One of our greatest obstacles in knowing God is our own lack of self-knowledge. So we end up wearing a mask — before God, ourselves, and other people. — Peter Scazerro
Our God Feels by Peter Scazerro
The journey of genuine transformation to emotionally healthy spirituality begins with a commitment to allow yourself to feel. It is an essential part of our humanity and unique personhood as men and women made in God’s image. Scripture reveals God as an emotional being who feels — a Person. Having been created in his image, we too have the gift of experiencing emotions. Consider the following:
- “God saw that it was good… very good” (Genesis 1:25, Genesis 1:31). In other words, God delighted, relished, beamed with delight over us.
- “The Lord regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:6).
- “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5).
- “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant” (Isaiah 42:14).
- “The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until He fully accomplishes the purposes of His heart” (Jeremiah 30:24).
- “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).
- “How can I hand you over, Israel?.. My heart is changed within Me; all My compassion is aroused” (Hosea 11:8).
- “He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’” (Matthew 26:37–38).
- “He looked around them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand’” (Mark 3:5).
- “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit…” (Luke 10:21). (Emphasis added throughout)
- Take a few minutes and reflect on the implications of your God-given feelings. You are made in His image. God thinks. You think. God wills. You will. God feels. You feel. You are a human being made in God’s likeness. Part of that likeness is to feel. At the very least, the call of discipleship includes experiencing our feelings, reflecting on our feelings, and then thoughtfully responding to our feelings under the lordship of Jesus. You Feel — Even If You Are Unaware of It The problem, however, is that we can’t reflect and respond thoughtfully to our feelings if we don’t know what they are. So much of our true selves is buried alive — sadness, rage, anger, tenderness, joy, happiness, fear, depression. Yet God designed our bodies to respond physiologically to those in the world around us. God speaks to us through a knot in the stomach, muscle tension, trembling and shaking, the release of adrenaline into our bloodstream, headaches, and a suddenly elevated heart rate. God may be screaming at us through our physical body while we look for (and prefer) a more “spiritual” signal. The reality is that often our bodies know our feelings before our minds. When I speak about the need to pay attention to our emotions, I often hear comments such as these:
- I am not very good at feelings. I really don’t have time for this. Anyway, my family was more about doing.
- I don’t know what I’m feeling. It’s all a big blur.
- At times when I am about to interact with authority figures or somebody I don’t know, I get physical sensations but I don’t know why it is happening.
- Sometimes I am flooded by emotions that disorganize and confuse me.
- Sometimes after a difficult meeting with someone (e.g., conflict) I get depressed. I don’t know why.
- Sometimes, during even a TV commercial, tears come to my eyes.
- When I am feeling bad, I can’t tell if I am scared or angry.
- I carry an overwhelming feeling of being shameful, guilty, and/or defective.
- My family taught that nice girls don’t get angry and big boys don’t cry.
- The problem for many of us comes when we have a “difficult” feeling such as anger or sadness. Unconsciously, we have a “rule” against those feelings. We feel defective because we ought not to be feeling the “wrong” things. We then lie to ourselves, sometimes convincing ourselves that we aren’t feeling anything because we don’t think we should be feeling it. We shut down our humanity. So it was with me. I never really explored what I was feeling. I was not prepared to be honest about my emotions with God or myself. As a result I often said one thing with my words, but my tone of voice, facial expressions, and body posture said another. The problem is that when we neglect our most intense emotions, we are false to ourselves and close off an open door through which to know God. I remember the awkwardness when I began to be honest about my feelings. Initially I wondered if I was betraying God or leaving Christianity. I feared that if I opened Pandora’s box, I would get lost in a black hole of unresolved emotions. I was breaking an unspoken commandment of my family and my church tradition. To my surprise, God was able to handle my wild emotions as they erupted after thirty-six years of stuffing them. I came alive like never before.
One percent of church leaders say that they are doing well in discipling new and young believers. After almost three decades of pastoring New Life Fellowship Church in the bustle of New York City, Peter Scazzero discovered that most people are not being changed in our churches, and, as a result, are not changing the world.
Scazzero found two truths to be true: you can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature, and unless you slow and quiet your life down for a first-hand relationship with Jesus Christ, little change is possible. The integration of these two truths unleashed a spiritual revolution in Scazzero, in his church, and now in thousands of other churches.
In this revised bestselling book, Scazzero outlines his journey and offers a roadmap for a discipleship with Jesus that is powerfully transformative.Topics include how to identify emotionally unhealthy spirituality, how to grow your soul through grief and loss, and how to develop into an emotionally mature adult.