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How I Experience Emotions

As we pulled out of Francis Hitchman park with tears being shed in the back seat by our kids, I still remember the slight depression mingled with hope. My family was pulling away from Butler, Ohio at the end of June in 2011. We had been appointed to a new church by our denomination north of Akron, Ohio. Life would never be the same for our family. Three Crosses was my first appointment as a lead pastor and so much had happened in our nine years in the Clear Fork Valley community. When Michelle, my wife and I arrived in 2002, we were a family of three with a 9-month-old daughter. While in ministry we saw our family change and grow, our church change and grow, our lives change and grow.

It was during our time in that community that we added two amazing boys to our family. We established relationships with people that we are still connected to today. We merged three churches to launch a new church in Three Crosses. We were deeply transformed by our first interaction with Healing Care Ministries and led our first several Healing Care Groups. It was in this beautiful little community that we saw young people married and buried, friends that enhanced our lives during those nine years. It was the place that we faced our beautiful darkness, the place that our marriage was blown apart and then lovingly recreated by our loving Lord.

In those nine years we experienced life, with all the light and darkness that comes along with it.

Just writing about the moment of leaving that community and all it meant for us early in our lives brings a flutter to my heart and a slight dose of adrenaline to my system. I remember the tears that led to this moment of leaving for our family. I remember the hope for the future we held as we moved to a new setting for ministry. Thus are the emotions of life. Rarely do I simply experience one emotion at a time. Maybe that’s why those moments of singular and pure emotion are so monumental. In those moments I can fully enter into a moment. The common experience is one of multiple emotions impacting my heart at once.

In my life, sadness is often intertwined with joy. Fear is often lifted by hope. Anger is often balanced by a desire for mercy and grace. I want to categorize each moment with a dominant emotion but after walking with people in their emotions through Healing Care Ministries for the past fifteen years I realize that those experiences of singular emotion are rare. This experience of multiple emotions reminds me of Acts 5:4, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” In suffering the apostles knew joy. It reminds me of all the emotion connected with scripture that I have skimmed over in the past. The emotion of Abram leaving his homeland, David leaving his family to serve Saul, Jeremiah weeping through his prophecy, the disciples leaving their homes to follow Jesus...are all moments that had to be filled with sadness and hope, fear and hope, anger and mercy. This experience of emotional tension is our experience of life.

As we have moved into a new reality for our lives over the past six weeks in Ohio, that emotional tension has ruled the roost. We are homeschooling our five children which leads to celebrations and frustrations. We love being with our family but sometimes we just need a break from everyone. We are taking more walks together and getting on one another’s nerves. Michelle and I are working in a new setting for Healing Care which brings stress and questions but has also opened up this ministry in new and exciting ways. Siblings have quarreled and snuggled together to watch movies. Over the past six weeks all seven of us in our home have experienced most of the emotions on the Emotion Wheel, often in a matter of hours or minutes. Our new social setting brings with it all the emotions we have been experiencing all our lives. The key for us is to identify that in the squabbles there is love, in the anxiety there is still a sense of security in our God, in the moments of frustration there is joy.

Our lives have an emotional tension that needs to be recognized and embraced. And if you are anything like me, it is often the positive ends of the string that need to be tugged on. To move through this time of uncertainty, we need to be aware of the love and joy and hope and gratitude that is in each of our situations as we are aware of the other emotions. I would encourage you to remind yourself of these emotions in tension when one begins to seem much stronger than the other. When anger or anxiety gives you a yank, dig your heals into the grace and joy that are there as well.

I’ll be praying for all the members of our Healing Care Family in our emotional tensions through this time. Please be prayerful for me and my family as in a few short weeks we will again be loading the car and leaving a community that we have invested in for the past nine years. As Michelle and I have responded to the call to serve at Healing Care Ministries, we have left pastoral ministry and the church we have served in Cuyahoga Falls. We will be pulling out of the familiar into a new adventure. There will be tears and laughter. There will be sadness as we move away from friends and family and joy as we unexpectedly move back to that community in the Clear Fork Valley that we left nine years ago. In some respects, it will be familiar and in other ways, a whole new adventure for our family of 7.

There will be emotions and we will name them all.

We will increase our awareness that fear, loss, disappointment and heartache bring with them joy, gratitude, excitement and security.

May our Lord bless you with a healthy tension to your emotions, wherever you are on His journey today.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3


Keith McLaughlin is the Executive Director of The Healing Care Center. He has been actively discovering renewed life on his journey of healing for fifteen years. He is a graduate of Ashland Theological Seminary in 2003 with a Master's of Divinity and has served for 18 years as the lead pastor of two churches in Ohio. His desire is to position others to take this journey toward wholeness with Jesus. Keith currently lives in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio with his amazing wife, Michelle and their five children. When he is not spending time with others on the Healing Care journey, he can be found outdoors enjoying the gift of God's creation in many ways.

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