Anyone who regularly reads my ramblings knows how focused I am on seeing ourselves, our relationships, and our circumstances as God does. But what about when you just can’t? How do you see anything good when you’re so overwhelmed with hurt, grief, anxiety, and depression that it’s an accomplishment just to take a shower?
Well, frankly, I’m still learning how to do that. And perhaps you are too. Life isn’t just hard—in some places it’s hellish. And the older you get, the more exposed you become to pain, loss, suffering, injustice, hate, and your own unresolved issues you thought you’d resolved at the last conference. The choice you make every day (sometimes every hour) is whether you’re learning to protect yourself from—and retaliate against—the reality you’re physically and emotionally experiencing, or learning to live and grow in the reality your spirit perceives.
Jesus said if we want to see the kingdom of God, we need to be like kids (Matthew 18:1-5). Your renewed spirit is. Your spirit carries all the experience, wisdom, and grace you’ve gained from all you’ve been through, but none of the baggage your heart and mind have picked up. Your spirit lives in awe of who God is for you, in wonder of all he’s done, and in peace of all he’s promised. Your heart can be broken, and your mind seem lost, but your spirit is in constant communion with God’s Spirit, whole and seeing your path from heaven’s perspective (Ephesians 2:6).
You may be thinking, “That’s all fine, but it still doesn’t change how I feel.” I know. Really I do. The truth is that there’s always more than enough grace for what you’re going through (2 Corinthians 12:9), but it’s still work to break through all the lies and fears screaming there’s not. So, do the work. Don’t quit the amazing journey God has been walking with you (Galatians 6:9). Never give up, never surrender (Galaxy Quest ‘99). The enemy has been trying to wear you down, twist your experiences with God, and reshape your perception of what’s possible (Daniel 7:25). But someone infinitely more powerful is strengthening you, imparting truth and grace, and speaking life-giving transformation to your heart and mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
I’ve written a few of the ways God is working transformation in me. It’s not a checklist, so please don’t make it one. It’s too easy to default to condemning yourself when you fail to do something on it. I hope you see it more as “stone soup,” from the old story about a starving village that learns to bring what little they each have to a communal cooking pot, and discover there’s more than enough for everyone. Take all you’d like, and if you have something to add to the soup, that would be wonderful:
*Give it all to him. Again. Out loud. You’re already rehearsing the wounds, offenses, and fears, but instead of stuffing them back down deeper into your soul, give them to Jesus. Don’t allow discouragement access to these holy moments; you’re welcome to keep giving them all to God as often as you need until they lose their power.
*Find God’s voice in his word. Read the Psalms or Gospels until your heart leaps, until you find what he’s speaking to you right now.
*Find one good thing in your life. Thank God for it. Let that lead you to another good thing. And another. And another, until there’s more joy at what you have than despair at what you don’t. Let thankfulness break you out of a prison of bitterness, and into the freedom of peace.
*Stubbornly hold on to hope. When life doesn’t go the way you’ve dreamed in your heart, hope heals and transforms your heart to become the place where the dreams can be protected, remodeled, and grown.
*Quit feeding your mind on social media’s negativity, and read something encouraging (I know a few good devotionals you should definitely get ; ).
*Make no major decisions, and have no serious conversations, until you have enough peace to hear his voice in your heart.
*Talk to someone. Don’t deal with all of this on your own. If you have no friends you can trust, pray for one. Talk to a therapist, a doctor, a pastor, and Gandalf when you make it to Rivendell.
*Some need an afternoon latte to help deal with a deficit of rest due to a hectic schedule, and some need a medication to help deal with a deficit of neurotransmitters due to trauma. A medical healing isn’t an inferior miracle. It’s just a different revelation of God’s love for you. I wish I hadn’t needed chemotherapy, or the SSRI I’m taking now. But I’m deeply grateful for both, and would never trade the intimacy I’ve gained walking with Jesus through it all.
*Speak life over yourself and everyone else. This isn’t an option. Stop focusing on faults, fears, and failures, and condemning yourself for them. In Jesus, you are a blessing who’s empowered to bless others. Ask God to show you how he sees you and everyone around you, and treat yourself and them as the royalty he reveals to you.
*Take that shower. Not only is it a genuine accomplishment in caring for yourself, it’s easier to hear God in there. Not to mention that you’ll smell better.
“So don’t be afraid, for I am with you. And don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you. I will uphold you in my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
Wonder-Full: Encouragement for Overcoming Life’s Pain with God’s Presence https://www.amazon.com/dp/1705356451/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_r9MZDbAZH6ZVM