When Life’s Emotions Confuse and Overwhelm

In December, Lilly’s ballet school put on a special holiday production featuring vocal music and the Christmas story set to modern dance.

After one of the performances, I was talking to my 83-year-old father, who had been in the audience that afternoon. He told me he had noticed a lone woman in the crowd standing with her arms lifted high during a stirring rendition of “Oh Holy Night.”

Afterwards, he said, he had made it a point to find her and tell her that “Oh Holy Night” also “evoked emotion” in him.

To fully understand the significance of his words, you need to know a few facts about my dad. He’s the son of German immigrants, a mechanical engineer with a master’s degree from an Ivy League university. He’s an avid reader who taught his seven children to think critically and for themselves.

My dad laughs a lot, but I don’t think I’ve ever him cry. He’s kind and loving, but he veers more toward logical than sentimental.

Because of all this, the thought that a Christmas song would move my dad made me—I don’t know—sort of happy. His word choice might seem a little stilted, but it was appropriate, given his personality.

I’m thinking of this now, months later, because we’re in a season of family life that also “evokes emotion.” I don’t have any other way to describe it. There’s a weird mixture of sadness, determination and love that is propelling me to engage in ways that are new and sometimes uncomfortable.

There are shades of uncertainty and frustration too, but in my formerly anxious heart, the fear of the unknown is being replaced by the joy of finding purpose in the next step.

Even so, the feelings can be exhausting, and even more so because I don’t always know what to do with them. I don’t really want to talk about them; plus, I don’t know if I could articulate what I’m feeling even if I wanted to.

I wonder if that’s healthy, if I should get counseling, if anyone else feels the same way.

There are times when I find myself holding back tears, praying that I will be able to see what’s true in the midst of all the feelings.

Perhaps this is why, some weeks ago, I got the idea to start writing down the names of God as I read through my Bible. It wouldn’t be the first time the still, small Voice has sent me in a direction that prepared me for what I had no idea would be next.

Maybe right now, more than anything else, I simply need to rest in the knowledge that the King of the world is intimately aware of what’s going on in our lives.

As we move toward uncharted waters, He is already there.

As memories fade, He will never forget our names.

As I list God’s titles chapter by chapter, I’ve discovered that the Creator of heaven and earth also is the One who examines the thoughts and emotions of each individual person (Psalm 7:9).

In other words, He knows exactly what I’m thinking and exactly how I feel.

He knows when emotions are being evoked faster than I can process them.

This is hard for me because I want to figure out all the feelings. But maybe—just maybe—it’s time to leave the examination up to God and just feel the feelings for awhile.

P.S. I’m linking up this week with Purposeful Faith, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, #HeartEncourgementThursday, Fresh Market Friday and Grace & Truth.

33 Responses to When Life’s Emotions Confuse and Overwhelm

  1. Aimee Imbeau says:

    Oh, those crazy feelings! I know ALL about them! My kids and I often talk about our feelings – they tell us something is going on, but they can’t be relied on for the full truth. I’m so glad I taught them this because when I am reeling with emotions, they kindly remind me of the truth they have learned. They also quote scripture to me;) Because God’s word trumps all of our feelings. Thanks for sharing so honestly and authentically, Lois. May God shower you with His peace and grace. Thanks for sharing on Grace and Truth.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      “God’s word trumps all our feelings.” Yes, Aimee, that is so true and I am so glad! I had to smile when I read about what your kids do … during earlier periods of emotional turmoil, I distinctly remember Lilly telling me (more than once), “Mom, you need to go read your Bible!” Thank you for your sweet encouragement today!

  2. Naomi Fata says:

    Visiting you from chasing community linkup. I do feel like that and can at times relate to your question ‘is this normal , should I see a counselor?’ Feeling feelings is still relatively new to me and still a challenge to express but God is faithfully working on me

  3. Brenda says:

    ((Lois)) Will join you in prayer for this situation. “Feeling the feelings” is so hard, isn’t it? I’m one who has to feel the feelings before I’m ready to walk through the new places and, eventually, gain closure. But, in the midst? Feelings are hard. ((hug)) His name is always an inexplicable comfort, isn’t it? So thankful for the mysteries and mercies of God. ((xoxo))

  4. KellyRBaker says:

    Lois, I haven’t read all of the other comments, but it’s true that the “King of the world is intimately aware of what’s going on in our lives.” He gave us emotions for many reasons (He has them, too), but one major connection I like to make is that they are indicators. They help us pinpoint what is going on in our heart if we analyze them, but it’s only when we run to the Father in that process that it becomes helpful to do so. Blessings to you.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      That’s a wonderful point about emotions being indicators, Kelly. And you’re right about bringing them to God rather than trying to figure them all ourselves or (maybe worse) stuffing them down or running scared from them. I’m so glad you shared this perspective this week!

  5. I too am thankful Jesus knows my feelings even when I don’t!

  6. I like to figure out feelings too. And my thoughts. I have a lot of both and sometimes they come to fast to even keep up with, to even articulate to God. I commented on Jennifer’s post too, that I’m so glad God hears every word I never say. I think sometimes we have to worry less about figuring it out and trust more that He already knows. Love you, friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Oh, I like that, Tiffany … “God hears every word I never say.” I’m thankful for that too, and that we can trust Him to help us process when the time is right. You are a sweet encouragement to my life, my friend!

