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You know, before Adam and Eve sinned, they were naked and unashamed. Once they disobeyed, they hid in the garden because they were naked and afraid (Genesis 3:10).

I don’t think that concept is limited to clothing. Being exposed is scary. So we run and find something to cover our hearts and hide us from each other.

Do you realize Christ came to save us from that covering, too?

When we stand in Christ’s righteousness, God sees us clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Our sinfulness is stripped away and the nakedness and shame of our sinful hearts is covered. But I don’t think we realize his righteousness not only strips us of our sin before God, but also opens the way for baring our hearts in our relationships with others.

We stand in the righteousness of Christ before each other as well. The cross is very leveling in that way.

Yet we often forfeit the benefit of standing in righteousness before one another by hiding our emotions. We often forfeit the benefit of experiencing the full range of emotions we were created to experience without sin by clinging to a lie: emotions are somehow bad and should be hidden, suppressed, avoided {More on that here (We Were Created to Experience Emotions) and here (Forever Starts Now).}

One reason I think we often forfeit this benefit is because we are afraid. Truly, to feel the full weight of sorrow is not easy. To walk with eyes open to the pain clutched in the hearts of those around us is not easy.

Emotions are scary.

I know I clutch and hide pain in my own heart, believing, somehow, that keeping it hidden makes it less real. Pretending it’s not there does stifle the hurt, or fear, or regret, in a way (though not without consequences). And the very idea of taking it out to explore – especially with someone else – is terrifying. It’s also quite scary to dive into someone else’s emotion. Empathy – the ability to feel along with someone else – opens us up to feeling deep fear, anguish, and sorrow along with those we love. That is not easy!

Then there are all the positive emotions. I’m not sure we really know what to do with the full strength of joy, either. There is a fear which often holds us back from diving into pleasure, as if we think it is somehow not meant for us.

And what about hope? Oh! Hope is scary, too. What if we hope in something only to be disappointed?

I remember with our last baby, I was afraid to hope. We had lost two babies before that pregnancy and I didn’t dare hope this baby would survive because I didn’t think I could bear the pain of losing another one. My heart ached with the weight of learning to place my hope in Christ instead of the hope of a successful pregnancy. Hope became a matter of obedience for me, and it was scary.

Hope is a matter of obedience

What about love? Love can be frightening, too. Fear of rejection or being taken advantage of or manipulated… or losing a part of you to a love so deep you sacrifice for it. As much as choosing to love the unlovely is hard, accepting love strikes fear in the hearts of many, too. We tend to underestimate our eligibility to receive love and overestimate the obligation of being loved.

Part of the problem is the unknown.

We cannot really know the fullness of emotion outside of Christ, and having walked so long in the shadows, it is scary to come into the light. It is legitimate to be afraid to feel fully. That doesn’t make it legitimate to avoid it, any more than we should avoid anything else God has given us to enjoy or ignore any other instructions he has given us to obey.

God does give instructions regarding emotions.

Love as I have loved you (John 15:12); be angry and do not sin (Ephesians 4:26); care for orphans and widows (James 1:27); let bitterness, wrath, anger, and malice be put away (Ephesians 4:31); be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving towards one another (Ephesians 4:32). The list could go on and on.

We cannot claim to follow Jesus if we are consumed by fear of the emotions God gave us. Even if they are scary, we cannot be obedient to Christ and avoid emotions. We cannot live in rich relationships and ignore emotions. We must learn to embrace emotions – even the scary ones.

So… who are you hiding from?

Are you hiding from someone? Are you ignoring the unspoken feelings of someone else? Who do you need to approach today to explore the deep waters of your heart with today?

Do you harbor hidden fear or bitterness from your spouse? Do you cringe at the pain you see in the eyes of your children, parents, or friends? Are you ready to own the hidden fears, joys, and sorrows in your heart? OK, maybe we’re never really ready, but are you willing to begin an honest appraisal of what’s in your heart? Are you willing to repent of avoiding the gift of emotions and begin to move toward community or righteousness by honestly dealing with what is hidden beneath the surface of a pleasant countenance?

I’d love to hear about how God is prompting you to move toward righteousness and community by exposing and exploring what you are feeling! Comment below or send me a message so I can pray with and for you!