“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” – Psalm 62:8

There are times when our heart is so full that it seems as though it is going to break. It may be sorrow, anguish, frustration, guilt, anger—any number of pressures can build up within us until we reach our breaking point. At these times we have a choice to make: We can either try to handle it ourselves, or we can turn to God. And in turning to God, we can either do so superficially, or we can do so deeply. We can choose to merely mention things to God in prayer or we can pour out our hearts.

I am sure that many of us pray about the things that burden us, but fewer of us pour out how we feel. David tells us:

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your

hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” – Psalm 62:8

He says it another way in a later Psalm:

“I pour out my complaint before him;

before him I tell my trouble.” – Psalm 142:2

How can we be close to someone to whom we do not pour out our hearts? How can they know us? “But God is all-knowing,” we say to ourselves. “He already knows what we think and feel. What’s the point of telling him what he already knows?”

To this I say that David and other Bible characters did not look at their relationship with God in such an analytical fashion. They related to him as a child to a father, and what child can be close to a father who does not hear his or her cries? Perhaps God does know how we feel, but unless we tell him our feelings, we will never draw close to him. It is a sad thing that we would be willing to pour out our hearts to a close friend, but withhold those same emotions from our heavenly Father. Such behavior shows how humanistic we are and how impersonal our walk with God is.

Someone else may say, “I’m just not the emotional type. I don’t need to cry, and I don’t have many feelings to pray about.” The fact is, everyone has feelings. It is just that some of us have so long denied them that we do not believe they are there! Also, I would point you to the example of Jesus who both had feelings and expressed them; “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” – Hebrews 5:7

Jesus represents the perfect disciple, the person whom we should imitate above all others. We are not following him as we should if we do not allow ourselves to feel and if we do not pour out the contents of our hearts to God.

How can we do this? Let me offer several suggestions:

  • First, emotion should never be sought as an end in itself, nor should we ever seek to manufacture it. We cannot judge our relationship with God solely by our feelings, but by the standards of Scripture.
  • Get in the habit of telling God how you feel and expressing it in prayer. The feelings do not have to be sad or distressing; they may be feelings of joy or elation. Express them all.
  • We usually must be in a place of privacy to be able to express ourselves deeply. If you want to pour out your heart, you will need to be in a place where you feel comfortable doing so.
  • It often takes a period of time before we can get out of a working or functioning mode and into the “feeling” mode. Give yourself time to unwind, or else you will not be able to commune with God on this level.
  • It may take an event of crushing impact to bring you to this point. When such times come, do not resent them, rebel against them or harden your heart. Instead, turn to God and pour out your soul in prayer.
  • Allow yourself to cry. Many of us fight back tears, even as we pray. This is nothing but pride—pride that wants no weakness or vulnerability revealed, even to God. The tears we shed may be tears of despair or tears of sorrow. They may be tears of frustration at prayers that seem thrown back in our faces, apparently unheard. Tears may flow because of a spiritually unresponsive friend or at our own failure to stand against temptation, or at the shame of the utter selfishness of our sin. Thankfully, our tears may also be tears of joy. I was walking down a beautiful wooded path on a spectacular fall day in North Carolina praying through Psalm 68, in which David says of God that he is “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (v5), and it suddenly flashed over me that this verse was written for me and about me—for me, who had lost my dad at twelve and who had lived through most of my teen years alone with my widowed mother. It struck me that God, even in those years, was looking out for me and for my mother. Caring for us. Protecting us. Preparing me to one day hear the message and respond. When that hit me, I felt a lump in my throat and the warm surging of tears—tears of joy, gratitude and insight—and it felt wonderful! It was one of those times when I felt especially close to God and especially appreciative of something he had done for me, and I will remember always that special moment of closeness to my Father that I enjoyed that day.

We may strive to obey, to be legalistically righteous, but we will never be close to God until we open our hearts and pour out the contents at his feet. Until we do this, we will remain distant. We will feel like a fake, a phony. We will feel artificial. We will remain burdened. And we will be disheartened.

It is a lie to withhold our deepest feelings. We may act as if we are self-sufficient, but we are not. God knows, and in our deepest souls we know. There must be no thought or feeling that we reserve from God. He knows it is there, as do we, and until we talk about it with him, we are distant and dishonest. He already knows it. The sooner we pour it all out, the closer we will be to him.

To learn more about building this depth of relationship with God, see Sam Laing’s book Be Still My Soul, available on the DT Media store.