How to have faith while still validating feelings
Prayer is supposed to work right? If I believe with faith like a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) as it says in the Bible then miracles should happen, correct?
I truly believe in prayer. I truly believe in miracles. I truly believe Jesus has the capacity to answer prayers. So why doesn’t He always answer my prayers? I don’t know. I don’t know why sometimes God chooses to answer prayers immediately, why sometimes He answers “not yet”, and why sometimes He flat out answers no. But I have a choice. Am I going to choose to believe Him even when He says no - or worse, doesn’t answer at all? These are the questions that have the capacity to hold me captive when I desire to share my faith with someone else. I can choose faith, which is belief before sight. It literally means to believe what eyes cannot see. Belief that Jesus is good even if He doesn’t answer. Belief that God is Sovereign above my own understanding.
But what about when I am sad? Or angry? Lonely? Or overwhelmed?
One amazing attribute of God is His ability to see me. There is a beautiful story in the Bible about a man named Abram and his wife Sarai. She had not bore her husband a child so she gives her maid, Hagar to her husband and Hagar becomes pregnant. Hagar flees those who used her and is in the wilderness when an angel appears to her. The angel says, “The Lord has heard of your misery.” And Hagar says, “You are the God who sees me.” Hagar had been taken advantage of and used. She was fleeing possibly out of shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, hatred, or all of the above – but God sought her out and told her, “I see you.” (Genesis 16).
If God can handle my big emotions, then I can handle the emotions of others without recourse. Feelings are not a threat to Christ and I know this because Jesus experienced feelings when He walked the earth. Jesus cried. Jesus was angry. Jesus withdrew in solitude. Jesus cried out. And if Jesus has the capacity to feel all of those emotions and be perfect as well as fully connected to His Heavenly Father, then I have freedom to do the same. Not only can I do the same, but I can stand up for others who have big emotions they do not know what to do with and tell them with confidence that God loves them and sees them.
So often as Christians we have canned responses when we feel other people’s feelings are too much or too big. We offer simple prayers or pat answers of having more faith to overcome the struggle without seeing the way their hearts are hurting. Having deep faith that Jesus loves me and knowing beyond doubt He has the power to redeem me does not change the magnitude of the emotions I feel or the feelings that can plague me. And having feelings of large magnitude does not negate the faith I have in Jesus as my Savior.
The gift of validation
When we are invited in to someone’s space as they walk a hard road with big emotions we have an opportunity to offer them an incredible gift. I did not know anything about this gift until I studied social work and then was reminded of it again through foster care licensing classes. Validation by definition is “recognizing or affirming that a person or their feelings are worthwhile” (Oxford Languages) Here is what validation is not: affirming that a persons beliefs, circumstances or choices are correct. There is truly no loss to me, no threat to me, no hindrance to me to affirm that another human’s feelings are worthwhile. But we have lost the importance of validating people’s feelings as we’ve been so offended by how their differing opinion may threaten my own belief system.
So, let me repeat, there is never a loss in affirming another human’s feelings. By first affirming their feelings, we then may have the opportunity to speak truth as it relates to their circumstance. Feelings may not always be truth, but feelings can always be felt and validated.
When someone validates my feelings, no matter how foolish, I feel seen. When someone recognizes my own emotions are worthwhile it takes away the feeling of isolation. Not only can we learn to do that for one another, validating others feelings in the moment of feeling them, but we can be confident in taking our feelings to the throne room of Christ and laying them at His feet because I promise you, He sees you. In Hebrew 4:16 it says, “Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” It is with boldness we can feel validation of our big emotions, and be seen at the throne of grace.