"I am angry with God because of a broken relationship that He allowed to happen; can I be a Christian and be angry with God?" "How do I know who to specifically invest in?" "How do I draw out practical application from the stories in the Old Testament?" "How can God love and forgive me when I have acted so terrible?" "What do I do when I do not feel like God loves me, is with me, or is protecting me?"

These are all questions I have heard voiced from different girls in my small group this week, and I have felt so burdened by the struggles and issues that they have been sharing and have been driven to intercede for them and to cry out for wisdom as I meet with them. These past 2-3 months have been so heavy with different girls sharing about depression, family struggles, money worries, anger, breakups (5 in December alone), insecurity, suicidal thoughts, and mental illness.

While I am not a trained counselor, I would like to share a tool that I have been using and teaching my girls to use to help process emotions and to get to the root of what is going on inside of them. Sometimes I do this with them, writing as they talk, and other times, I have them do this as "homework" with us discussing it the next time we meet.

1. Start by drawing a circle in the middle of the page with the person's name or their situation in it.

2. From there, draw out smaller circles in which you write the name of various emotions that the person is feeling such as anxious, angry, lonely, sad, etc.

3. Draw a line from the emotion and write out reasons and thoughts behind that feeling. For example, I might feel hopeless because I do not see an end to the current hardship that I am facing or I might feel apathetic in my faith because I do not see the purpose in continuing to pray or to read my Bible because my situation is unchanging. Write out all the thoughts/reasons associated with every emotion. Keep asking yourself "why." Why do I feel this way? When do I feel this way, and why does this emotion pop up in that circumstance? This may or may not be done in one sitting.

4. Ask yourself if the thoughts behind your emotions align with the truth in God's Word. It may take digging into Scripture and using the concordance to look up key words to identify truth. If the thoughts behind your emotions do not align with Scripture, then those thoughts point to root issues and need to be attacked and changed.

5. Throughout this process, pray for God to "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24). Pray for God to show you the sin inside as well as the lies that you are believing. Pray for His Spirit to give you understanding of Scripture and discernment to distinguish between truth and error. Pray for Him to help you as you fight sin and seek to attack sin at its root.

I use this tool in an effort to help others and myself "put off the old" and "put on the new" as Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3 discuss. People in our groups come with so many questions as well as emotional baggage, and even after several years as a small group leader, I still send up silent prayers to God as I am talking with girls because I never know what they will share or ask. While I do not know it all, I do have the Spirit and the Word and am so thankful that God promises to give wisdom to those who ask for it in faith (Jas. 1:5)!

For more on this topic, read part 2 in this series.