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Friday, October 19, 2018

Pour Out Your Hearts

Pour out your hearts

    “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). Many years ago, during my first depressive episode, the middle part of this verse (pour out your hearts to him) became very special to me. I’d lived with tremendous inner turmoil for several months, feeling guilty, considering myself a bad Christian because of the anxiety, despair, anger, lack of energy, hopelessness, and other symptoms that make up clinical depression.

    From what I’d gathered in the five years since receiving Christ, a good Christian, a real Christian, didn’t experience this kind of emotional pain. It went completely against the fruit of the Spirit. If I wasn’t bearing such fruit, something was terribly wrong with me as a believer. The only reasonable response would be guilt and shame. God would be extremely unhappy with me if I didn’t overcome this weakness through confession and prayer (and maybe just trying harder and harder).*

    Then I read the Psalms with new eyes, and God ministered to my needy soul, comforting me through the words of David. “Pour out your hearts to him.” Was I really allowed to do that? Was it really okay to tell Him how much I was hurting, not as a confession of sin, but simply as an expression of my deep pain? He drew me so much nearer to Himself as He reassured me, over and over again, that it was not only okay, but encouraged by many Bible passages.

    In the years since then, I still feel like I run into a wall of denial most of the time when another Christian is going through a difficult experience. I rarely hear an admission of how much it hurts to lose a loved one. I rarely see tears of anguish and grief and sorrow. No. We must be stronger than that. We cannot admit to the “weakness” of actually feeling torn apart by genuine mourning.

    C. S. Lewis initially had his book, A Grief Observed, published under a pseudonym. Would it have been acceptable for one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century to reveal the depth of his wounds and doubts? Apparently he and his publisher didn’t think so. I’m not sure much has changed in the decades since then.

Trust in Him

    Reading this verse again recently, the first few words jumped out at me: “Trust in him at all times.” I was struck by the idea that we’re supposed to both trust in Him and pour out our hearts to Him. One does not negate the other. Pouring out our hearts in anguish, despair, fear, anger—and honesty—as we wrestle with the sorrows of everyday life is not contradictory to trusting in Him at all times. We’re told to do both. Even in the same verse.

    Meditating on it further the next day, the Lord opened my eyes a little wider. We’re told to both trust in Him and pour out our hearts to Him. Maybe they’re not just compatible with each other, as I’d gathered yesterday; maybe they must go together.

    In human relationships, we don’t open up in complete honesty with someone unless there is great trust. But we don’t know whether we can trust someone until we see how they respond to our honesty. Pouring out our hearts increases with trust and trust increases with pouring out our hearts. They always go together. And in this process, intimacy grows. There can be no intimacy unless there is both trusting and pouring out our hearts. Then the friendship becomes a refuge, a place of safety, as in the last part of the verse.

God is our refuge

    The same principle holds in our relationship with God. We will not open up in complete honesty with Him unless there is great trust (faith) in Him. On the other hand, our trust in Him grows as we express our emotions more honestly and openly. As with people, there can be no intimacy with God unless there is both trusting and pouring out our hearts. And when we do both, we experience the truth of the last part of the verse—God is our refuge. We see more clearly how He protects and nourishes us.

    Maybe evangelically-correct Christianity has it backwards. Maybe our hesitation about pouring out all our deepest feelings to God springs from a lack of faith, rather than an abundance of faith. Maybe those who never pour out their hearts to Him, with the mistaken idea that this demonstrates the strength of their faith, are actually unwilling to trust Him with the honest expression of their deepest needs due to the weakness of their faith.

*For a great article combating this point of view, see mentalhealthgracealliance.org/christian-mental-health-and-mental-illness/2018/8/2/6-reasons-why-depression-and-anxiety-is-not-weak-faith-or-sin

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