Are you ever afraid to admit your emotions? I am. Now growing up, I wasn’t known for being particularly tough. As the youngest, I seemed to inherit the most emotional countenance (at least outwardly) of all four kids. If I fell down the stairs, disobeyed my parents, or even thought someone was mad at me, tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t hide my emotions one bit, so people could tell when something was wrong.
Eventually, most of us grow out of our childlike expressions. Hard experiences come, and, at least in my case, I learned to hide my intense feelings. If I could keep a dry eye, people became oblivious to my struggles, and that didn’t always bother me. Over time, I became quite comfortable with this habitual reaction.
As a single gal, I experience my share of emotional ups and downs (as I am sure married individuals do). Singleness is beautiful and hard. I can be there for family and friends at the drop of the hat or pursue more studies because I have the time and resources to do so—those capabilities are a gift! On the other hand, I have my sad days. I wonder if something’s wrong with me because everyone seems to be getting married but me. The reality is, I experience a variety of these highs and lows within the same week, even the same day.
However, one of the unique struggles of singleness is I don’t often have one person who knows or sees almost every aspect of my life. Because of that, hiding becomes second nature. When I meet up with friends or family, I ask about what’s going on in their lives or reminisce about old times. I don’t want to be a burden or a kill-joy, so I find ways to talk about anything but my fears or anxieties; I do this without even realizing it. The issue with this kind of coping mechanism is that I carry this mentality into my walk with the Lord.
It’s not that I avoid talking with the Lord altogether. Every morning I grab my Bible and journal, along with a hot cup of coffee, and I listen to the message of the Scriptures. But I don’t let the Word read me. What I mean by that is that I don’t let the truths seep into my heart to address my fears or complaints. I keep prayers more on a surface level, believing somehow God is more pleased if I simply put on a contented smile.
Why? Why do I refrain from telling my God, the one I call my Shepherd and Dearest Friend, what is in my heart? It’s not a question one answers quickly. But eventually, I came to one major contributor: I am afraid He will be disappointed with what I have to express.
Each year, the Lord softens my heart to see new blessings from the gift of singleness. I trust God is good and up to something, even if I am clueless as to how the pieces will connect. I also don’t want to elevate marriage more than I should. In times past, I pined over my circumstances instead of seeing the people and opportunities God specifically gifted to me. I dread becoming that girl again. So what is my solution to these tensions? Be grateful and don’t go too deep. Turns out, this logic does not follow the prayers of the Bible.
One of the psalms I come back to again and again is Psalm 25. David starts by saying, “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.” From that statement, David expounds on what is going on inside his soul. He asks God not to put him to shame for waiting on Him (vs 2-3), he begs for godly direction (vs 4-5), and he asks God for mercy and forgiveness. Then we come to the last portion of the psalm:
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am alone and afflicted.
The distresses of my heart increase;
bring me out of my sufferings.
Consider my affliction and trouble,
and take away all my sins.
Consider my enemies; they are numerous,
and they hate me violently.
Guard me and deliver me;
do not let me be put to shame,
or I take refuge in You.
May integrity and what is right
watch over me,
for I wait for You.
Do you see it? David is desperate for God to work in his life. In the NLT, the first part of verse 18 reads, “Feel my pain and see my trouble.” My prayers tend to not carry that same sincere yet somber tone. Normally, I let emotions and questions build until I finally break down (normally in my car). But not David. He brought it all to God, his petitions, brokenness, and neediness.
Needy—I usually cringe a little inside when I hear that word. I don’t want to be needy. Maybe that’s a combination of being the youngest and single. I don’t want people to worry about me. Independence has its place, but I often feel like I still have to prove myself to those around me, so I try even harder not to come across too emotional. And while the desire to not be ruled by my emotions is good, David’s prayer in Psalm 25 (and throughout the entire book) proves emotions are not meant to be hidden, especially from God. David is telling God his troubles are growing and getting worse; he’s not sugar-coating anything.
In The Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon’s expounds on this portion of the psalm:
When trouble penetrates the heart it is troubled indeed. In the case before us, the heart was swollen with grief like a lake surcharged with water by enormous floods; this is used as an argument for deliverance, and it is a potent one. When the darkest hours of the night arrives we may expect the dawn; when the sea is at its lowest ebb the tide must surely turn; and when our troubles are enlarged to the greatest degree, then may we hopefully pray “O bring thou me out of my distress.“
God is is far from disappointed when His children come to Him in neediness. He welcomes our needy, messy prayers. He is near to those who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18). Not only can He handle all my emotions, but He welcomes them (1 Peter 5:7).
As I attempt to be more honest with God in my prayers, His presence and care are more readily felt. I get to tell Him I am frustrated by this person’s assumption about me, how I’m disappointed when I didn’t get the promotion, how I am weary of more weddings, or anything else that comes to mind. These prayers don’t automatically change my circumstance or even current emotion, but they build my relationship with my Father. I am trusting God with my heart, lifting my emotions to Him. And as I do that, He reminds my soul of His promises as I wait for Him to answer.