Emotions contain information. Emotions are our bodies way of taking in this world and expressing what it means to us. Usually, emotions are a form of protection. Joy signals and builds relational connection and tears signal a need that needs to be met. However, most Christians are taught to suppress and distrust their emotions. Some are also taught that every negative emotion is a "spiritual attack" and they just need to pray it away. Suppressing emotions, dismissing their validity, and even battling it in the spiritual only (without making necessary life changes) can lead to chronic illness, panic attacks, and relational dysfunction. There are ways to healthily process emotions and glean valuable information from them using both spiritual principles and practical life changes. Here's a few things you need to know:
Spiritual warfare can be defined in a few ways. The most traditional definition is any assault on the Kingdom of God that tries to lure God's people back into the devil's kingdom. That second aspect is important. A hurricane isn't necessarily a spiritual attack, unless the people affected latch onto the fear it caused and so begin to partner with things of the enemy and have their lives controlled by fear. You could also see a hurricane or any "natural" disaster as spiritual. And that's technically true since sin has affected our entire universe. However, just because something may have a spiritual component or even origin, doesn't mean that prayer is the only way to defeat it.
My heart is that people would be equipped to healthily relate to their emotional experiences and gain new tools to help them live in abundant freedom, peace, joy, and love.
So, for pretty much any negative emotional experience, ask these questions before assuming spiritual warfare and praying yourself silly without seeing any results.
Have I been eating well lately? Enough? Too much?
Have I been sleeping well? Enough? Too much?
Have I been exercising? Enough? Too much?
Is there a relationship that needs mending? Forgiveness to be given or received?
Is there an answer I need that I can get even though it might be uncomfortable?
Am I participating in something I know isn't good for me right now?
Is my community draining or filling?
Am I not doing things that I know would serve me well in this season?
Am I trying to make decisions about things that haven't happened yet?
Am I trying to fix my past?
Am I trying to control my future?
Am I assuming my future emotional state will be negative if a certain circumstance arises?
Am I isolated?
Am I keeping unhealthy secrets?
Am I not treating others well?
Have I experienced a tumultuous event recently that I haven't healthy processed and moved on from?
Is my perspective hurting me in this situation?
Once you've worked through those and made any necessary changes and things are still funky, ask yourself these questions:
Did God promise me something recently that this emotional experience is directly opposing?
Am I not trusting God?
Am I striving to accomplish something to prove my worth/lovability?
Have I been feeding myself with non-kingdom things/ideas/behaviors?
Have I been neglecting prayer, worship, & Bible reading?
Am I holding something back from God that He wants surrendered?
Am I actively going against something God said?
Have I assumed a victim mentality?
Am I working things out outside of relationship with God?
Have I been taking the world's advice over God's truth?
Am I assuming rejection in most or every interaction?
Have I experienced trauma that I haven't processed?
Is this seasonal depression?
Have I put expectations on people or things that are impossible for them to meet?
Really, any of the things in either category can be open doors for the devil to come into your soul and wreak havoc. Prayer partnered with necessary lifestyle changes will not only tell the devil who's boss, but it will remind you who's in charge of your life: God.
By no means is this a full list. But, participating in and feeding any of these activities or mentalities is partnering with things not in the Kingdom of God. These mentalities or activities pull us off of God's path of peace and into anxiety, depression, worry, jealousy, bitterness, greed...etc. God never puts these negative emotions on us to speak to us, but, they are the natural result of walking outside of peace or trying to do life disconnected from a relationship with God.
If you've determined that you've done everything in your power to gain peace in the situation, and there's still a heaviness and spiraling happening, that's when you go to war in prayer and worship and declaring truth over your life and circumstances.
Here's an example of these principles in action:
The April before I graduated college in 2018, God told me that He had a job for me in Columbus, OH. But I also knew in my spirit that I wasn't supposed. I had these two seemingly contradictory words: don't work and I have a job for you. In an effort to "not miss" the job that God had, I just ignored the "don't work" word and panicked and applied for anything and everything in hopes that it could be "the one."
Every time I applied for a job or went to an interview, immense anxiety would overtake me. More than once, I called to cancel my interview when I was in the parking lot of the building because panic overtook me to the point of tears. It made no sense in the natural. Jordan and I were newlyweds who needed money, I had nothing else going on, I wanted to go back to school for something soonish, and I had valuable skills to offer. After applying for hundreds of jobs and a handful of unsuccessful interviews, I finally stopped kicking against the truth. I told God, "The only place I feel peace is in not striving for work right now and just exploring and trying out my own skills and passions. It seems stupid to try and start a business or to try to freelance right now, but it's where the peace is. I trust You and your guidance. I believe that you'll bring about Your promise Your way." Shortly after, I felt a shift in the spirit. I suddenly had a drive to make money and I felt like the job market was open for me after a year of it being closed.
This time, when I applied for jobs, there was no anxiety. I was more purposeful and selective about the jobs I applied for--doing my best to be sensitive to what God was saying about each one. Freelance opportunities came out of the walls and I began to get new passions and vision for my life. Recently, God made good on His promise and gave me a job that I'm excited for and that I know will serve me well!
I have all sorts of theories about why God didn't want me working all last year. Was it just so I would have space to transition into a new city and married life? Was it so I would get to know more of me and what I'm made for? Was it so I could really define what I wanted out of life? Probably all of that plus some stuff I may never understand. But what's evident is that I made that season way more difficult than it needed to be because I didn't just do what God said. But, I'll say this, while there were plenty of boring and lonely days in this last year, I never gave up hope that God's faithfulness would come through. More than once I was tempted to throw in the towel and take my life into my own hands (in the bad way), but God's mercy was new every morning and I clung to that for dear life.
Any day could be the day that your life changes. Keep on the lookout for hope and you'll see it come to pass.
Prayer is vital, but so is partnering with Christ's freedom in the natural. The natural and spiritual aren't separate. What you do, or don't do, in the spirit shows up in your life and what you do, or don't do, that's good in the natural shows up in the spiritual.
So, before you resign yourself to a season of "waiting" or a "desert season" in an attempt to dodge what you can do to alleviate the situation, be honest and take action. But, if you're truly experiencing persecution from the enemy because you're walking God's way, take heart. God's promises never fail and He gives hope for any situation.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.