The Benefits of Feeling Bad
- There are great benefits in feeling pain.
- As bad as pain may feel it is serving a good purpose.
- Emotional pain is not our enemy, but actually our friend.
- No one is causing us to feel what we feel —not even the devil.
- Our pain alerts us to what we believe in our hearts.
- God has a purpose and a plan for our freedom and ultimate transformation and He uses our pain to help bring this about.
- As we come to understand the benefit and purpose of our painful emotions, we can use them to expose what we believe and exchange the lies we believe for His truth.
What We Feel is Not the Problem
Many people believe that emotional pain is a bad thing and a problem to be fixed. People who are in perpetual emotional pain are often viewed as “troubled,” emotionally wounded, or needy. Those who manage their pain well or who only have occasional difficulty are viewed as spiritual, strong or “victorious.”
Actually, emotional pain that is experienced “now and then” or even all the time, is the same. The same is true for managed pain and un-managed pain; they are both the same. It is not how much or how often that we feel emotional pain that matters, but rather what we do when we feel it.
Pain is Not the Problem
The pain we feel is not a problem, but rather an indication of one. People typically make the pain the focus and spend much effort in trying to manage it. As strange as it may seem, there is benefit in feeling the pain we do. If we step on a sharp stone, touch a hot stove or eat a habanero pepper, we need to feel pain. This pain warns us that something is wrong and needs our attention.
Being able to bear up under our pain and force a smile is not any more spiritual than screaming and thrashing around in the midst of it. Pain is pain no matter how we respond to it. All of us have emotional pain in differing measures, and all of us have the same root problem that causes us to feel what we feel.
Emotional pain is much the same as physical pain. When we step on a thorn we feel pain in our foot. This is good. The pain is alerting us to a problem. Our emotional pain says, “There is something wrong in what we believe.” More accurately, the pain says, “You do not know the truth.” It is the absence of truth that is the real problem, when we know the truth our emotions will change to match the truth. IN the meantime we feel whatever we believe. When we make our focus on stopping the pain as opposed to using the pain to help us to identify the reason we feel what we feel, we solve nothing and actually may create more trouble for ourselves.
Your Eye Hurts? That’s Good.
Some years ago I (Ed) was trimming back some trees that grew around my house. I accidentally poked one of my eyes with sharp branch. It was very painful to the degree that I went to my doctor to have the damage assessed. When I arrived he put some eye drops into my eye. Immediately the sharp throbbing pain completely subsided. I was amazed and well pleased.
However, after his examination, I noticed that the pain was beginning to return. I asked him for some more of his amazing eye drops. He declined my request saying that If he put the drops in my eye that I would probably hurt my eye more. I was bewildered by this, thinking that the eye drops were working a “miracle” for me. He went on to explain that the drops had anesthetized all feelings in my eye and without feeling pain I could easily rub or scratch my eye and not be aware of doing so. So as bad as pain may be it is serving a good purpose.
Painful Emotion is Our Friend
As strange as it may sound, negative emotion is not our enemy, but rather, it is our friend. Painful emotion is not a weapon in the hand of the enemy being waged against us. The devil is not making us feel what we feel, even though negative emotion is sometimes blamed on demonic oppression. The devil may indeed be triggering our lie-based belief just as our spouse, our boss or the man at the gas station. But, no one is causing us to feel what we feel. We always and only feel whatever we believe. Those who believe the devil is the reason they feel what they feel will typically use some form of spiritual warfare to cast it out and drive it away. However, if our spouse, children or boss makes us feel the same way, what can we do? We feel whatever we believe and people, demons and life itself are merely “triggers” that expose it. (Read more about dealing with the devil in the article “Essential Paradigm Shifts in TPM…”
Therefore, our painful emotion is our “friend” showing us what we believe that needs to be attended to. It is like a good friend who points out the food particle stuck in our teeth. Only a friend would do that.
So then, God created emotions —both good and “bad”— for a very important purpose. The purpose is to alert us to that which we believe and that we do not believe the truth. When this purpose is recognized and implemented, good things can follow. I put the word “bad” in quotes to say that bad is a relative term.
