Emotional baggage. We all have it. It is the thoughts that we carry with us all the time…thoughts, memories, or opinions. Maybe it’s a thought you had about yourself or someone else and now you are buried by the shame or guilt. Perhaps it is a situation that you handled badly or a moment that changed your life forever… these moments that you dwell on. Emotional baggage can cause distress in our relationships. It can also affect our spiritual walk. Most of the time, this baggage is influencing how we see ourselves and how we see God. It can keep us from growing spiritually, loving fully, and ministering to others. These bags weigh us down and keep us from getting closer to those we love and they even keep us from knowing God as He is.
photo by Malias
Over Mother’s Day weekend, we loaded the kids in the van and went to visit my in-laws. Their church has a banquet every year for Mother’s Day. They also have a service and theme for the evening. The service began with a skit about a woman who goes into a store to buy a new bag to carry all of her stuff (she was carrying several shopping bags). She sits down to explain to the sales woman what she needs a new bag for. Interrupting her, the sales woman offers the burdened customer several bags. Each one was designed to carry specific types of baggage. The sales woman goes on to give the customer many bags, purses, and cases that will carry burdens such as fear, addiction, and jealousy. Finally, the customer realizes she is weighed down with all of her emotional baggage and she realizes how it is affecting her life. She turns to the sales woman and asks her what to do. She offers the heavily burdened woman a small change purse. She says, “Change. This is what you need. But you can’t do it yourself. Only Jesus can exchange your baggage for this tiny change purse and give you true peace and fulfillment.” Of course, the woman leaps at the opportunity for this free change purse. And all she did was stand up and take it.
Have you ever been so desperate for something that you couldn’t contain yourself? Well, when we have baggage and we begin to use it against others, or create others’ baggage, that is our heart crying out for change! Even just carrying your own baggage is your heart’s way of playing keep-away with God. When we do that, our spirit cries out for God’s change and healing.
That evening, the speaker spoke out of Psalm 55. This is a psalm of desperation. David is crying out for God to hear his heart. He starts by saying,
Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. Psalm 55:1-5
Doesn’t he sound grieved? David, of course, did not have an easy life. His relationships were definitely not perfect. The king was trying to kill him and later, he had an affair and had the woman’s husband killed. He was certainly not a perfect man. But no matter what David did, he seemed to leave his bags at God’s feet. He may still have carried it for a while like we do. But ultimately, David remembered that God knew it anyway and I think that was a comfort to him. Instead of hiding himself and his baggage from God, he took refuge is God’s mercy and grace.
Listen to his prayer in verses 2-3:
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
because of what my enemy is saying…
I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like me. My thoughts trouble me daily. I am often distraught because of what my enemy is saying. I may not have a physical enemy searching after me for my life, but I have a spiritual enemy. We all do. And sometimes, I can be an enemy to myself. I give way to thoughts…memories…opinions… and I dwell on things that Satan places in my way. Dwelling on those thoughts…emotional baggage…causes me to be blind to God and forget His plan for me. I lose sight of His power, grace, and love. That’s what baggage does to me. It affects my attitude, it affects my prayer life, my relationships, and it even affects me physically. Emotional baggage is real.
So, how do we get rid of these bags and move on to change? The speaker at the event explained that it’s as easy as ABC:
A- Assess: Search your heart and pray that God would reveal to you the baggage you’re carrying. Psalm 139:23-24 says:
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Photo by Lel4nd.
B- Beware: Be aware of situations that cause you to worry or compare yourself. Baggage can come from anywhere. Know where you are weak and be on guard. 1 Peter 5:8 NIV says, Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He’s ready for you. Be aware.
Also, beware of others’ baggage. You can sometimes see it in their attitude, choices, and words. Don’t let another person’s baggage create more of your own.
Photo by permanently scatterbrained
C- Check your bags: Drop your bags and let Him pick them up. Leave it all at God’s feet. And my favorite part: there’s no weight limit to check these bags. Whatever your struggles, whatever your choices, your behavior…it doesn’t matter. Check your bags at the cross.
This video from The Skit Guys shows baggage as it really is: