Validation might sound like the latest mental health buzzword, but it’s not. There are a number of instances in the Bible where we see validation play a powerful role in loving others.
But what is validating? And how can it help us love like Jesus?
What Does Validation Mean?
Validation is defined as recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile. It’s when we understand and accept someone else’s feelings as real, worthy, and of value. Its opposite is invalidation, when we dismiss, reject, or judge those feelings as unimportant and without value.
Validation doesn’t mean you agree with them or even would feel the same way if you were in their situation. It doesn’t mean you’re saying their feelings are godly or permissible. Rather, it means you see they do have these feelings, you recognize their feelings are worthy, and you seek to understand why they feel this way.
Validation is used in tandem with listening. However, it doesn’t mean you listen and then jump in with helpful options to fix the problem. It’s about affirming their reality.
Validating can look like sitting down with a friend, hearing her pour out her troubles, then responding, “I hear you. It sounds like you feel incredibly frustrated.” It might involve replying with, “What makes you think this?” or “How are you truly feeling about what happened?”
It might be sharing lunch with someone who wants to tell you all about her great news, then congratulating them and celebrating with them instead of jumping in with your own success story.
Is Validation Biblical?
You matter to God—feelings and all. God is listening, and God cares. So yes, validation is in the Bible.
Psalm 34:18 reminds us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV).
And Psalm 139 reminds us that God knows us, and we are worthy. Everything we do or feel might not be right, but it is heard by God, who knows us at our core.
Jesus in Luke 12:6-7 explains that we have great value to God and that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” We are not anonymous.
This doesn’t mean God agrees with us. He sees that we worry—He doesn’t condone the worry, but He sees it and steers us back on track. He validates our feelings and offers us the better path (Matthew 6:25-32).
What Are Some Examples of Validation in the Bible?
The Bible shows us that seeking validation by expressing our feelings to the Lord is acceptable and encouraged.
For instance, throughout the psalms, we see cries for help and wails of anguish. In Psalm 10:1, the psalmist asks, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” It’s clear he feels alone, and he calls out to God for recognition, affirmation, or response.
We see a similar cry for help in Psalm 74:1: “O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?”
The psalmist knows God loves him and that he can go to God with his pain. He’s not afraid to seek a response.
We also see validation in the stories of difficulty experienced by various people in the Bible. For example, Abraham grew weary after many years of waiting for God’s promise to come to fruition. While he never lost faith, it took a very long time for God to gift him with a son by his wife after God initially pledged to make him into a great nation (Genesis 12:12). And when God finally told him his wife Sarai would now be called Sarah and would bear his son in her old age, Abraham fell on his face and laughed to himself, asking, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Genesis 17:17).
God didn’t strike him down for his question—God understood why Abraham felt that way.
We also see validation in the story of Job, when he lost everything he owned and loved. Desperate, devastated, and forlorn, he takes his pain to God, expressing his grief.
“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me,” he says in Job 30:20. He says his “lyre is tuned to mourning, and my pipe to the sound of wailing” (v. 31).
Elihu becomes furious with Job for criticizes Job for expressing his feelings, for—as he puts it—"justifying himself rather than God” (Job 32:2). Elihu says God doesn’t listen to “empty pleas” (Job 35:13), and he calls Job’s lament “empty talk” (35:16).
Not so, for God ultimately replies to Job’s lamentations, and His response indicates that He does indeed listen to us even if we, as mere humans, have no idea as to why suffering occurs or why evil exists. Job repents of his lack of understanding, and God blesses him. His feelings are validated.
Jesus also exemplifies this. In Luke 8:43-48, a woman is so desperate for His healing that she sneaks up and touches the hem of His robe. He notices instantly.
“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace’” (v. 47-48).
Indeed, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 assures us God does not walk away from us in our pain. Rather, He calls us to celebrate our weakness in honor and recognition of His strength.
Is Validation a Form of Hospitality?
In a way, validation is a form of hospitality. Jesus turned no one away. He ate with the tax collectors and the socially unacceptable. He said he came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17). He spent time with them, heard them, and showed them the light that is God the Father.
Romans 15:7 urges us, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
When we have feelings, we want to be heard. Our feelings aren’t necessarily right, but they are real.
For example, my three-year-old son once bit me because I took his toy truck. His behavior wasn’t acceptable—physical violence is not an appropriate response ever. But I sought to understand him. I knew he was upset, and I put myself fin his shoes.
He wanted to play with that truck, and now it was gone. Maybe he thought it was gone forever. I looked into his eyes and saw his frustration and anger. I empathized with him and acknowledged his feelings. I put a name to those feelings: “You are angry because Mommy took your truck.” My son blinked and nodded in relief. That was validation: I heard him. I saw him. I felt his pain.
Validation can strengthen your relationship, help your loved one feel accepted and heard, and help them regulate their own emotions better. Then they can learn what is acceptable behavior.
Validation as a Path to Wholeness in Christ
The Bible is our source of truth. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 notes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And this is indeed true—the Bible was written over thousands of years by men inspired directly by God.
Over and over, we see prophecies prove to be true. Jesus also affirms this as correct, as on the road to Emmaus, Jesus spoke to the disciples, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
People need to understand their feelings and then learn to steer themselves in the way of the Lord. When we repress our feelings, they begin to fester like a wound and become infected. Or they bubble and churn beneath the earth like a volcano, finally erupting.
Knowing our feelings are valid, and then analyzing them and shaping them in light of the Truth found in Holy Scripture, is a good path to healing and wholeness in Christ.
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.