Are You Numb?

Has anyone ever asked you what's going on or what are you feeling... and you honestly have no idea? There's something going on inside of you... but it's hard to know exactly what. So, you move on.

Over the course of my life, I have mastered the act of numbing. I'd argue that the majority of the human race escapes pain as much as possible. The whole idea of numbing in the medical world is so the patient can heal without feeling pain. However, suppose you took a numbing shot every day for a broken leg. It wouldn't heal the leg, nor would you ever heal properly. Yet, this tends to be how we treat our spiritual and emotional pain. Addressing the wounds would take time and self-care; yet, we tend to take another numbing shot (suppress it) and move on.

I'd argue that our culture is addicted to numbness. No one wants to feel alone or the pain of disappointment, betrayal, or failure. Negative emotions are uncomfortable. Thus, we numb. This has bled into the Christian life more than we would like to admit and if we continue to do so, it means danger for our soul. How has this crept, subtly, into the Christian life? How can we choose to live differently?

1. Busying Yourself

When we don't want to deal with the fact that we are lonely, sad, angry, disappointed or fill in the blank, we do whatever we can to busy ourselves. Feeling negative emotions? We fill our schedule to eliminate time to feel. We do this with spiritual things as well. We may take on an extra role, knowing it would stretch us too thin. Taking it gives us a boost of feeling needed, only to leave us again with no time to really think about what's going on inside. What else do we do? We check in on every person in our contact list to think about their problems rather than our own. We schedule 20 lunches or coffee meetings or go to 14 Christian events a week to help us forget that we're drowning and don't want to feel the weight of it. The last example: we do anything and everything to be successful or get affirmation so that maybe the pain will fade away. Do you fall into this category? When was the last time you slowed down and thought about where your negative emotions were coming from?

2. Mindlessness

This is different from busying because this is when we do anything that will take us out of reality. If I'm in another world, I don't have to face what is in this one. We do this by watching Netflix, TikTok, video games, scrolling on our social media accounts, drinking, pornography, or getting lost in a movie, book, or podcast. Anything you can think of that you do that allows you to escape this world and into another with the (maybe not even intentionally) act of escaping what's going on inside is mindless numbing.

3. Burying

This last one is maybe the most subtle. We convince ourselves it doesn't exist. Hurt? Who's hurt? That didn't affect me AT ALL. The quicker we can fool ourselves and everyone around us, the quicker it gets buried. This one is revealed by the way we don't talk about hard things or always act like we are fine. We use phrases like "I'm fine" or hide behind false spiritual maturity, "why think about the past, the Bible says to be positive." The sad part about this one is that we can even convince ourselves that we are more holy because we are not letting things affect us. But holiness is not a lack of struggle, it is allowing Jesus into the struggle.

What's the Real Harm?

The harm in numbing is numbing God's glory. Genesis 1:27 says we were made in God's image. Out of all creation, we bear the likeness of God as humanity. When God made us in His image, He made us with desires, emotions, feelings, and the ability to be affected and touched by the things around us. When I look at the life of Christ, He felt deeply, He allowed Himself to feel pain, loss, sadness, anger, disappointment, rejection, and loneliness. When we numb ourselves we not only numb the hard but also the joy and glory. We numb the glory that could come from Christ meeting us in our pain. When we choose the route of numbing, we are taking all of our humanity and silencing the most sacred parts of us- the ones that allow us and others to experience God more fully. That's part of it too. When we numb and convince ourselves that we're ok, we prescribe that medicine to everyone else. This is catastrophic. The sad part is that the majority of the world has succumbed to it. Satan is having a hay day celebration about Christians around the world numbing their lives. It's less work for him to stop a Gospel movement or to try to cover up God's glory if we are bowing down and giving into this pattern.

How Do We Live Differently?

First of all, how did we get this far in without noticing? We have traded the truth in for a lie about God and worshipped the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Ironically, it started with a subtle belief that God is not enough for you in your current reality, therefore you have to take control and take care of yourself.

1. We first have to see that the underlying sin is disbelief. Even if you know who God is in your head, you functionally have disbelief if you're in the patterned act of numbing. Repent and trust who God really is. A God who redeems and enters into pain. (Potentially read Isaiah 43)

2. In order to break this pattern, you have to truly get to the place where you believe it is worth it to suffer the loss of all things in order to gain Christ. It's worth feeling the pain in order for Jesus to meet me there. We can't be rescued if we aren't willing to allow ourselves to be in a place of need.

3. Have a day of reflection every week to ask yourself some questions to see where you are. Check out my last post, "Remembering," for a list of questions you can use on that day.

4. Be held accountable to being vulnerable with your community.
There is hope in the Gospel. The whole story of the Gospel is redemption and as believers, God is committed to doing that in us. We don't have to numb the hard things in our lives because we have a God that cares and wants to fill our emptiness with Himself and heal us as He reveals His glory to the lost world. I hope that, instead of numbing, Psalm 27:4 would be our prayer.

"One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple."

1 Comment

Dian - August 20th, 2023 at 9:50am

Hi, thank you for your article on emotional numbness. I just want to add that often times truama is involved when people, including Christians, numb their emotions. I believe part of getting your emotions back is to deal with the root which is truama by seeing a professional Christian counselor that is aware of these things. Yes, prayer and vulnerability is vital, but healing and rediscovering the truth of God's Word again is also needed. What do you think about this?