GOOD GRIEF: Seven Steps to Embracing Emotions- #5 Believing that Feelings are a gift from God




Step five is best understood when preceded with a little recap of the first four steps.

First, we must be honest about what we feel. Don’t pretend that giving up something is easy. It isn’t. Humans want to hold on, be in control, and even determine our own destiny. Validate their feelings. Ask them why they think they are having those feelings. Share with them when you’ve had similar feelings. Remind them that feelings are from God to help us make wise and good decisions.

Second, we must normalize feelings. Loss is a part of our lives. We lose track of time. We lose lots of stuff: everything from our keys to our identities. We lose loved ones through break-ups, divorces, a transient society and our biggest loss of love comes through death. Our children learn by our example. Normalizing feelings means that we sit with our children and hear their hearts reassuring them that all their feelings as good and normal.

Third, we must teach them to search the heart for their core beliefs. Jesus put love, an emotion, together with obedience, an action. Obedience is true when it is powered by love and love is effective and complete when it produces obedience. If your child is disobeying, don’t assume rebellion, teach them to ask themselves, “Why am I acting out?” Children don’t always have the words to tell us that their heart is hurting but their actions will always speak loudly.

Fourth, we can’t control feelings but we can control actions. In times of grief, emotions are high. This above all times is an opportunity to teach them that feelings and actions are separate.Cognitive behavior is a learned skill. Helping them understand the thoughts behind the feelings and how to express them appropriately is essential. Actions must be defined into good and bad categories. If they don’t understand what is appropriate and what isn’t, how can we expect them to act appropriately?

 Fifth, the next step, in learning to embrace emotions is to accept feelings as a gift instead of a curse. Doing this will enlarge their hearts, and their understanding of their world, themselves, and others. God has feelings. Feelings aren’t a curse they’re part of being in the image of God.

  • God feels love: John 3:16
  • God feels hate: Deuteronomy 16:22
  • God feels jealous and anger Deuteronomy 6:16
  • God feels compassion John 11:15
  • God feels regret and is offended Genesis 6:6
  • God feels favor Genesis 6:8
  • God feels satisfaction Genesis 1:27

The list goes on and so could I if I didn’t have to keep within a limited word count.

Feelings make us relational. Relational beings are most limited by misunderstanding feelings. To be human is to err. We err greatly if we are deceived into thinking that feelings are a curse or even the result of the curse. The curse of sin is loss. God’s gift to get us to the other side of loss is a process called grief. Grief is about dealing with the emotions of loss. We must never let feelings dictate what we believe about God’s love. Romans 8:38

Suzi Ciliberti works for Christar, a Missions Agency that plants churches among least-reached Asians worldwide. She served in Japan for two years as a single missionary and another nine with her husband and two children, then the family returned to the states. She and her husband have been serving in the US Mobilization Center since 2000. As a part of the Member Care Department, Suzi is consultant to families with children. She has been working as a children’s teacher since she was 17 and began her training under Child Evangelism Fellowship. She has taught in the church, as a school teacher for two years in a Christian elementary school, and as a speaker for adults training to work with children. She has also trained children, who are a part of families that work overseas, in their identity in Christ. She brings 44 years of teaching experience to her work. She loves creative writing as well as teaching and has found great fulfillment in combining the two as she blogs for Heartprints. She finds it a great privilege and joy to serve the Lord and His people. One of her favorite verses is Deuteronomy 4:10b, "Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children."