  7. Lois,
    You’ve articulated these emotionally turbulent times so wonderfully that we can relate to. When we’re perplexed about our emotions, it’s so stabilizing to know that God already understands them. I loved your story about your stoic dad being moved to emotions and it impacted you — your love and respect for him is clear and I can see you inherited his practical nature as you carefully navigate a trying time by continuing to trust God! xo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Valerie. I love how you put it … that it’s “stabilizing” to know that God already understands our emotions when we can’t figure them out. Stability is something that I crave, but ultimately, He is the only true source, isn’t He? Hugs, friend!

  8. Susan Shipe says:

    You know what Lois? I think you and I should sit down with a cuppa and share some of these things “we don’t know what to do with!” Great post.

  9. So well-explained Lois. Praying for you and your family. Praising Him that He can do the examining and carrying and give the joy of finding purpose in the next step- all while we feel the feelings. When it’s a mixture of emotions like you describe, I’m extra grateful that the God who gave emotions also has emotions- He understands even better than we do.

  10. Lois, thank you for this beautiful post. So many thoughts to ponder.

    First, I love what you shared about how God moved your dad’s heart during, “O Holy Night.” And that he could articulate that to the woman worshiping? Beautiful.

    Second, emotions. I’ve spent the bulk of my life hiding the “unacceptable” feelings, trying to sift them and make them acceptable. Last year, God showed me that our feelings are valid, and they should be considered. It’s a process for me, too. I don’t always know what I’m feeling. Sometimes I can talk about them with a friend, other times I can’t. But I can journal about the thoughts and impressions to the Lord. Often, He helps me better understand what I’m feeling and why. And this offers peace.

    Third, I have begun writing out the names of the Lord and descriptions. And I’m loving the exercise. Thank you for sharing what God showed you to do. It’s always good to remember the many facets of who God is.

    Fourth, (and I think I’m almost done) I’m praying for your family. Uncharted waters can be scary and overwhelming. I’m praying that when your heart is overwhelmed, God will lead you to the Rock that is higher than you.

    So thankful for your transparency, friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Jeanne, I think it’s interesting how each one of us has a different history with feelings, but at certain points and in various ways, God steps in and changes our perspective on them. I’m thankful for the journey God has taken you on in the last year … I’m always encouraged when I read what you are learning and how He is stretching you! I would say that I always used to be much more thinker than feeler, but it was during the dry, wilderness years of my late 30s and early 40s that I learned how to feel–my own feelings and those of others. Right now, though, I think my focus is on “doing” and trusting that Jesus is interceding on my behalf when I don’t know what to do with all the feelings associated with this season I’m in!

      I’m glad you’re writing out the names of God … I had a feeling you would enjoy that! And again, thank you so very much for your prayers. 🙂

  11. Trudy says:

    I’m so sorry your heart is troubled, Lois. It’s hard when emotions are provoked faster than we can process them. Yes, allow yourself to feel the feelings. God knows. God cares. God understands. Thank you for sharing your heart. May God give you strength and peace! Love and hugs to you!

    P.S. Is that a new puppy with one of your girls? So cute! In a way, your daughter’s hand looks like it’s reassuring the puppy that it will be alright and she’s with him/her. In the same way, I know God’s hand is on you and He is always with you no matter what!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Your encouragement has blessed me in big ways this week, Trudy! Thank you so much. 🙂 (I can’t take credit for the photo … it’s from pixabay.com! But I loved it the minute I saw it … it just seemed to go perfectly with the post!)

  12. Such a beautiful story of hope! I love the way you describe your dad. It creates such a beautiful picture!

    I particularly loved this: “the fear of the unknown is being replaced by the joy of finding purpose in the next step.”

    We need to step and let God replace that fear with purpose.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Aw … thanks, Becky! Sometimes, I think, God allows us to experience one of our greatest fears to let us know that we can, in fact, keep moving forward in the face of it. And once we face one fear, others start to seem not so daunting. Hmmm … I think you’ve just helped me come up with a new blog post idea! 🙂

  13. Linda Stoll says:

    Oh yes. Go ahead and experience the feelings, sit with them, name them, understand what they’re speaking to you.

    Give yourself permission to go there and then to figure out what you want to do with each and every one. May God speak peace and give crystal clear direction.

    I’m with you, friend …

  14. Lesley C says:

    That is a sweet story about your dad. And I agree, emotions can be difficult, especially when they’re overwhelming and we can’t completely understand them. It is comforting to remember that God knows and he understands, even when we don’t and we can’t even express how we feel. Praying for you to know peace in him, even in the uncertainty and feeling of overwhelm.

  15. Smiling, because I’ve recently received a similar message that I’m to be noticing what I learn specifically about God in each passage that I read. Funny how we forget that the Bible is about Him . . .
    Such a sweet story about your dad.

  16. Lydia says:

    Yes, I feel the same way, Lois, and I appreciate the way you’ve expressed it. Hugs to you and thanks for all that you do . . . 🙂

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