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One year for Christmas our budget was limited.

During the weeks leading up to the Holidays I sold my daughters Barbie town house, her red kitchen play set, and a few other things the kids no longer played with. Cleaning things out can be therapeutic, profitable, and fun.

Christmas morning came and Paul and the kids were excited for me to open my presents from all of them. As I tore wrapping paper and pulled back white tissue, I found a beautiful leather bag, a matching wallet, and a leather journal cover (maybe you guessed that I love to write). The smell of real leather filled my senses and these were NICE pieces.

I walked over to Paul to give him a hug and to say thank you, but the words stuck in my throat. I balled like a baby, as all the deep emotions rose up and came pouring out like buckets of tears running down my cheeks.

Paul had told me a few months back that he was exchanging graphic design services for some leather products, which he LOVES by the way. He intentionally shared the love with his wife that Christmas and it meant so much.

I will never forget the depth of gratitude and love that I felt welling up from the depths of my heart. Not for the gifts themselves, but for the way Paul made me feel; cherished.

Emotions are tricky. They come and go at the oddest of times; swishing in without much warning and overwhelming our senses at times. If you bury them, eventually they rise, demanding that you take notice. Emotions can steal our words, as if they are speaking a language only our hearts can interpret.

Emotions are supposed to be indicators, not dictators. However, when left unprocessed they tend to seek control.

We were created to celebrate milestones and grieve loss. These are the ways we navigate through life, recognizing and acknowledging what is happening around us, to us, and in us.

Facing our emotions and learning it is ok to have them, whether they are joyful or dark, can help us transition through life and eventually move us forward in healthy ways.

The prophet, Elijah, had emotions too. He had experienced great obstacles and saw great victories and miracles, yet the people of Israel continued to turn back to their evil ways.

Now Jezebel was out to kill Elijah and the scripture says, “He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died” (1 Kings 19:4).

Sit right here with me in this uncomfortable place. Praying to die means Elijah was dealing with BIG, HARD, and REAL emotions. I too, remember praying a prayer similar to part of Elijah’s prayer in very different circumstances.

Before I had my first son, looking back, I believe I miscarried my first baby. I didn’t even know what was happening at the time as I had sporadic menstrual cycles and sometimes we just don’t know what we don’t know.

I found myself nearly fainting in Walmart, while walking through the store with Paul. He quickly took me home. I thought it was “that time of the month,” yet this was much worse than anything I had ever experienced before. I laid in bed for hours trying to survive the waves of intense pain that kept coming. I begged God to take it all away or let me die.

Little did I know then, that giving birth to my son, sometime later, would not be as painful as the pain I felt that day.

Sometimes our pain feels harsh and pointless as if we are producing nothing fruitful in our lives that will ever flourish and grow. And yet, God waste nothing – not even painful miscarriages.

Elijah felt like he was not making headway, he was exhausted, he felt like he was all alone, and here he was facing yet another obstacle.

Can you relate? I can in so many ways.

We may have overcome so much and yet we find ourselves facing yet another obstacle or the same one coming at us from a different direction this time.

Or the thing we’re trying to accomplish is taking much longer than we planned and exhaustion and feelings of failure try to settle in.

All of the emotions that come with living through this human experience of life can hit us hard, in ways we never expect, and take us too low and dark places.

Elijah slept, then an angel woke him up and gave him warm bread. Elijah slept some more and then the angel fed him a good meal.

It’s amazing how sleep and good food can make a difference.

Sleep, food, and supernatural strength from God, gave Elijah the stamina to travel 200 miles by foot, taking him 40 days to arrive at Mt. Sinai.

There is no record of God speaking to Elijah during this long journey. He had a lot of time to mull over, think about, and process the pain of his emotions.

After he arrived at Mt. Sinai, He spent the night in a cave and this happened: “But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too” (1 Kings 19:9-10).

If you are wondering if anything you have accomplished has made a difference – you are not alone.

God asked Elijah to come out of the cave, but Elijah stayed right there.

Next, God brought a fierce windstorm, then an earthquake that destroyed parts of the mountain, and finally a mighty fire. “It is safe to assume that Elijah was very familiar with these manifestations of God.” – Pastor Eric Johnson, from Bethel Church

“And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave” (1 Kings 19:12-13).

Pastor Eric Johnson shares in a recent podcast that most Hebrew scholars say that the English translation of a “gentle whisper” is more accurately described as a “thin silence”. This was not what Elijah was accustomed too. This was new.

We must being willing to go in the “cave” and confront our BIG, HARD, and REAL emotions. God is with us even in our darkest moments. Don’t let shame convince you otherwise.

Pastor Eric Johnson communicates the idea that the world encourages us to have our own cave experiences. Where we numb ourselves through sex, pornography, drugs, alcohol, food addictions, and more, so we don’t have to feel and process the disappointment and pain of life.

God leads us to “cave experiences” so that He can reveal, heal, and strengthen us there. God spoke in the “thin silence; the space in between words – which is basically nothing.” – Pastor Eric Johnson

There, God began to give Elijah his next mission. To return from where he had come, anoint certain people to be kings, and then anoint Elisha to be the next prophet.

Confronting the worst of himself positioned Elijah to hear God’s voice revealed to him in a new way  and to receive what God had for him next.

Transitions, disappointments, and the change of seasons can require a lot from us. Here are three things to remember:

  1. Remain in God’s love even when life feels harsh and unfair and trust God with the results.
  2. Confront and process your emotions so that God can meet you there.
  3. If God leads you to a cave, trust Him to lead you out of the the cave stronger than you were.

“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them” (John 14:21).

God has more for you. He will strengthen you. Your efforts have made a difference. Your hard work has not gone unnoticed. The harvest will come.

“Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18)!

Elijah thought he was the only one remaining faithful to God. There were others. He was not alone after all!

“So Elijah went and found Elisha the son of Shaphat plowing a field” (1 Kings 19:19).

God gave Elijah a new assignment.

God has a “next” for you and I too.

“I command you — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Whether you are a crier like me, as your emotions rise up strong or you are not able to shed even one tear – we all have feelings to process. This is healthy and normal and part of being human. Don’t neglect this part of your life.

Our Creator understands this human process because He made us.

In our weakness, God reveals His strength in new and fresh ways, into the very depths of our souls. This transforms who we are once again and prepares us to hear, receive, and carry out our “next” season of life.

So go there. Tell God all the things. Face yourself. Grieve. Fuss. Cry your eyes out. Share your heartache. Express thanksgiving. Let God speak truth and comfort over you and prepare you for your future. Process your emotions in the cave so that you can move on.

In it with you friend. You are never alone!

Joelle Povolni

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy reading No Room For Shame.

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