Jenna Riemersma



Isn’t feeling fear, or any other negative emotion, being disloyal to God, or an indicator of not being spiritual enough?


Hi, everybody. I’ve got a great question from a reader, which is “isn’t feeling fear or any other negative motion being disloyal to God or an indicator that I’m not being spiritual enough?” Okay. I love this question and I get this one out a lot, because I think that we can really confuse the voice of God with the voice of others people in our life who have spoken judgment and condemnation and shame over us. And, it’s easy to override what God tells us in scripture, which is the essence of who he is, his love. And, superimpose other people’s intonation and voice and facial expression over God’s when we read his words. So it’s easy to get confused about this. We read over and over in scripture. Do not fear, do not be afraid, do not fear.

And, it’s easy to hear it with this intonation. “Hey, suck it up. Don’t be afraid. Don’t feel that fear. If you feel fear, you’re doing your faith wrong.” Okay. But I wonder if that’s really what God is saying, or if it’s possible that God could be saying “Oh, sweet one, sweet one. I know you’re afraid. Come here. Honey, I’ve got you. I know that that situation over there is scary and I am Emmanuel. God with you. In it. And, I’m bigger than that scary situation.

For example, if a little kid is out with their parent and a big dog comes and is really scary and barks, let’s say and frightens that little child and the little child becomes afraid and runs to their parent. As a good parent, gonna say, “Hey, quit it. You’re doing a bad job being my child. You better do it better. And don’t be scared. Don’t feel that fear.” No, a good parent is going to say, “Oh, you wait here. I know honey, I’ve got you. And I get that. That dog is scary and I’m here with you in it. And I’m bigger than that dog. So you are okay. You don’t have to be afraid.

Notice that has a very different connotation and feel doesn’t it? And, it’s easy to get the intonation wrong when we’re just reading words on a page. It’s sorta like reading a text message and you can’t really tell. Hmm, was that person joking or were they serious? How did they say that? You know, there’s misunderstanding that can happen. And I wonder if that might be the case with how we interpret these scriptures. You see God hardwired us with the capacity to feel these very feelings. So does it make sense that if God designed us to feel fear, he would then shame us when we feel it? No. Fear is the body’s way of letting us know that there is danger present, either real or perceived. There may actually be danger there, or it may be something that feels dangerous to us because it reminds us of something that once was dangerous in our life experience.

Fear is a physiological response to danger and the design of fear is to motivate us, to act, to protect ourselves in some way, fight flight or freeze. Loneliness. God put the capacity for loneliness inside of us so that we would feel it and listen to it and listen to our loneliness to know that we need more connection with other human beings so that we would move toward others because God designed us to live in fellowship in community, in the body.
I have to listen to my shame. Shame is there for a very good reason. Shame tells me I have past trauma that is unresolved and it is giving me a message that I am bad. And I need to listen to my shame to understand that I need to work toward my trauma healing. And I use the word trauma to represent anything yucky that happens in our life, whether it was a capital T trauma or a lowercase T trauma.

Shame is different than guilt. Guilt is also a good feeling. Guilt tells us that we’ve done something wrong and we need to make amends and apologize. Guilt is also a good feeling. It’s good because it is carrying an important message for us. So you can see that all of the emotions that we call negative and we tend to shame and want to lock in the basement of our lives are actually good. They are God’s messengers to our hearts to let us know when something is not right. I don’t believe that God designed us to feel those feelings and then shames us when we feel them. I think the reverse is true. I think that God wants us to embrace and listen to those feelings, but also then be aware of him as that loving parents saying, oh, sweet one. I love you. And, I’m bigger than that thing that feels so scary over there, or your shame or your loneliness, and I am here with you in it to feel it with you and help you move toward whatever you need as you listen well, to that emotional response. So friends, I don’t believe that if we feel fear, loneliness, worthlessness, shame, anxiety, panic, depression, or sadness.

We are doing our faith wrong. I don’t believe that’s being disloyal to God. I believe it’s an invitation to listen well to the emergency system that God put in us by design. And to draw near to God who is near with us so that we can hear his loving voice say, Oh, sweet one. Don’t have to be afraid. I’m right here with you, in it.
I hope that helps.