set of “rules” that we aim to stick to when we have an argument, one of which is, “Don’t start unnecessary fires that need to be put out later on.” In other words, we don’t just say whatever we feel like saying in the moment, or else we’re going to be spending even more time putting out little “fires”—apologizing for the hurtful words we recklessly spat out in a moment of frustration.

Simply reacting may feel like an intuitive response, but understanding that our feelings don’t have to rule our behavior is the first step towards achieving a healthier emotional life. While waiting for the ‘heat’ to die down, sometimes I like to ask Holy Spirit to reveal to me the roots of my emotional reaction. Inviting God into my reactions helps me to work towards a healthier response the next time I get caught up in my emotions.

 

2. You can’t separate fact from fiction

One thing my counselor taught me is that feelings are not right or wrong, they’re just feelings. Dear friends, while I’m sharing “all the feels” with you, I am also here to tell you that doesn’t mean our feelings can always be trusted. In fact, more often than not, our feelings are lying to us. We find this truth in Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT), which describes the heart as the source of “wickedness”: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

We know that we’re in too deep when feelings begin to trump reality for us. In other words, the moment our feelings have become an idol, and we start to believe them more than what God says about us and what’s true; that’s when we know it’s time to do a little soul-searching. Instead of following my heart (contrary to every Disney plot-line), I know I need to follow Jesus’ example and work out the fruits of the Spirit in my life–that includes self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

3. You feel out of control

Whether it’s throwing a childlike tantrum or withdrawing completely from a situation, our emotions directly affect our thoughts and actions, and sometimes in an unhealthy way.

If you’re reading this, then you obviously have enough emotional intelligence to recognize when your emotions are running high. But for those of us who find controlling our emotions a bit trickier, this is where it’s worth identifying our triggers. Whether it’s FOMO causing us to feel despair while scrolling through Instagram, or simply feeling rejected over the radio silence on the other end of our phones; it’s essential to pinpoint the triggers in our lives that might cause us to spiral. The more we understand our triggers, the quicker we’ll be able to submit them to God and gain control over our emotions.

 

In this day and age, where our culture is encouraging us to become increasingly transparent and vulnerable about our feelings—which is completely necessary for fostering real relationships—it’s all the more imperative that we learn to live beyond how we feel.

Becoming aware of our own emotions is vital for our personal development; however, we cannot allow our emotions to determine the path we take. We need to ask ourselves: Am I letting my emotions rule over me? Are my feelings directing me down the wrong path? If the answer is yes, we may need to re-evaluate where our emotions sit in the pecking order.

Dear ones, if you find yourself in one of the three points above, don’t worry. I’m right there with you. Emotions are part of what makes us humans. We should not try to suffocate our feelings by burying them deep down, but instead we can bring our emotions before our loving Father, who wants to nurture and challenge us to live out His best for us.

God wants us to surrender every part of our lives to Him, including our emotions. The more we seek God’s guidance in our emotional lives, the more we can grow in discernment about which feelings we can trust and which ones we can nail to the Cross.

So don’t sweat it, we’re all riding this wild emotional ride called life. Ultimately, we’re all on a journey to complete healing and wholeness with Jesus. So say it with me. “Emotions are not King over my life. Nothing in my life is King except Jesus.”

4 Truths That Kept Me Going in 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, I want to look back on the past 12 months and examine the valuable lessons I’ve learned. Not just to give myself a pat on the back for making it this far but also to reflect on the things that God has taught me in the last year.

So here we go.

 

1. Learn to live beyond how you feel

Don’t give your feelings the power to affect you. You can turn that dial down (for me it’s called the crazy dial) and tune in to a different voice. Your feelings don’t have to determine the path you take. Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, reveals this earth-shattering truth when he describes the heart as “deceitful above all else and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Sometimes how we feel doesn’t always match up to reality; so it’s important to learn how to differentiate between the two.

At my core, I am a feeler—so I’m still working on this. A while back, I realized how much air time I was giving to negative voices in my life instead of God’s voice. Part of the battle is learning to dial down the negative voices and turn up the ones that bring you life.

Instead of focusing on our fears, worries, and problems, we need to remind them of where they stand in relation to God. Believe me, I know how easy it is to get hung up on all of the negatives but it’s imperative in these moments that we hang onto the promises of God instead. Read His Word and pray through His promises over yourself and your situation. It may not transform your circumstances but it most surely will transform the way you think and feel about them.

Some verses that have helped me are:

I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)

 

2. We need community

Life is full of ups and downs, so it’s essential that you find your tribe.