To illustrate: someone might think that going to a surgeon and having a cancerous tumor removed would be a bad experience. As “bad” as the experience might be to endure, it is actually a good experience, since it might save your life. Cutting out the tumor might be a painful experience, especially the recovery that would follow. But having it removed would be good.
In similar fashion, feeling negative emotion feels bad, even though it is good. We feel negative emotion by God’s design. It is similar to how God designed the nerves in our fingers to feel pain when we touch something hot. Is it bad that we feel pain when we touch a hot plate? Of course not. The pain we feel from the heat is a necessary function that protects us from damaging ourselves.
Negative emotions serve a similar purpose. If we feel bad – worried, fearful, anxious, overwhelmed, etc. – it is because we believe something that is producing these feelings. These feelings act as a warning signal that something is wrong. The question is, how will we respond to the warning? Some of us react to the plate and throw it down in anger as if it had an ulterior motive for being hot. It is not uncommon for us to blame the thorn in our foot, the hot plate or when our car won’t start, for the reason we feel what we feel. It is almost as if these lifeless things were plotting against us to bring us discomfort and trouble. Has kicking your car ever made things different?
Limited Biblical Permission
Most of the painful emotion we feel is biblically unacceptable for the believer to harbor. The Bible says for us to “be anxious for NOTHING” (Philippians 4:6). “Nothing” means “nothing.” The Apostle John wrote “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). When we know the truth of how perfectly the Father loves us, we will have no room for fear of anything. We are told to “Get rid of ALL bitterness, rage and anger … along with EVERY form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). But then, we are overlooked at work, our spouse does “it” again, the car won’t start, someone questions our performance. We then feel anxious, rejected, fearful, worried, angry, etc. Getting rid of these things is not the same as managing them or controlling them. If their source is belief, the answer is in exchanging them for the truth.
Whether the emotional pain we feel is coming from lies we believe or even the truth, it is serving a purpose. We benefit when we choose to embrace what we feel as an indicator or warning system that is designed by God. If the pain is caused by lies that we believe, we can choose to follow it to its source. If the pain is caused because of the truth, then He has promised to bear all our grief and our sorrow. (Isa. 53:4) If we run from our pain, try to suppress it, distract ourselves of it, or blame others or our life situation, we will remain trapped in an endless cycle and freedom will not come. God has a purpose and a plan for our freedom and ultimate transformation and He uses our pain to help bring this about. We can fight this process or we can choose to participate with Him in bringing about.
Not all of the emotional pain we feel is caused by lies we believe. There are rare occasions when the negative emotion we feel may be caused by the truth–such as genuine grief or disappointment. Even the truth-based pain we feel is useful as it too is pointing us in a direction. There is a “time for weeping” (Ecc. 3:4), but it is not a lifetime. Our “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psm. 30:5). Jesus not only bore our sins on the cross, but He also bore our grief, disappointments, regrets and sorrows. (Isa. 53:4). There is a time and place for truth-based emotion, but feeling this pain for an extended amount of time is an indication that we are choosing to bear that which the Lord has promised to carry. The question that needs answered is “why are we bearing that which the Lord is willing to carry for us?” When our truth-based pain lingers on year after year, then it is saying that something is wrong.
I (Ed) recall a well meaning person who tried to comfort my wife and I shortly after our daughter died. He said, “You never really get over the death of a child, you just learn to carry it.” That was a lie. There is a time for weeping, but it is not supposed to last a lifetime. Our Joy DID “…come in the morning…”
Nevertheless, probably most of the negative emotion we feel is caused by lies we believe and not the truth. For example, if someone acts unjustly toward me and I feel worthless and no good, this emotion is not rooted in the truth. It may be the truth that what the person did to me was wrong and unjust; nevertheless, what I feel about what happened to me is based upon my belief and interpretation of what occurred and nothing more.
No matter where we go, when we get there, we are there.
I am convinced that most (nearly all) negative emotion we feel about what is happening around us is not truth-based. If it were true that our bad feelings are actually caused because of what occurs outside of ourselves, then we would be powerless to ever feel good until the assumed “source” of the pain changed or was eliminated. Even if our world were to change around us and we gained some measure of relief from what we felt, it would be only a matter of time before something else would come along and we would feel bad again. The common denominator here is not our world or those around us, but rather it is our own belief. No matter where we go, when we get there, we are there. However, if we learn to properly read and understand our bad feelings, we can greatly benefit as we exchange the lies we believe for His truth.
