Confess the emotions that make us sick
When we feel ill and consult a doctor, we are seldom advised to look inside our hearts and examine if there are toxic emotions inside us that are making us sick. The Bible tells us that “a joyful heart is good medicine.” At the same time, God’s Word says that “bitterness, rage, and anger” are evil and will only lead to evil.
Proverbs 17:22 ESV A joyful heart is good medicine…
Ephesians 4:31 NLT Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.
Psalm 37:8 ESV Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
Emotions of joy and peace lead to strong health
God’s Word teaches us that joy and peace are good medicine and lead to a healthy body. Both are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. When we have abundant joy and peace, we know that the presence of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to our bodies, is strong in us.
Proverbs 14:30 NLT A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body…
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
John 6:63 ESV It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
The Bible contrasts joy, peace, and a healthy body with dried up bones (Proverbs 17:22) or rotten bones (Proverbs 14:30). There is a reason for this. Bones play an important role in our immune system. Our bone marrow produces immune cells which it then distributes to where our body needs them the most. Not surprisingly, autoimmune and inflammatory conditions arise when we suffer from bone loss. Dried up or rotten bones are linked to poor immunity, and therefore, poor health.
Proverbs 17:22 ESV A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Note: The new age movement also includes therapies that focus on happiness, laughing, meditation, and so on, but these do not lead to reconciliation with God. On the contrary, they deepen our reliance on ourselves or other human beings.
The emotions that lead to poor immunity
Additionally, the Bible shows us that our immune system (through our bones) suffers when we hold on to intense emotions such as:
- Envy | Proverbs 14:30 ESV A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
- Sorrow | Psalm 31:10 ESV For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.
- Troubled emotions e.g. anger, fear, anxiety, indignation etc. | Psalm 6:2-3 ESV Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?
When our spirits are crushed under the weight of such emotions, our bodies suffer physically. Healthcare research has also shown this to be the case, as the following compilation of findings demonstrate.
Body, bones, blood
Anger (Galatians 5:20–21)
Heart attack/ stroke
Digestion problems, such as abdominal pain
High blood pressure, eczema
Insomnia, anxiety, depression, lung issues
Anxiety (Proverbs 12:25)
Nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomachache, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite
High blood pressure, body tension and aches, eczema
Depression, insomnia, reproductive issues, endocrine, respiratory issues
Bitterness (Acts 8:23)
High blood pressure
Fear (2 Timothy 1:7)
Irritable bowel syndrome
Fatigue, depression, PSTD
Envy, jealousy (Galatians 5:20–21)
Loss of appetite
High blood pressure, chest pain
Depression, stress, intense anxiety
Grief, sorrow (Proverbs 15:13)
Risk of heart attack
Constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain
Body aches, inflammation
References for the table above:
How to Cope With the Physical Effects of Grief
Anger – how it affects people
Anxiety Nausea: What You Need to Know to Feel Better
Bitterness Can Make You Sick
Bitterness Can Hurt Your Health
Impact of Fear and Anxiety
The Nature of Envy
Experts Say Jealousy Can Affect You Mentally & Physically
Galatians 5:20–21 ESV … fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions … those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Proverbs 12:25 ESV Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
Acts 8:23 ESV For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Galatians 5:20–21 ESV … strife, jealousy … envy… that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Proverbs 15:13 ESV A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
We see that the health of our bodies can give an indication of the health of our emotions, which in turn, can indicate the health of our relationship with God.
Here are three possible scenarios:
- If we suffer from high blood pressure, it may indicate that we have unresolved bitterness towards someone — and therefore, judgments, condemnations, and unforgiveness towards them
- If we have been diagnosed as someone who is likely to suffer from a heart attack, we may have unresolved anger and grief about what others have done — and therefore, unforgiveness towards them
- If we find that we constantly have digestion and stomach issues, we may be holding on to a lot of fear and anxiety — and therefore, an inability to trust God with all our hearts because of some past hurts and people we have not forgiven
Unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment and judgements all affect our relationship with God adversely.