The ones you turn to when it feels like the walls are closing in. The ones who stand by you when you feel like you’re completely alone. The ones who hold you up when you can’t hold on any longer. The ones who remind you of God’s faithfulness in your life when you’ve lost all perspective. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles to see the bigger picture?!)

We all need the help of community to keep us going during those times. The deepest part of me truly believes this is where the church comes in; but not everyone may have had the best experience with the religious community when it comes to divulging your inner demons.

It’s important to remember that the church is made up of imperfect people who are trying to emulate the perfection of Christ; so at some point, you will most likely be disappointed. After all, not everyone is called to walk through this life with you.

The trick is not letting this dishearten you but to let it fuel your fiery desire to seek out real community—the people who listen when you ask the tough questions, the people who don’t always have to fill the silence when they don’t know what to say, the people who laugh with deep belly-laughs at life’s many joys and cry with you when it’s just too much to handle anymore. Find these people and you will be the richest person on earth.

 

3. Healing is a journey

Throughout my time at university and early 20s, I lived with a debilitating anxiety disorder. And yet during that painful season, God did not miraculously heal me from my anxiety disorder even though I frequently begged Him to.

I didn’t automatically stop having panic attacks despite committing to daily quiet times with Him every morning before 8 a.m. lectures. I still had to catch my breath and count to 10 in the middle of a client meeting to avoid a potential breakdown. I still had to excuse myself from Political Theory lectures to prevent an impending panic attack. I still went to bed most nights with a racing heart and restless mind. It really is a miracle I got through those years at college. Praise Jesus.

In short, my healing journey wasn’t an instantaneous jolt of supernatural peace. It wasn’t a straightforward quick fix.

Managing my anxiety was a long, drawn-out, and emotionally painful process. It was the result of many months of intense counseling sessions, countless moments of trial and error practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, heaps of emotional energy I often didn’t have to give, and endless support from “my people.” It required the Church to get alongside me and cheer me on as I waded through the muddy waters of poor mental health. Thank God for those precious people.

 

4. God uses imperfect people for His perfect plans

I’m also grateful for all the people who genuinely wanted to help me loosen the chains of anxiety and live my life in all its fullness. People who offered an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on when the anxiety was just too much. People who encouraged me to keep going despite me wanting to give up. People who identified my giftings and called them out in me, even when I could not see them myself.

This was perhaps the most redeeming truth—realizing that God still had a place for me in His Kingdom even though I didn’t have my stuff all sorted. I was not perfect, and He wasn’t expecting me to be. He just wanted me to come, exactly as I was, and work in me so He could work through me to help others.

I have discovered that is often the way with God. It’s in the darkest places where we learn the most important lessons. And in order for God to use our lives for His glory, we must experience a little bit of what others have gone through to truly understand their journey and to be effective carriers of His peace and healing.

 

So as I’m sitting here reflecting on the past 12 months, I want to openly admit to you the truth that I do not have it all together. I do not have all the answers. I have not fully “arrived”. (Do we ever really?)

Perhaps the most important truth I have discovered throughout my experience as a Christian with anxiety is simply this—God uses broken people to heal other broken people.

God uses weak people to demonstrate His strength.

God uses broken people to mend the wounds of brokenhearted people.

God uses anxious people to free up anxious people.

So in 2019, I just encourage you to go for it. Join the prayer team at church. Write that book. Start that Bible study group. Climb that mountain. Run that race. There is a part for you to play in God’s big plan of calling His lost kids back to Him. You have a significant part to play in saving the world. Every one of us gets to play.

Every one of us gets a seat at the table.

A place to lead, to serve, to encourage, to inspire, to challenge, to heal.

Not in spite of our weakness, but because of them.

4 Tips For Reaching Out To The Homeless

“Excuse me, miss, do you have any spare change?”

The other day, I was asked for some money by a man sitting outside the local supermarket. He was wrapped up in a blanket, with his hoodie over his head and a torn paper cup in his hand.

“Really sorry, I don’t have any on me,” I replied. “But can I buy something for you? What do you need?”

I squatted down beside him and looked him in the eyes, and I could tell it made him a bit nervous.

He appeared timid but I could tell was also eager to have a chat.

“My name is Rachel,” I said reaching out my hand. “What’s yours?”

***

As someone who works for a homelessness charity, I frequently get asked what one should do if approached by a homeless person on the streets.

What do I do if a homeless person asks me for money? Do I give them money? Should I just avoid them?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, homelessness is a crisis. The reasons are many and complex—family breakdown, community upheaval, poor mental health, or individual struggles with addiction. But whatever the reasons, no one should have to sleep rough on the streets—especially in the dead of winter—or be in search of a place to stay because they were kicked out of their home by a family member.