Change What You Can but Deal with Belief.
Having said all this, if we can bring about change to our circumstance and do so in a righteous manner, then so be it. If we can calm the storm, it may smooth out the ride in some measure. However, until we address the lie-based belief that we harbor, we remain in a perpetual cycle of being triggered and miserable. We may successfully calm the immediate storm, but there are many more headed our way.
We must never forget (or deny) the fact that the storm is not the cause of our feelings. We may dodge a storm now and then, but it is certain that we cannot run or escape from our belief. Wherever we go, it is there when we arrive. People often try and run away from what they perceive are their problems, only to discover that when they arrive at their new destination, their problems are there too. No matter where we go, we are there, and we carry our belief within us. In every issue, conflict, problem and trouble that I have ever encountered there is the same common denominator — me.
No matter what relationship or situation we are in, what job we hold, something or someone will eventually touch our lie-based belief and trigger our pain. Unless we can separate the person or situation from our pain and rightly identify its cause, we will never find freedom.
The disciples were caught in the middle of the raging storm and believed that they were going to perish. They viewed the storm as the cause of their fear. However, Jesus was in the same storm and yet He was asleep in the stern of the boat. He believed something different than they did. They were experiencing a “state of being” lie-based belief ( one of two types of core belief). The storm actually exposed who they understood Jesus to be when they said, “Master did you not know we are about to perish?” They did not know that they had God in the boat with them. Jesus had already told them the truth when he said, “Let US go over to the other side of the lake” (Luke 8:22). After the storm was calmed they further exposed their belief about who Jesus was when they said, “Who is this man…?”
When we know the truth with absolute certainty (faith), we can rest in the midst of our “storm” like Jesus asleep in the stern of the boat. When we know the truth in our hearts, the struggle to live out the truth will cease. We will discover that it takes no more effort to live in the truth than it does to live in the lies we believe. It is the exact same mental process. When we know the truth it will transform how we live, in the same way that our lies have conformed us into their mold. Conversely, if we believe a lie in our hearts, it is literally impossible to walk in continuous obedience to the truth, even though we have memorized it in our heads. Our lie-based heart belief will eventually win out.
Strive to Enter Into Rest
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “…strive to enter into that rest….” (Heb. 4:11 ESV) that Jesus offers. This sounds a little strange, that we would need to strive in order to rest. The truth is, it takes much striving and effort on our part to choose to stop blaming others for our troubles, our circumstance and emotional pain, and for us to take ownership for what is ours: what we believe and feel. Until we do, we are in emotional bondage with no way out.
The striving referred to in Hebrews is not about trying harder to believe the truth or to perform it. Striving to believe the truth will benefit me nothing and the ultimate outcome of spiritual performance is failure. The truth that my heart needs is only granted by God. I cannot know it myself other than with my mind, and only He can persuade my heart of it. He will happily supply His truth to my heart when I am in a position to receive it. Therefore, I have to bring out into the open what I believe in my heart, so that I can make this exchange.
Until I understand these principles, I will probably blame my circumstances, the people around me, my past, or even the devil for what I feel. I may strive to resolve these “issues,” but I will likely end up denying my emotion, avoiding the triggers, self-medicating my pain (eating when not hungry, alcohol, sexual gratification, spiritual performance, etc.)
Again whether we manage and control our pain or not, either way, we are in the same place. Bearing up under it is not a solution or spiritual. Suppression of what we feel allows the “thorn” to remain, even though we may have numbed out its presence. Walking around with a thorn in our foot causes damage whether we feel it or not.
The fact remains, my emotions are produced by what I believe in my heart. Taking ownership for what is mine is the first step toward lasting freedom. I don’t need anyone to rescue me from anything: that includes being blocked, stuck, emotionally shut down, held captive by the devil, or anything else. I simply need to identify what I believe, which is causing me to feel what I feel. Then I can exchange the lies I believe for the truth that God wants me to KNOW.
Pain is Not Our Enemy, It is Our Friend
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