“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

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British coal miners carried a canary in a cage to detect carbon monoxide and other odorless gases for decades until the practice was replaced with electronic sensors in 1986.

Canaries were used because they need such high quantities of oxygen to fly that their anatomy allows them to get a dose of oxygen when they inhale and another when they exhale.

If a canary became ill or died, miners knew the air wasn’t safe and it was time to evacuate.

Canaries in coal mines saved thousands of lives over the years, and it would have been suicidal for miners to disregard warning signs from their little birds.

In a spiritual sense, we often ignore our emotions and the warning signs they offer.

In “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” Peter Scazzero writes, “When we deny our pain, losses and feelings year after year, we become less and less human. We transform slowly into empty shells with smiley faces painted on them … But when I began to allow myself to feel a wider range of emotions, including sadness, depression, fear and anger, a revolution in my spirituality was unleashed.”

Scazzero adds, “Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice.”

For about seven years as a teenager, my life was consumed by pornography, which was the primary way I coped with my emotions. When I became a Christian about four years into that battle, I tried so many different fixes: denying it was a sin, minimizing its power, hiding it from others or even spiritualizing it away.

It wasn’t until I went down to mine the deep recesses of my emotions—recognizing my need for intimacy with God the Father through the help of my brothers in Christ—that He freed me.

As Pastor Matt Chandler says, “We manage external and internal darkness. It’s like mowing over the weeds without removing them … The only way to kill those weeds is not to mow over them but remove them. The only thing that has that kind of effect on the human soul is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

During Southeast’s emotional/mental health sermon series, “Coming up for Air,” I encourage you to do two things.

As the canary was a better detector of carbon monoxide, I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to check your blind spots. He is the most sensitive to your deep-rooted sin and can give you insight beyond its symptoms.

Then, find freedom from your shame by sharing it with others.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Your emotional health is a matter of spiritual and relational life or death.

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>What unhealthy emotions have you ignored, minimized or hidden?

>What sin has caught you in a cycle?