Because local governments are often unable to help the hundreds of people in need, I strongly believe that this is where we, the Church, come in.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus urges us to care for those living in poverty as an act of obedience to God: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

While I do not have all the answers to this complex problem, I do have a few thoughts that I hope you find helpful the next time you encounter someone on the streets.

 

1. Be compassionate

Embody compassion. Freely give to people you come across, especially those who find themselves on the margins of society. While we should not lightly cross personal boundaries or put ourselves at risk, we certainly don’t need to be a social worker to show compassion. Showing compassion can be anything from saying hello to someone on the street, to offering to buy them a hot drink on a cold night.

As Christians, kindness should come naturally to us. And when it does not, we need to ask God to show us how He sees and loves the people around us. Pray for our hearts to be broken by the things that break His heart.

 

2. Help out when you can and where you can

After all, you and I are mere individuals. We cannot possibly help everyone we come across who begs for money on the street.

However, if we want to help people living in poverty and experiencing episodes of homelessness, we can always start small and see where it takes us. After all, no act of kindness, no matter how small, is insignificant.

Instead of giving money to someone on the streets, I will often buy them a sandwich or a hot coffee. And sometimes, it is enough just to have a conversation with that person.

If you’re just starting out on this journey, something as simple as smiling and saying “Hello” is a positive step. Ultimately, we want to show dignity and respect to people who have been robbed of such.

Jesus Himself treated social outcasts and sinners with dignity and compassion. He even shared a meal with prostitutes! Maybe there’s something we could learn from His interactions with the poor and downtrodden.

 

3. Use common sense

On the one hand, we need to think about how to better serve our local communities and reach out to people who are homeless. But on the other hand, we also need to exercise common sense.

While some of us have no qualms about speaking to a homeless person outside of a supermarket, that is a personal choice and not necessarily right for everyone. There have been times where I have seen people on the streets act aggressive. If that happens, we need to decide on a safe course of action. Definitely not all homeless people are dangerous or addicts, but we need to exercise common sense when interacting with people on the street.

 

4. Get on board

There are many charities that support homeless people in local communities. These charities offer a variety of services and projects, such as overnight shelters, addiction recovery programs, or community development.

Supporting a charity is a great way of partnering with others to tackle the issue of homelessness. We can do so by giving to charities, donating food and clothing at local food banks, or participating in an outreach program through church.

 

It’s easy to think “I’m just one person. How can I possibly make a difference?”

While we may not be able to perform the miracles Jesus did—raising the dead, restoring sight, casting out demons—we can extend the same life-changing dignity that He offered during His time on earth. Jesus treated each and every person He came across with dignity, knowing that they are made in God’s own image. We can do so as well.

Brothers and sisters, if there is one thing to remember when encountering the homeless, it’s this: treat everyone you meet as Jesus did—men and women, homeless and homeowners, rich and poor.

Let’s go back to the story I started this article with. After I introduced myself, the man told me that his name was David. I sat down beside him on the busy city street, watching people make their way home in the post-work commute.

“People can be really kind,” he said. As he munched on his sandwich, David told me all about how several local people had taken an interest in him and would buy him meals on occasion. A couple of women even told him about Jesus and His love for him.

“They told me that even though I’m homeless that God loves me and I’m still valuable to Him.”

As I listened to David share his story, it struck me that one simple thing we can do to love people well and to treat them with dignity is to listen. Let us learn how to listen purely so that others have the privilege to share their story.

Next time you pass by someone on the streets, give them just a few minutes of your time. Even the simplest of acts like having a conversation with someone who is homeless isn’t just saying “I hear you”; it’s demonstrating “I see you because He loves you.”

Be a representative of His incomprehensible peace, undeserving grace and overwhelming love.

What I Wish I Knew When I was 17

Dear 17-year-old me,

How exciting it must be! You have the world at your feet, and you’re about to embark upon what some call “the best years of your life.” Indeed, your 20s are full of opportunity, and you will exercise plenty of responsibility and learn many life lessons. Ten years on, I can confirm that you have so much to look forward to!

But stop stressing over that stereotypical American college experience. Don’t feel like you have to graduate with all the honors imaginable, or that you need to land your dream job straight out of college. In fact, stop putting pressure on yourself altogether. The stress is killing you slowly, and killing every freedom-loving cell inside of you. Having lived through these past 10 years, I have uncovered some truths that would really have helped me when I was where you are at now—paying tuition and taking online career tests.

So here I go. My top five pieces of advice I wish someone had given me when I was 17.

