The last four weeks have had me teaching a class at our church on emotions—depression, happiness, anxiety, and anger. When I offered this class as an option for church members (or anyone) to attend, I was unsure as to the response it would receive. Often, people tend to shy away from venturing into classes or topics like emotions and mental health for fear that others may see them as weak or unstable.
However, I was pleasantly surprised with the response. Each Wednesday has proven to provide a packed room and it seems that new people show up each week. Many in the class have shed tears of joy as they receive and fresh and new perspectives on emotions that once brought them shame. Others have opened great conversations around their own emotional struggles, while others have gained a greater understanding of how emotions, when properly addressed and handled, play a vital role in our lives.
All emotions are designed for our benefit, even the hard ones like depression and anxiety. No emotion is without a positive purpose. We don’t like the way that certain emotions make us feel, but that does not mean they are not beneficial.
The world has trained us to believe that uncomfortable emotions are bad and comfortable emotions are good. The Bible provides us a fresh take on difficult emotions when it states that sorrow is better than laughter (Ecclesiastes 7:3). Sorrow or sadness provide greater lessons for us than do the good times. Sorrow and sadness are often accompanied by difficulties and difficulties are life’s greatest teachers. All miracles require big problems. Championship teams overcome the greatest challenges. Successful business people are only successful because they learned to benefit from their failures, discouragement, and sorrow, when others quit because of these same emotions.
Sorrow and sadness cause us to evaluate our pain and examine the things we need to change. Happiness rarely does this. Sorrow and sadness should cause reflection and promote rethinking our direction, circumstances, and relationships.
The challenge for us is to be open to and welcome the discomfort of sadness, sorrow, discouragement, and depression and be willing to let them do their work in our lives. While our culture declares an openness to all things, it really isn’t. Television, social media, and other forms of information continue to sell these emotions as abnormal and must be suppressed. They rarely, if ever, speak to the benefit of these strong emotions and their real intent.