Get in touch with how we truly feel and get right with God
The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes love, joy, and peace. When we don’t feel these emotions in healthy doses, it may indicate that we have quenched the Holy Spirit and that our relationship with God is not well. When our relationship with God suffers, so can our health because God’s Spirit is the Source of life for our bodies.
John 6:63 ESV It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
1. Emotional suppression and denial
Most of us will recognise the visible signs of sickness but not necessarily the symptoms of hidden underlying emotions that may be aggravating them and hindering healing.
This is because we could have learnt to:
- repress our emotions
- dismiss or deny how we feel
- hide our true feelings
- accept that how we feel is normal, or
- pretend we are strong and okay
None of these coping mechanisms are healthy because they require us to lie, whether to ourselves or to others, but we can’t hide the truth from God because He sees and knows everything. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and we oppose Him whenever we lie, even if we believe it is for our own good. It is Satan who teaches us how to lie about how we truly feel, not God.
John 16:13-14 ESV When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
John 8:44 ESV You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
God wants us to be in touch with how we feel because He is the One who put our emotional bearings in us in the first place. God can use our emotions and our health to draw our attention to “unfinished business” in our hearts. It can even mean that He will allow our physical health to deteriorate so as to give us a warning signal that things are not well with our souls. It may be a blessing for us to lose a part of our bodies due to sickness if it leads to reconciliation with God than to be thrown into hell one day.
3 John 1:2 ESV Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
Matthew 5:29 ESV If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
2. Just following the “family way”
For some, our families may exhibit emotions such as animosity, jealousy, anger, resentment, and bitterness so frequently that these behaviours now seem “normal” to us. The Bible warns us that we will not inherit the kingdom of God if we choose to follow their ways, rather than God’s.
Galatians 5:20–21 ESV … enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
We may not realise that such emotional responses are in direct conflict with God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
Exodus 34:6 ESV The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
As believers, we are called to “put aside anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from our lips” — and all the ways we use to live. Otherwise, we will simply remain children of disobedience, by rebelling against God’s loving nature. Love is not irritable or resentful, and it will not envy others or rejoice at their demise. When we love God, we would choose to be examples of His love.
Colossians 3:6-8 BSB Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. When you lived among them, you also used to walk in these ways. But now you must put aside all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6 ESV Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
The Bible gives a very sober warning to those who refuse to forgive and to love. Anyone who does not love his brother or sister remains a “child of the devil.” Also, see Understanding what love is and what it isn’t.
1 John 3:10 ESV By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
3. Not releasing righteous anger
We live in a world where people can do very evil things to one another and it is only natural to become stressed, fearful, agitated, distraught, or angry when that happens. God does not stop us from feeling stressed or angry, it is a natural response to sin in this world. But He does warn us not to stay angry or bitter because that will give the devil an opportunity to enslave us to unhappy emotions, torment us by replaying all the wrongs in our lives, and tempt us to retaliate in equally evil ways.
Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
God’s Word shows us that we are to be angry but that equally, we need to be careful not to hold on to righteous anger or indignation. Such emotions will eventually lead us to sin against others. We can trust God to judge everything, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. If God the Father has given all judgment to the Son and judges no one Himself, we should be careful not to usurp or hijack that position from Jesus.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 ESV For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 ESV I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt! I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
John 5:22 ESV For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,
4. Bitterness towards God
Perhaps the emotions we are least likely to want to admit to are anger, resentment, bitterness, judgement, or even hatred towards God.
We may believe:
- “I should not say I am angry with God or I will get into trouble.”
- “I want to be a good follower of Jesus, therefore I should suppress my unhappiness towards Him.”
- “I won’t admit how I really feel because I am afraid of God’s or other people’s reactions.”
- “I resent God for giving me the parents that I have.”
- “I don’t understand why God had to let me suffer, I don’t believe He is good.”
