Jennie Allen is not your average Christian leader — she admits her shortcomings, candidly reveals her struggles and has a fiery ambition to uplift women, which inspired her to start the IF:Gathering, an annual conference and online presence that has brought together and empowered more than a million women of faith in 50 countries since 2014.
Since then, Jennie has been on a mission to help women cultivate a deeper relationship with God — and in her new book Untangle Your Emotions, she offers a new perspective on the emotions we’ve always been told we should hide.
With personal stories, science-backed research and Scripture-backed insights, Jennie helps readers to navigate hard and painful emotions as a means to draw closer to the God and feel more joy.
Here, Jennie discusses how to sit with our emotions to process them in a positive, healthy way and shares how accepting even our messiest feelings opens us up to feeling more of God’s peace and loving grace.
After hearing the phrase “Don’t let your emotions get the best of you” all her life, Jennie started to wonder what might change in all of us if we started to embrace our emotions — the joys, the sorrows, the pressures, the goodness — instead of tamping them down.
“We learned from a young age, ‘Okay, I shouldn’t cry, I shouldn’t act out. I shouldn’t be angry,’” admits Jennie. “But when we learn to feel our emotions and to process them in healthy ways, we see that they’re really gifts given to us by God to help us navigate a really broken world and connect us to Him and other people.”
Jennie Allen reveals secret to relieving the pressure
Just like most women, Jennie feels the pressure to have it all together. “I work with a big team, and it affects people’s jobs if our work isn’t excellent, so the pressure is real,” she openly shares with Woman’s World. “The pressure all women feel isn’t imaginary. But how I dealt with that pressure was becoming unhealthy to where I was just checked out, and I didn’t know how to change that.”
But Jennie admits that meeting with cohort of trusted friends and opening up to them about her emotions was the answer — she was able to start unraveling her toughest feelings.
“I remember feeling a lot of pressure even when I was 12-years-old. It became a really negative experience for me, and during my group meetings, we went back to that moment,” Jennie says. “I shared about it with them. I cried with them and they listened. But I was still thinking, Why did I need to go back to that moment when I was 12? What’s the point?“
Then within a week, Jennie says a situation came up at work that normally would have made her feel extreme anxiety. “All of a sudden, I didn’t feel it. It was just magic. Instead, I felt peace. That was so powerful,” she marvels.
“It was life-changing to feel my pain with other people,” Jennie continues. “The Bible says, ‘Mourn with those who mourn,’ (Romans 12:15) and science shows that when you mourn with others, something in your brain actually repairs itself. You have broken neural pathways in your brain due to trauma, and sharing that pain with someone repairs those neural pathways. I became a believer that this is the way God built us. Now, I’m figuring out how to be more vulnerable and share what’s really going on in my life.”
Standing up to the illusion of failure
But learning to be more vulnerable comes with its own set of struggles, as Jennie has experienced firsthand. “One of the main messages we as women have got to fight is that we’re failing somehow,” she confesses. “There’s this lie in our heads that God’s not pleased with us or that we aren’t measuring up somehow. That just makes me sad because I do think there are so many women trying their absolute best, and yet they still feel like a failure.”
“I believe that feeling that way is something God wants to fight because He has so much grace for us,” Jennie continues. “When I see Him as a God waiting for me to come to Him with my broken parts, it just makes me want to go to Him more because we all want that safe place. We have to believe that it’s safe and He’s not judging us. He’s inviting us in with all the broken parts because He knows how to heal us.”
Jennie Allen shares tips for letting God help you heal:
1. “The first thing is to recognize how you see God and where that comes from. Be honest about that. When you think of God, is He a disappointed father? Is He a judge? Is He angry? Is He pleased? What do you see when you think about Him?”
2. “Then the next thing is, talk back to Him and tell Him: ‘This is how I view You, is this right or wrong?’ Take it to Scripture to see if how you view Him is really who He is.”
3. “Third, share that with somebody. As we talk with other people, get their perspective on God and on our own emotions, they can help us see the lies we tell ourselves. Oftentimes we can’t see that the thoughts in our head for so long that cause us pain or anxiety, just aren’t true.”
Above all, letting go of our emotions relieves pressure and draws us nearer to God. Jennie says, “Stop judging your fear, anger and sadness, and instead, start to listen to it and see what God wants to say to you.”
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