 

1. Let God Write Your Love Story

This will save you a lot of drama, plenty of tears and a heck of a lot of spare time. Perhaps popular fairy tales are to blame, but don’t feel pressured to find “the one” in order to feel complete. I know everyone has a long-term boyfriend in high school, but you don’t have to follow that trend.

Looking back, I had spent a lot of time and energy in relationships that were not God’s best for me. I took matters into my own hands and spent many years in a relationship with a guy who wasn’t right for me. Whether it was for attention, to fill that gaping hole in my heart that only Christ could fill, or to keep the feelings of rejection at bay; the truth is I didn’t trust God with my dating life. It resulted in a lot of heartache and anxiety.

You might be tempted to think that God doesn’t care about who you date, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Trust me on this one—let Him write your love story. Once I surrendered this part of my life to God, I met the most amazing man who is now my husband.

I don’t care if your guy checks all the right boxes except the faith one. I don’t care if he says all the right things out of a Hollywood romance. If he doesn’t love the things of God or isn’t running in the same direction as you are, don’t settle. Don’t settle for a relationship that isn’t God’s best for you or compromise your core values or dreams in fear of singleness. God will bring along the right person at the right time.

 

2. Choose Grace Over Judgment

Every single time. I know you have strong opinions on rights and wrongs, but don’t be too quick to let that alienate those around you. The Church is increasingly known for what it’s against rather than what it’s for, but this will only keep people from meeting Jesus.

Grace is what leads people to Jesus, not judgment. There will be situations in which you find yourself surrounded by people with opposing values and different upbringings, and you will be tempted to prove to them that you are right. But please choose grace. As James 2:13 reminds us, “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Now hear me, I am in no way suggesting that you compromise your values; however, you will be a far greater witness of Christ if you clothe yourself in grace. There will be plenty of times where you must take a stand for your faith, but how you take a stand is the key. In its simplest form, grace might look like loving people where they are, even if their lifestyle doesn’t line up with the Gospel. Jesus demonstrated this brilliantly when he chose to eat amongst tax collectors and prostitutes.

 

3. Your Identity is Not What You Do, But Who You are

The world will drill into your head this recipe for success: hard work + skill = success. You will be taught that your value is derived from your worldly achievements. But you need to learn to separate your identity from your function. This means that if one day your dream job doesn’t work out (because believe me, your career won’t go according to plan), you won’t fall victim to an earth-shattering identity crisis.

By all means, work hard and go after your wildest dreams. Get good grades in your classes, apply for that prestigious internship in Washington D.C., and enroll into a master’s program overseas. None of these things are inherently bad for you. Just remember that these things may come from hard work, but they are not your identity.

If there is only one thing you take away from this, please grasp this truth: your identity is rooted in the fact that you are a child of God. A daughter of the King of Kings who loves you. Galatians 4:7 says, “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” You don’t have to prove yourself to Him, nor do you need to hand over a copy of your updated resume to earn His affections. He simply loves you because you are His.

 

4. Be the Woman God Created You to Be

In the next decade, you will also be confronted with society’s narrative of what it means to be a woman—that you’re only as valuable as your dress size, clothing labels, job title and relationship status. But in our postmodernist age where everything goes, it’s absolutely vital that you take a stand for what you believe in.

You will discover that your values of purity, faithfulness, patience and kindness will be put to the test. The world will try to convince you that materialism, sexual indulgence, personal ambition and individualism are the keys to happiness. But remember, God will equip you for every battle you will fight. Maybe dressing for the wrong kind of attention or smoking is what it takes to fit in with the “in” crowd, but is it really worth losing yourself to become “cool”?

Resist the temptation to settle for less, and instead embrace who God made you to be: a woman of who was created to serve God, love your neighbor, stand up for what’s right, and leave the world a better place.

 

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

I know you are afraid to mess up, for fear of not being the “perfect child.” News flash! You are not, and will never be, perfect. You will make an abundance of mistakes. But if you are wise enough, you will give yourself the grace to make mistakes, and forgive yourself so you can move on from them.

Ultimately, as you discover the freedom that comes with knowing Jesus, you will realize that perfectionism is largely overrated and prevents you from fully relying on God’s faithfulness. God will use your weaknesses to reveal His power, as it says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Not only will your imperfections make you a stronger human being, but your experiences will give you a perspective that you can share with others who are looking for guidance as they navigate their own journeys through life.

 

I know you think you have it all figured out, but trust me. Instead of trying to have all the answers yourself, I’d encourage you to put your full confidence in the One who made you. Your life is a series of small, individual choices; and the choices you make will direct the path you take. Trust your Father with all of your choices—both the giant, life-altering ones and the insignificant ones.

He has already written out the answers to all your questions. He is for you and is going to take you on an incredible adventure through life.