I AM A CHRISTIAN, I Am Not Supposed to Feel Negative Emotions?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
Too many Christians just act as though you should ignore things that happen to you, but that isn’t a proper response to life’s situations and circumstance. Nor is it a proper response to dealing with the grief that ensues. Psychology in our Christian Churches sometimes gets a bad name. I would like to say that psychology that affirms scripture is very helpful. Today we will be looking at the well-known model of the 7 Stages of Grief influenced by a Biblical Response.
Please remember that all of creation has been marred by sin, which is why grief has entered into creation. When I make this statement a lot of people like to ask if I believe that grief would not have existed if mankind hadn’t fallen into sin. I believe that it wouldn’t have, at least not as we know it today.
Now, let’s move on. The 7 stages of grief are generally accepted today in the world, but should they be adopted in Christianity? May I submit, yes (I speak as one who has done Christian counseling). Remember that good science just observes things and asks if it is repeatable (I know not a very technical definition). So I believe that the seven stages generally hold true for people suffering some kind of loss. Some people will skip certain steps or become “hung up” on a step and a minister’s job is to help them through them. Now let us briefly go through what the steps are from a Biblical Perspective.
- Denial/Shock – Have you ever heard the term, “he/she is just numb to that fact?” This basically describes this stage. People tend to isolate the news from their own minds so they won’t get overwhelmed. King David did this when his son Absalom (who tried to usurp David) died. He was, at first, completely numb. We find this in his commander’s statements after he saw the king and gave him the news of Absalom’s death.
- Pain and (or) Guilt – As shock begins to wear off we find that the experience has caused pain and guilt, unbelievable guilt. This happened with David at his son’s death; he wished it had been him instead of his son A lot of the time guilt becomes associated with this when we ask, “If I only did ______.” We need to remember that what has happened has happened nothing can change it.Another problem begins when people try to medicate the pain, get rid of it instead of feeling it and allowing it to happen. As Christians we should not be crying out to God asking why this has happened, but rather asking God to walk through it with us. Asking God what to do next, go to Him on our knees. Don’t become one who avoids pain, but one who walks with God through the pain.
- Anger– Ephesians 4:26 states that you CAN be angry, but it also says to not sin. Too many relationships are destroyed over people lashing out in anger. Yes a situation that is hard to deal with will come to anger! But do not act out of that anger and do not fall into the temptation to scream, “why me?” A lot of people turn away from God in anger and eventually come back (some never come back). Please don’t be the person who walks away and forgets about God. I have seen too many people do this in their lives because of a situation (i.e. death, anger at someone who hurt them, broken marriage, loss of a job, loss of a title/position etc.). In this stage it is important to draw strength from God and from His Word. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in this state because anger can become bitterness quite easily, and bitterness is like a cancer to our souls.
- Depression – During this time your situation “sinks in.” You have come to realize the true magnitude of the situation. You isolate yourself for a time and begin reflection on what has happened and what should/shouldn’t have been done before, during, and after the situation. A lot of people will try talking you out of this step. DON’T LET THEM! They mean well and think you should be getting on with your life and looking to the horizon, but it isn’t time for that yet. You must go through this step. To short circuit this step could very well short circuit what God wanted you to learn about the situation and your responses.
- Moving UP – During this time is where you become organized and begin to feel more at peace, relying on God and allowing your relationship to deepen with Him and you begin to adjust to circumstances and begin to “feel” better. The problem is that a lot of people think they have “made it” when they get here, but they really haven’t, they are on their way.Another possibility here is to think grandiosely about the future with no realist expectations. Don’t allow yourself to go there. Just relax and begin to allow your mind to stand in God’s peace.
- Rebuilding– During this stage you become more functional. You become able to look at things objectively, not through colored glasses of emotions. Just sit back and allow God to work with you and through you to make your life better.Stay on your knees in prayer, because this is the time when the devil will tempt you with things that look good, but aren’t God’s perfect will for your life. Remember this is a time of drawing close to God and a time to bask in His presence. Not a time to be doing grandiose things, but living in the reality of what “is” and the hopeful expectation of the future.
- Acceptance – A lot of people will tell you that acceptance returns you to the way you were before the situation. This is not the case. The situation, especially for a Christian, has changed you and molded you to who you are today. In this stage you have dealt with the situation, the emotional issues and moved forward in reality. You have become who God has molded you to be through the trial. Now your expectations for the future are realistic and you are better for going through the trial, perhaps a little more humble/down to earth.
You know as Christians we tend to get stuck in one of these stages and don’t make it to stage 7. It is important that we make it through to stage 7; if we don’t then we have learned nothing through our trial. We have short circuited God’s work in our lives. Will you short circuit God or will you be changed through the stages of grief?
A lot of people ask what kind of circumstances I am talking about. Well, it could be the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, anything that you hold dear; maybe a loss of a relationship amongst Christian brothers and sisters that you never saw coming. It truly could be anything you hold dear to you. There is one scripture that has always stuck with me throughout all of my trials. It is the following:
(6) For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
(7) He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
(8) for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
-Proverbs 2:6-11 (NIV)