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When Emotions Conflict

By guest contributor Erin Mashaw

When I was just three years old, I lost my mom to cancer. Because I was so young, I don’t remember a lot about that time, just a few snapshots in my memory and stories I’ve heard from other family members.

From the outside of the story, and certainly the experience of those old enough to understand, the loss was devastating—this 32-year-old mama had left behind her husband and four young children, ages 9 months to 9 years. It was heartbreaking.

But because of my age and limited understanding, it was just a part of my story—like a trip to Disney or that we had chicken nuggets for dinner on Thursday. For so much of my life, the loss wasn’t especially emotional. It was just information, a part of my story.

Without even realizing it, I had developed a “that’s just how it is” attitude toward loss. And, even more concerning, I associated those feelings (or lack of feelings) with my trust in God. I thought that trusting God meant that we didn’t fear or worry. I thought that big feelings of anger or sadness were signs of a lack of faith. And, I’m ashamed to say, I was (ignorantly) proud of my lack of emotion about the loss of my mom.

Then came 2021.

In early 2021, I received the terrifying diagnosis that I had a brain tumor and would have surgery to remove it. Later that year, my dad had a heart attack during a routine surgical procedure, spent two weeks on life support and then passed away. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly emotional year.

Needless to say, I was the first in line to welcome 2022!

But in all seriousness, I experienced a LOT of big feelings: fear, worry, sadness, heartbreak, anxiety, anger, depression, and disappointment. And those feelings brought so much confusion and internal questions about my faith. What did it say about me that I couldn’t control or simply let go of these feelings? What did it say about my faith?

I heard a message recently from my pastor that compared two different prayers that Jesus prayed. The first was when Jesus went to raise Lazarus from the dead. You can read the story in John 11. In short, Jesus arrived and His friend Lazarus had been dead for four days. Jesus prayed a short prayer—really for the benefit of the people listening—acknowledging His relationship to God. And then He called Lazarus out of death and back to life. What an incredible story!

And then there’s the prayer Jesus prayed in the garden, before He was arrested and eventually crucified. You can read that story in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus knew that the time was coming soon when He would be taken captive, beaten, and killed. And His prayer that night in the garden wasn’t quick or public. He walked away alone and prayed honestly. More than once, He asked God for another way to accomplish His mission. He asked God to take this cup away from Him. He was in so much agony that He was actually sweating blood.

He was fully God and fully man. He had a plan to give His life to rescue and redeem the world, but He also didn’t want to endure the suffering and death the next few days would hold. Jesus was experiencing feelings that were at war with each other.

Thankfully, we know what happened. He chose the cross. He chose us, in spite of the cost.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us that “for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

But not before giving us this beautiful glimpse into His heart. Jesus taught us that He created us to be able to hold and experience conflicting emotions. He modeled it for us.

I can be afraid AND trust God at the same time.

I can feel brokenhearted and simultaneously have hope.

I can be disappointed in my circumstances but also have faith that God is with me in those circumstances.

And, believe it or not, those conflicting emotions are not an indicator of a weak or dying faith.

They are further evidence that we were created in the image of God and that His love and compassion for us is far greater than we ever imagined.

Erin Mashaw writes with openness, vulnerability and a passion to help people know that they really can trust God no matter what. While she doesn’t really like pets and hates almost all sports, she loves Jesus, her husband, and their four kids. She tolerates the family dog, Albie.


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