A few months ago, my family and I underwent a hurtful experience with a church we no longer attend, but had served at for over 5 years. Needless to say, the entire situation ended bitterly and took a huge toll on my life. Battling depression prior to this situation was tiring on its own but with this adding on to my depression and anxiety, I was desperate for peace and was forced to reevaluate my life perspective. I came across the thought that I was trying to heal too quickly on my own while claiming that I was trusting in God. In my anger and sadness and dizziness, I took it upon myself to look at the “bright side” of things like a good Christian, hoping I could fake it till I made it back to spiritual peace. But the bright side can be so exhausting to find when you feel like you’ve been squinting in the dark for so long. It can become damaging to the point that you start looking for a light when your eyes are completely shut.
When we try to convince ourselves to be positive and “happy”, God is restricted to our idea of happiness and not only do we restrict Him from working but we also act in arrogance against Him. God already promised hope and peace and joy, but our obsession with hedonism as a generation and superficial spirituality blinds us to His healing power. We are meant to feel deeply, but when we don’t admit where we are and take honest steps towards healing, how can we expect to advance?
With that said, I fully recognize where I currently stand in the healing process. I am not yet completely healed. In fact, I end up slowing down my healing when I rely on myself—which is something I, and many others, regrettably do often. However, I trust in the slowly refining work of God in the midst of this renewal of faith and devotion in my life.
As I am realizing, the first step to healing is to be unapologetically honest about the actual posture of your heart with yourself and with God. He already knows the workings of your heart and wants YOU to admit it for YOUR benefit. Transitioning from arrogance to humility can be painful. We are not God that we can be prideful in our own strength and understanding—and that was (and kind of still is) incredibly difficult to admit especially under the influence of an individualistic culture that praises human strength and uniqueness. It is challenging to admit necessity of God in this context, but because of this context, I need Him so much more. We can’t trick ourselves into think we are self-sufficient. Forcing positivity to avoid the extra effort that leads to everlasting peace is a form of self-sabotage, idolatry, and arrogance in our own abilities. What a comfort to know God comforts us when we come as we are and convicts us as He leads us.
A second realization: Joy surpasses happiness and Joy is not something I can attain by myself. I can fool myself into happiness, but I cannot convince my soul into joy. As complex humans with complex emotions, we were purposefully created to feel deeply because God feels deeply. We cannot go on in life with only one emotion. That is why joy is a heart posture, not an emotion. Joy is the ability to continue on, hopeful and expectant on the return of Jesus and for the day we will be with Him in heaven DESPITE any other emotion we may be feeling. (Eccl. 9:7; 1 Peter 1:8-9; Romans 15:13).
Joy does not always equal positivity. If it is interpreted solely as positivity, it becomes an idol. It’s okay to admit to God in faith how you truly feel. We can’t half-heartedly say to God “in this season, You are enough and I fully trust you” because as an empty phrase, it is not a true admittance of your heart posture—thus, you deprive yourself of healing. Without honest conversation with God, the One we can fully trust, we rely on our idea of happiness rather than biblical joy for temporary relief even if it is centered on the idea of God. We spend our lives discovering and rediscovering His goodness and character because He never ceases to amaze with all that He is. As objects created to be loved, what a disservice to ourselves to trade in His refining love for the façade of forced positivity.
Let your heart be shaped by a never changing God—that is the only path to spiritual renewal.
My name is Frida Josefina Munoz. I am a sophomore psych major interested in clinical, child psychologist as well as the arts such as writing, music, film, and photography. I am happiest when I am able to express myself creatively. I am blessed and thankful for all that I have.