“I don’t want to think about the hard things; I just need to trust God.”
“I need to stop crying about it and just be strong.”
“I feel dumb for feeling this way. I just need to forget about it and move on.”

As part of my role here at Biola, I have the great privilege of sitting with students and hearing their stories. When they talk about the challenging situations in their lives, I’ll inevitably hear comments like this. And I can’t blame them. I don’t like feeling the anger, frustration, grief, fear, anxiety or other difficult emotion they might be experiencing in that moment either. I’d also rather stuff it all down and put on a happy face.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. When we experience emotions, we can’t just shut them off. We can’t stuff them down or make them go away. Oh, we can try - but eventually they’ll pop out in unhealthy behavior like binge-watching netflix, passive-aggressive comments, eating waaay too much cookie dough, or a controlling sort of workaholism. (Oh, wait, is that just me?)

In Psalm 62:5-8, David offers a really helpful picture of what it might look like to process even the most difficult of emotions with God. Let’s take a look at the NIV:

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

That command to “find rest” in v. 5 is a rather picturesque one in Hebrew. It can be translated in a number of ways: silence, stand still, cease activity, relax, find rest. To find so much rest and peace in God sounds delightful…. at first.

Sometimes when I actually stop my frenetic activity to wait in silence, stand still, cease activity, relax, and find rest in God, a few things get in the way:

  • Anxiety over my to-do list
  • Embarrassment over what I might have said in that last conversation
  • Worry over a relationship that feels like it’s growing distant
  • Fear about something in the future, a problem that I haven’t figured out yet.
  • Resentment about a particular situation over which I don’t have control
  • Anger at the state of the world (and what little I can do to fix it.)

In short, sometimes my mind and emotions go a little nutty and I can start to feel even more overwhelmed. And that’s where vs. 6-7 become really helpful. Look at all the ways God is pictured as enduring, unshakeable, unshatterable, stable:

Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

It’s like David knows that in silence and stillness our minds and emotions can go a little beserk. BUT WAIT: says David - look at who God is: the enduring, unshakeable, unshatterable Lord of all.

And then, David encourages us:

Trust in him at all times, you people;
Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

David doesn’t say, “Put all those emotions away and just trust God.” “You need to forget all of that and be strong in the Lord.” Or “You really should feel dumb for thinking and feeling all those things.”

Nope. “Pour out your heart before God.” David gives permission to lay it all out before the Lord, because no matter how wacky our emotions seem, God is enduring, unshakeable, and unshatterable. And in pouring our hearts out before the Lord, we practice trusting God with them.

So the next time you want to shove those emotions down, find yourself a quiet, safe space to:

  • Come to rest before God. Spend just a few minutes simply breathing in and breathing out, allowing your body and mind to come to stillness.
  • Picture the unshakeableness of God. Use your imagination to visualize the fortress, refuge, rock or salvation of God described in these verses - sometimes I imagine ocean spray against unshakeable cliffs. Maybe you have an actual photograph or painting that displays meaningfully for you God’s enduring refuge. Use it!
  • Pour out your heart before God. Identify the emotions and thoughts coming up in the silence and stillness, and express them to the Lord. Try journaling, talking out loud or coloring or doodling what you feel (you might be surprised what comes up). If you have a hard time being alone with your emotions - that’s ok! Find someone to talk to who can listen without judgment. Two of the many resources at Biola include Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction.
  • Remind yourself and rejoice: no matter what has just come out, God is your refuge. You can trust the Lord with all of it.
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