dealing with trials gospel living

Dealing with Emotional Hoarding (Part 1 of 3)

11:13 AMHeather

No one is more influential in your life than you are. Because no one talks to you more than you do.
Paul Tripp 

Last week, I blogged about the clutter of emotional hoarding. This is the idea that we are prone to store up emotions from old wounds and trials deep within the attics of our hearts. We can fool ourselves into thinking the clutter is not there or that it is well hidden. However, this deceit is never more evident than when our emotional clutter trips us up time and again. 

We may think we've left these situations in the pasts, but when we pull them out and retell them to others or rehearse them in our own minds, we are allowing these feelings to reign and rule, taking up sacred space that is designed to be occupied by God alone.

Listen, God is not calling us to be emotionless robots. He is not asking us to never feel anything negative. He is not asking us to be some sort of Super Spiritual Being that feels nothing but peace, love, and joy for all fellow man, regardless of how they treat us. We need only to look at David to see a prime example of someone who felt a full range of emotions, often within the same breath of a Psalm. 

Oh, David. How I relate to this extremely emotive and expressive creative who tried to follow hard after God, yet dealt with a fair share of failures and wounding from others. 

Oh the hope I feel knowing that David was called a man after God's own heart. 

David has intrigued me as I've dove into the idea of emotional hoarding and have been assessing my own clutter. 

I believe that we see the key to dealing with emotional hoarding when we begin to study the writings of David.

You see, David felt all the feelings. He poured them out in brutal and raw honesty all throughout the book of Psalms. And then, he demonstrated repeatedly his own approach to dealing with the emotional hoarding. 

David was well-versed in how to turn his mind from his feelings to the truth. He honed the skill of preaching the truth to his very soul in order to take out the trash of the lies that emotional hoarding piles up within us. Psalm 94 is a prime example, as David laments how long the arrogant and wicked will be jubilant (verse 3). Within this Psalm, David runs headlong toward God with all of the feelings, and then he preaches the truth to his soul, telling his feelings who's boss.

When I said, "My foot is slipping," your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."
Psalm 94:18-19 (NIV)

And that, my friends, is the key to dealing with our emotional hoarding. When the emotions rise and the old things reappear to attempt to reign over us, we tell them who is boss. We refuse the lies that hold us hostage and captivate us with thoughts such as, "I'm always the victim," or "I deserve better." 

Instead, we remind ourselves the truth of Who God Has Been, Who God Is, and Who God Will Be.

When it comes to reliving our fiery trials, we take command of them by forcing them to submit to the authority of the truth of God. And there, we find freedom from the emotional hoarding.

 Photo courtesy of Olivia Henry through

As I have sat long and prayed to God on this topic, he revealed to me eight truths to preach to my soul during times of wrestling with emotional hoarding. Because it's too much for one day, this post is the first in a series of three. Today, we will look at three truths about emotional hoarding that we can begin to preach to ourselves.

Consider the truth about the fires. We see in Exodus 29 that the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice burnt offerings to God. These burnt offerings were called a pleasing aroma to him. In 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, we, as believers, are called the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of life. In other words, as a pleasing aroma to God, our times in the fire are actually seasons when our very lives become the burnt offerings. We see this quite literally in Daniel 3 through the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  We see this again in Joshua 24 as the Israelites' path to the Promised Land came through various hardships. Or, consider the life of Lazarus and how his death become a chance for God to show his resurrection power. 

The truth is that our fires can become our offerings to God. We can allow these times to become a pleasing aroma to him when we allow him to use them for his purposes and to bring good from them. 

Don't get stuck in the fires. When we walk through the fires in life, we often don't see them as seasons of the revelations of God. We can miss how these fires might actually be the burning bush pointing us to him. Instead, we get stuck on the pain and the wounds and the scars from these fiery places. We preach the old wounds to ourselves and retell them to others, rehearsing and reliving them time and again. We make people big and thus make God small when we do this. This habit serves as an obstacle to knowing God because we miss the revelation of the fourth man in the fire. We can miss his presence, just as someone might have missed seeing that God was in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We become so busy reliving the fire that we are too stuck to notice how God was right there with us.

Look for the plunder from these wilderness experiences. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert (Exodus 16), they received the revelation of manna. When they saw this provision from heaven, smack dab in their desert wandering, they said to each other, "What is it?" because they didn't know what it was and they had never seen it before. Moses told them it was the bread the Lord has given to them to eat. In Matthew 26:26, we see that through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we received the bread to eternal life. Jesus became the "what is it?" to be our provision forever. He is our sufficient provision in our times of need.

But, God is so much more than our provision in the wilderness. Over and over again, Scripture shows us that God not only releases us from captive places but also sends us with plunder. Consider the Israelites who left Egypt with the gold and silver of their captors. He is the God who restores two fold what the locusts ate. Think about Ruth, who was widowed and came to marry Boaz, going from a place of seeking where she belonged to finding a place in the lineage of Jesus. 

Let me assure you. In the worst of all wilderness experiences and the greatest of all fiery trials, there is a plunder to be found that is of greatest value. Because there, in our times of need, we can find the greatest treasure we could ever gain, and that is the fresh revelation and knowledge of the Great and Holy Almighty God. 

May we not forget that he is the One so holy that the Jews refused to utter his name. Yet in every captive place, in every storm, and in every prison we encounter, he reveals his names to us. Furthermore, he grants us permission to call out to him by these names. 

Take time to consider the fiery trials that have left you with the clutter of emotional hoarding. Reframe these fires with the revolutionary practice of considering how he revealed himself to you in them, and then preach that truth to yourself as your experiences come back to mind. 

A beautiful song by I Am They is helping me develop this habit. The song is called Make a Way, and here are some of the lyrics:

You brought me to the desert 
so you could be my water.
You brought me to the fire
so you could be my shield.
You brought me to the darkness
so you could be my morning light.

There is great power in claiming your places of emotional hoarding to actually be places of the revelations of God. Take time to prayerfully consider how to fill in this blank: 

He brought me to ___________________ so he could be my ___________________.

For example, I would say that he brought me to be fatherless so that he could be my Abba. And he brought me to feel rejection so that he could be my comfort.

That we would be in awe of the fact the Holy God and Ruler of the Universe would even dare to reveal himself to our sinful, broken selves. And in our fires, in our wildernesses, in our deserts, he reveals himself to us in new ways.

He is the plunder for us to treasure from every captive place and every place of wounding. He calls to us in our times of need and says that he is sufficient and he will never leave nor forsake us. In our times of want, he is calling us to greater dependence upon him.

That we can press on in this process of dealing with our emotional hoarding. May we can look at the piles of clutter and the feelings they evoke. And then, may we preach the truth of who God is to overpower the defeat our hoarding tries to bring. 

May we would meditate long on this truth.

Let's not make the wounding from others bigger than the God who heals.

For he reveals himself when we pause to look and listen.

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