- “I resent God for not saving me from pain and suffering.”
- “I have cursed God in the past but I’m sure He understands why I did it and will let me off. There’s no need to talk about it.”
- “I used to hate God but not anymore.”
We may not verbalise such statements out loud but God hears everything that is, and has been, on our hearts. We end up grieving and slandering Him because we are unable to see beyond our pain and hurts and see God’s bigger purpose and plan. We often project whatever unkind and cruel things others have done to us onto a loving and compassionate God. We blame and begrudge Him. Or we simply repeat the evil things that others have said about God without thinking about what we are really saying. Unfortunately, we will all be held to account for every careless word from our hearts.
Matthew 12:35-37 ESV The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Thank God that He is not petty like we tend to be and He is always wiling to forgive us when we confess and repent. He knows how we feel and will help us understand Him based on His true character rather than on our grievous emotions. Also, see When we are angry with God and resent Him.
1 John 1:9 ESV If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Turning away from evil
God’s Word is clear that when we “fear the Lord, and turn away from evil”, we will experience healing and refreshment to our bones i.e. good immunity. When we confess our bitter emotions and motives to God, He will deliver us from the pit of destruction and restore us to good health.
Proverbs 3:7-8 ESV Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Isaiah 38:16-17 ESV … Oh restore me to health and make me live! Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.
For example, He promises to make our bones (and immunity) strong, if we choose to repent and turn away from:
- ungodly ties and yokes with people or the things of this world
- pointing fingers at others and judging them
- speaking unkind words
- not caring for the needy
- cursing others
- and any other grievous sin
Isaiah 58:9-11 ESV Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Psalm 109:17-18 ESV He loved to curse; let curses come upon him! He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him! He clothed himself with cursing as his coat; may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones!
Psalm 38:3 ESV There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
When we confess all our anxious emotions, forgive everyone who has hurt, wronged, or offended us, and repent of our judgements and resentments towards them, our relationship with God is made right again because we have obeyed His Word and honoured Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
Matthew 26:28 ESV For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Therefore, when our bodies don’t seem to have the immunity to fight off sickness on its own, it would be wise to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to point us to any unseen emotional and spiritual roots that may be hindering our healing. As King David confessed in Psalm 38, unconfessed grief, anguish, and guilt may be overwhelming us with all kinds of ailments.
Psalm 38:3-11 NLT
3 Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins.
4 My guilt overwhelms me— it is a burden too heavy to bear.
5 My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins.
6 I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief.
7 A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken.
8 I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.
9 You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.
10 My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. 11My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.
We can trust God to be faithful and gracious. He will cleanse, heal, and sanctify us completely as we confess how we feel and repent of our sins so that our whole spirit and soul and body will be kept blameless before Him.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“I had been experiencing some very tough politics at work for a few months now, where certain colleagues were bullying and hurling attacks at me and my team. After enduring a period of bullying, I found myself getting rashes on my body. I sought medical help and took steroids for the rashes. The medication worked for a while but the rashes came back right after I stopped taking the drugs.
One day, I was asking for prayers for my skin rashes from some friends at church, when the Holy Spirit immediately revealed the word “fear”. I then discerned that despite the repentance I had done daily for judging and hating the bullies at work, and despite the forgiveness I had already extended towards these people, one thing that was not dealt with was my fear of these bullies and of further attacks.
I then prayed and repented for having fear of these people. Why is there such fear of man when God is always with me and protecting me? After repenting of such fear, I also cast out the spirit of fear away from my life and commanded it to not come back again.
Proverbs 29:25 ESV The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
Hebrews 13:6 ESV So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
After a week or so — and without thinking much of the prayer I had done — I realised that most of the rashes had gone and there was no longer any need to take any steroids or other medications. Praise God indeed for His healing!
I realised we should not bow down to the fear of man when we know that God is with us all the time. In His perfect love, there is no fear.
1 John 4:18 ESV There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
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