As you drive to work, you realize you are 15 minutes late to an important appointment with a big giver in your church. You seem to hit every stoplight along the way and you become more and more frustrated. You finally arrive at the church and put on a happy face for your meeting. He tells you that he and his wife have found a new church that better suits their needs. He is letting you know that he will not be fulfilling his pledge to your church for the rest of the year. You immediately feel anxious about the budget, but you try to be kind and understanding and wish him well. As he leaves your church, you receive a text from a parishioner who says they are angry with you about something you said in the sermon on Sunday. They want to meet with you to confront you. You feel threatened. So you sit down to peruse your emails. You see the sad news that one of your mentors has received a terminal diagnosis and only has a few more months to live. You begin to grieve the loss of this important person in your life. As you begin to feel overwhelmed, you remember the Bible verse that says, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials and difficulties.” So you put on a happy face again and try to make it through the rest of the day without complaining or acting upset. Later that day, your spouse calls and asks if you remembered to do five or six things on the home chore list. You realize you completely forgot about them, and you begin yelling, “Why can’t you take care of these things!!!! What are the kids doing anyway? Can’t they help out with some of the chores!!!” You hang up the phone and begin to think, “What’s wrong with me?”
The pastor in this story has just experienced what I call the beach ball effect.
What is the Beach Ball Effect?
Someone once told me that feelings are like a beach ball. Each time we have a feeling we don’t deal with, it is like trying to push the beach ball under the water in the swimming pool. Each new feeling we don’t acknowledge pushes the beach ball down further. Eventually it takes our whole strength and energy to keep the beach ball suppressed. Then eventually something little happens, and it pops out. You never know for sure when it’s going to pop out, but you know it will someday! The problem is, who is it going to hit? Unfortunately, it tends to hit the people we love the most, our wives or husbands, our children, our best friends, or that faithful person in our church, who least deserves our wrath. They become the collateral of the beach ball effect.
Contributing factors to the Beach Ball Effect (1st of 3)
Our Faith System
For some of us, our interpretation of the Scriptures tells us that we should not have negative feelings. We begin to feel sad and we remember Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” So we don’t grieve. We began to feel anxious and we remember that the Bible says, “do not be afraid” 69 times. So we try not to fear. We get angry at a person in our church and we remember that the Bible says, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20 NASB), so we stuff our anger down inside our souls and pretend it isn’t there.
So our biblical understanding of negative human emotions can contribute to pushing the beach ball of feelings down into our hearts.
Dealing with the Beach Ball Effect (1st of 3)
Explore What the Bible Says about Emotions
Every human emotion can be found somewhere in the Bible. These emotions are found in the great heroes of the Bible, like David, Moses, Hannah, and our Lord Jesus himself. Certainly it is true that the Bible calls us to rejoice in the Lord. But that does not negate the fact that we sometimes need to grieve. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” He didn’t say, “Blessed are those who push all their grief and sadness down and pretend to be happy.”
There is a lot of permission given in the Word of God to express our emotions. The Bible says, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him.” Psalm 62:8. Pouring out our heart includes admitting our negative emotions. Sure, sometimes our emotions come from our sin. In those cases we need to admit that to God and seek his forgiveness. But sometimes emotions are value neutral. There’s no particular sin involved, we just feel something. Other times we experience negative emotions because we’ve been sinned against. In those times we need to seek God’s help and healing. Regardless of the cause of our feelings, they are part of how God created us. He wants to help us process them in learn from what is going on in our hearts.